The Oakland Raiders’ 4th and final pre-season game can easily be regarded as the least important one. Coaches will look to keep their starters in a minimal amount of time on the field, in order to avoid last-minute injuries, with the regular season debut only a week and a half ahead. But that doesn’t mean the contest against the Seahawks later tonight won’t be important. With the feared 53-man roster cut due to tomorrow night, there are several players who are taking this game very serious. It will be their last chance to make a statement to all the coaching staff as why they deserve to make the cut. So let’s take a closer look into the position battles that will take place against Seattle.
Roscoe Parrish – Eddie McGee – Travionte Session
After the Louis Murphy trade, it looked like second-year WR Eddie McGee would have a good chance of making the team. But after being slowed down early by a hamstring injury, McGee’s lack of productivity in the preseason has put his chances in serious doubt. He only has 2 catches for 7 yards and played poorly against the Lions. If the Raiders decide to keep him, it would be because of his potential, rather than what he has done so far this year. Roscoe Parrish was only signed on the past Monday, but he actually has a bigger chance of making the team. He has made a name for himself in the NFL as a returner, and that’s why he has been signed, since both of the Raiders main returners are injured (KR Jacoby Ford and PR Denarius Moore), and the backups performed badly. On top of that, he’s a decent slot receiver and can certainly help the team beyond special teams (33 receptions for 400 yards in 2010). But he will need to prove that he’s healthy and ready to roll against the Seahawks. Travionte Session would be the dark horse here, but the undrafted rookie has made a catch in each of the 3 preseason games. Making the team would be a surprise but at least he might be a strong candidate for the practice squad.
Christo Bilukidi – Jamie Cumbie – Dominique Hamilton
The 4th Defensive Tackle spot is still wide open between those three. Bilukidi has been the more consistent one; he has 4 tackles and a high upside, not to mention he’s the only one who was actually drafted by the Raiders. The 6’7 Jamie Cumbie, who spent 2011 in the team’s pratice squad, wasn’t really a factor until the Lions game, where he dominated at times, with a sack and 3 batted down passes (one of which was intercepted by Bilukidi). Dominique Hamilton slowed down a bit after his strong preseason debut against the Cowboys, when he recorded a sack, a forced fumble and 3 tackles, but didn’t produce any stats on the following two games. It looks like a close race between these players, and tonight’s game will be crucial. The Raiders might actually choose two of them to be a part of the final roster, depending on their performances.
Carl Ihenacho – Chad Kilgore – Nathan Stupar
The converted DE Carl Ihenacho has had a solid preseason. His transition to linebacker is apparently going well enough to the point that the Raiders have not switched him back to the defensive line. But his pass-rushing skills is still what he best brings to the table. Ihenacho has 8 tackles overall, but his highlight so far was definitely the strip sack against the Cardinals, which led to a touchdown when DE Hall Davis recovered the ball and took it to the endzone. The undrafted rookie Chad Kilgore came a little bit late to Training Camp, but has opened some eyes with his performances so far, specially in the first 2 games where he recorded 8 total tackles and displayed nice vision and play recognition. Nathan Stupar hasn’t really performed well enough to deserve a roster spot, and he even received some heat from HC Dennis Allen for repeating the same mistakes too often, but he has on his side the fact that he was drafted by the Raiders (the last pick of the 2012 Draft Class). This last LB spot is wide open and all of those players must be really looking forward to tonight’s game (or at least they should be). One thing to remember is that Aaron Curry is still sidelined with his knee issues and it doesn’t look like he’s coming back anytime soon. Curry being placed on the PUP List (where he would miss the first 6 games of the season) is a real possibility, which would make this position battle even more important. It’s conceivable that the coaching staff will keep track of the waiver wire very closely on the next few days, because they might be forced to carry more than one name from the trio above, if Curry goes to the PUP, and might not be comfortable with the current options.
Bryan McCann – Brandon Underwood – Coye Francies
This battle might not be relevant at all if the Raiders decide to keep only 9 DBs into the season. But in the other hand, tonight’s game could be a crucial game to one of those 3 names if the coaching staff decides to be a little more cautious with the defensive backfield. McCann main case to make the team is because of his return abilities, both at kick and punt returns. Underwood was converted to free safety by the Raiders this season, but he was a CB for basically two years in Green Bay. His versatility might give him a spot in the final roster. Coye Francies signed with the Raiders just one day ago, but if the Raiders brought him, they wanna get a closer look at him for some reason. After 3 lackluster years in the NFL, Francies will need a strong performance later tonight to survive the final cut.
The Raiders will face the Seahawks in Seattle, tonight at 7 P.M. (PDT).