What are the remaining holes on the Raiders?

May 13, 2016; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio (left) and general manager Reggie McKenzie during rookie minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2016; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio (left) and general manager Reggie McKenzie during rookie minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

After the free agency and the draft, what holes remain on the Oakland Raiders roster?

Prior to the start of free agency, I ranked the needs of the Oakland Raiders. At that time, I said the most glaring holes were the following: defensive coordinator, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, right tackle, slot wide receiver, power running back, in this particular order.

Now that both free agency and the draft are over, let’s see where the team now stands, and what holes remain.

Concerning need #1, as I mentioned before, the only significant change was the hiring of John Pagano as Assistant Head Coach – Defense.

Hopefully bringing in Pagano is the first step towards getting rid of Ken Norton Jr., but apparently, Pagano was hired to help coach the secondary after Marcus Robertson was let go, as opposed to being the eventual replacement for Norton. So in my opinion, this is still a need for this team.

In regard to the second hole, defensive line, Stacy McGee left via free agency and Dan Williams was recently let go. So prior to the draft, that had became even more of a need. But in the third round, Reggie McKenzie went with defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes of UCLA, and then later picked Trevyon Hester out of Toledo in the seventh.

Hester is the longest of shots to even make the roster. Perhaps he could be a practice squad candidate.

But Vanderdoes did show some promise in college, particularly in his freshman season. The problem is he suffered a torn ACL in 2015 and was not the same player after he came back. He gained nearly 40 pounds, which affected his conditioning and his overall performance. He slimmed down in time for the Senior Bowl and the Combine, but this is a big reason why he was selected on day two of the draft, and not earlier.

Both Vanderdoes and Hester will compete with Justin Ellis and Darius Latham for snaps, and this group could also feature Mario Edwards Jr., depending on the scheme. These five should generate healthy competition, because none are a surefire starter at the moment. Edwards will have the leg up if used in this role, and perhaps Ellis will as the veteran of the group.

Moving on to the defensive ends and the pass rushers, the Raiders did not sign or draft anyone at these positions. So it will be the Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin show once again, with an occasional sprinkle of Denico Autry and Jihad Ward.

All in all, the performance of the defensive line will depend on a few things — the healthy of Edwards Jr., the development of Ellis, Latham and Autry and the contribution of Ward and the rookies. If everything pans out, this unit can be solid, but I’m not that confident. My feeling is that once more, the defensive line will be a weakness given the lack of interior pass rush. So again, this is still a need for this team.

The third need, and now the most pressing, is at linebacker. For many fans, the lack of decent linebackers absolutely killed the Raiders defense in 2016. I tend to agree with that. Opposing tight ends also agree.

Fortunately, Malcolm Smith is history — somehow, he managed to land a nice payday with the 49ers, which I’m still laughing about — and Perry Riley Jr. has not re-signed. At least not yet.

So besides Bruce Irvin, who is more of a pass rusher, these are the returning linebackers under contract; Tyrell Adams, Neiron Ball, Shilique Calhoun, James Cowser, Ben Heeney and Cory James. Yikes.

Jelani Jenkins was lured to Alameda via free agency and Marquel Lee of Wake Forest was McKenzie’s selection in the fifth round of the draft. Both seem quite likely to start right away. Ted Nguyen wrote a fantastic piece on Lee that is well worth your time.

Unless a stud middle linebacker is signed, which is pretty much impossible at this time, the overall situation of the linebacker group is still muddy. So yeah, another hole remains.

Finally, there is one spot that is no longer a hole, and that’s the secondary. There were no new members of the team added via free agency, but this seemed to a point of emphasis during the draft.

With the no. 24 overall selection, the Raiders went with Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, who allowed the lowest passer rating to quarterbacks according to Pro Football Focus. If he dodges this legal issue, he’ll start immediately — either in the slot or on the outside.

In the second round, McKenzie snagged UConn safety Obi Melifonwu, an absolute freak athlete. Two rounds, two dominant defensive backs.

Obi is the monster the coaches have been looking for to emulate the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom. He is a poor man’s Kam Chancellor, so to speak, but if he can develop his hitting abilities, he might actually be Kam 2.0 alongside the Raiders’ version of Earl Thomas, Karl Joseph.

Important note to opposing tight ends — party’s over, dudes.

Not that I agree with the idea of replicating the Seahawks defense, but this is clearly the coaches, particularly Norton’s, objective.

In regard to the secondary, the reinforcements didn’t stop there. In the seventh round, McKenzie went with another safety — Shalom Luani of Washington State. He’s a decent player that has a knack for the ball, but he is just a project for the time being, and was primarily brought in for depth and likely special teams.

With the additions of Conley and Obi, who will play alongside Joseph and Sean Smith and/or David Amerson, the secondary seems to be much improved, and therefore, is no longer a need.

Prior to the start of the offseason, another position of concern was right tackle. Austin Howard was far from brilliant, and also injured every now and then. Menelik Watson was awful most of the time and couldn’t remain healthy, and he’s now in Denver. By the way, Mack and Irvin are going to feast in those games.

The first free agent McKenzie signed this offseason was Marshall Newhouse, a former Packer and Giant. He also drafted two tackles — Florida’s David Sharpe and Alabama State’s Jylan Ware.

Newhouse is much more experienced, but Sharpe and Ware are a pair of behemoths at 6’6″ 357 and 6’8″ 295, respectively. Mike Tice is licking his chops.

It seems as if right tackle is Newhouse’s job to lose, but he is not a clear upgrade over Howard, and the rookies are not plug and play pieces. Unless one of these guys standout in camp or the preseason, my guess is we’ll see a rotation in protection of Derek Carr’s right side.

I’m on the fence about this position, but my gut tells me no one in this group is the answer at the right tackle position. At least not immediately, so I’ll say this is still a hole.

Another need was slot receiver. It’s not that Seth Roberts is garbage, but he is not very reliable. This is why the Raiders scooped up Cordarrelle Patterson, who is a speed devil that will give Roberts a run for his money. Not to mention the impact he’ll make on special teams. With the departure of Andre Holmes, at the very least, Patterson will be the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart.

Retaining Roberts does help, so with the addition of Patterson, I do not believe this position is a hole anymore.

Must Read: Raiders Defensive Depth Chart

And finally, the last team need was power running back.

Enter Marshawn Lynch. Enough said.

Skittles for everybody.