With OTAs happening and training camp around the corner, now is all the talk about who will actually make the team. Tom Cable really seems to buy into the fact that he wants all players at any optional work out or else they will lessen their chances at making the team. I see a lot of talent and I see a lot of over paid players so it will be a tough choice. Here is my picks so far. Starters are bold and players likely to get cut, injured or go to the practice squad are in italics. I'm starting with defense.
Defensive end: Trevor Scott, Jay Richardson, Greyson Gunheim, Stryker Sulak, Derrick Gray, Matt Shaughnessy, Derrick Burgess. Scott made a major impression last year and Richardson as well as Scott has been reported to be getting better but is currently nursing a minor injury. Gunheim was the first called up from the practice squad last year and didn't get much playing time but made a major impression by making the game saving sack against Tampa Bay last season. Gray was on the practice squad last year and has a chance to make the team this year. Sulak has the coolest name but I don't care what your name is, I care about being able to play football. He is also expected to compete for the SLB position, but fellow rookie Matt Shaughnessy is an injury risk and may go to IR during camp. 2 time pro bowler Burgess is on the verge of getting traded to New England. He is known for not being around at optional workouts and hasn't been happy with his contract and Coach Cable frowns on that a lot.
Defensive Tackle: Tommy Kelly, Gerrard Warren, Ryan Boshetti, Terdell Sands, William Joseph, Desmond Bryant. Kelly has been recovered for a good while now from his injury in 2007 and should be able to show that he's worth every dime he's paid. Terdell Sands is always penciled in as the other starting DT, but Gerrard Warren always beats him out. However, Sands seems to be getting better and should be a big factor on the DL this year. Coach Cable is very high on Boshetti, so he may get the other back up spot over William Joseph who was signed last year and cut at the end of camp in favor of a more diverse Fred Wakefield, but when Cable took over for the fired Lane Kiffin, he brought back Joseph in favor of Wakefield because Joseph could play DT better that Wakefield and we needed another solid player there. Bryant will most likely end up on the practice squad unless he makes a major impression.
Linebacker: Tom Howard, Kirk Morrison, Frantz Joseph, Slade Norris, Ricky Brown, John Alston, Isaiah Ekejubia, Sam Williams, David Nixon, Marquis Cooper. Howard and Morrison are the only two guaranteed to make the team. Frantz Joseph was a highly touted undrafted rookie that seems to have the potential to start for us. Norris was a draft pick that played both LB and DE in college and is expected to back up Howard. Brown started at the SLB last year before going down with an injury. After Brown's injury, Alston took over and I thought he played better than Brown. Ekejubia has been a special teams contributer for quite a while now and that may be what saves his roster spot but we really need guys that can play their positions well. Williams has been injury prone his whole career. Nixon may end up on the practice squad and as we all know, we tragically lost Marquis Cooper at sea earlier this year.
Safety: Tyvonn Branch, Mike Mitchell, Jerome Boyd, Hiram Eugene, Darrick Brown, Michael Huff, Jason Horton. Huff has been unimpressive since being taken #7 overall in the 2006 draft and I think it's time to hand him his pink slip especially after getting benched last year. Branch was impressive before going down and out with a wrist injury last year and Mitchell hits like Jack Tatum. Boyd played LB in college but is looking to move back to his HS position at safety. Hiram Eugene is a pretty good hitter and I think Darrick Brown will win the 5th safety spot. I don't know anything about Horton.
Corner: Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson, Stanford Routt, Justin Miller, John Bowie. We really didn't add anybody at this position. Nnamdi finally got the deal he deserves since opposing QBs fear him so much, they won't throw his way. Chris Johnson was a surprise upgrade from Deangelo Hall. Routt played well in Nnamdi's absence the last game of the season. Justin Miller is the kickoff returner, so he automatically makes the team. Bowie is the wild card and he is who we got from the draft pick we aquired for Randy Moss and I don't think Al Davis wants to give up on him yet, but if anybody gets cut from this group, it's him.
Center: John Wade, Samson Satele, John Condo, Chris Morris. Many have Satele listed as the projected starter, but Wade has more experience in the Zone blocking scheme. I haven't heard anything good about Satele yet, so I don't think he's quite ready to start. Some say he'll be a better fit in the zone scheme, but I favor Wade. Condo is the deep snapper, so that makes Morris the odd man out.
Guard: Robert Gallery, Cooper Carlisle, Marcus Johnson, Paul McQuistain, Jonathan Compas. Gallery and Carlisle seem to have the guard positions locked up unless they get hurt. Johnson also plays tackle as well as McQuistain so they have an equal shot at making the team. Compas will likely be a practice squader.
Tackle: Mario Henderson, Khalif Barnes, Erik Pears, Cornell Green, Mark Wilson, James Marten. Henderson solidified the left tackle spot at the end of last season when the often penalized Kwaime Harris was benched for that very reason. Henderson blocked well and was never penalized. Barnes was brought in on a 1 year deal and will likely get the RT spot and Erik Pears will be the primary back up at tackle. Cornell Green was second in the NFL in penalties but it was overshadowed by Harris on the other side. Wilson was a practice squad project that never prevailed and Marten was a bust in Dallas and didn't show any better signs here.
Quarterback: Jamarcus Russell, Jeff Garcia, Andrew Walter, Bruce Gradkowski, Danny Southwick. There is no question, this is Russell's team. Once the players around him started playing well, we had an improved offense and team all around. Garcia is a proven vet that will be fighting to start because that is the kind of player he is but realizes that this is Russell's team. I chose Walter over Gradkowski for the 3rd QB because he knows the system better but he could easily go. I really doubt Southwick will get it.
Tailback: Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, Louis Rankin, Gary Russell. Everybody knows that I favor Bush over McFadden and the rest of our RBs, but after all the money they invested in McFadden, chances are that he will be the starter. Bush will rotate in and be a factor though. I think Fargas will make the team but will go down with his anual injury, only I think it will be earlier in the season that it normally is. Louis Rankin will likely start out on the practice squad again, but will likely get called up as soon as one RB goes down with an injury. Russell made a few good plays for the steelers, but looks like he won't make it with us unless there are multiple injuries early.
Fullback: Lorenzo Neal, Oren O'neal, Luke Lawton, Marcel Reese. Initially I had O'neal as the starter and Lawton as the back up, but the addition of Neal changes that. I thought Lawton did all right last year, but the competion is back and Neal has always done well. I liked Reese as a WR in college and was surprised that he moved to FB in the NFL, but he might be back on the practice squad this year.
Tight End: Zach Miller, Brandon Myers, Darrell Strong, Tony Stewart, Chris O'neill, John Paul Foushi. Miller is the unquestionable starter. Myers will mainly be a blocker. I think Darrell Strong has the cabability to hang onto the 3rd TE spot. Stewart was never really impressive to me. O'neill may end up on the practice squad, and Foushi will end up getting cut.
Wide Receiver: Chaz Schilens, Darius Heyward-Bey, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Louis Murphy, Todd Watkins, Arman Shields, Javon Walker, Shawn Bayes, Will Franklin, Jonathan Holland, Nick Miller, Samie Parker. Schilens made a major impression by catching everything thrown within his arms reach last year especially on critical downs. He showed a fearless effort to go up against defenders and make amazing catches; that is something that cannot be said about any other WR that was on our roster last year. The only other one that came close was Johnnie Lee Higgins, who struggled early in his career dropping returns and passes, but when he became the vet of the WRs he stepped his game up tremendously and became the elite little man they expected of him. To allow Higgins to focus more on returns, the Raiders drafted a WR at #7 overall this year and shocked the world when it was not the one everyone expected; It was Darius Heyward-Bey. He should be a good deep threat. His hands were questionable, but not his work ethic. He also came from a pro style offense in college unlike the higher prospects so that gives him and edge. Murphy was a player that couldn't be passed up when he fell to Oakland, so he oughta give us another good set of hands. Watkins was always a top notch receiver in practice, but never could get the job done on game day. Shields is the wild card of the bunch because he was injured all last season and just might pull through this year. Cable said in an article some where that Schilens, DHB, and JLH are the only WRs guaranteed to make the team. Walker had an offseason surgery that he didn't inform the team about and may be a contract violation. It may also come down to the surgery didn't work out as he hoped and be forced to retire. Personally I don't think he should've ever been signed in the first place. The other WRs; some will be practice squaders and others will go to other teams and some may be done with football all together.
Specialists: Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski