In an otherwise excellent off season, the Oakland Raiders made what could be a grave error today in their final roster cutdown by releasing all but six of their defensive linemen.
Whilst John Henderson and Desmond Bryant will back up defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, there are no players listed on the depth chart as backup defensive ends. Only Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaugnessy are listed at ther respective positions.
Paradoxically, this is both better and worse than it sounds.
We have seen from the pre-season that Trevor Scott and Kamerion Wimbley will also play defensive end on passing downs due to their pass rush ability, but if they were needed to play full time end due to injury, then the Raiders would also lose their starting outside linebackers.
Oakland has made a considerable investment in their defensive front seven over the last year, and that was something that had been badly needed for some time.
You can't help but think that they have taken a big step backwards with today's roster moves.
I don't think many analysts expected Greyson Gunheim to make the cut, and Kellen Heard was always headed to the practice squad. But Jay Richardson was a quality backup and a system fit, and Chris Cooper had a strong pre-season and was versatile enough to fill in at both end or tackle.
Having cut them, the Raiders will be unlikely to find them available late in the year if they are needed.
As stated, some of the linebackers are interchangeable, but there are still only seven on the roster in total.
Also member that two defensive linemen (Richard Seymour - triceps, Desmond Bryant - elbow) are already carrying injuries. Any more injuries and things will be looking very bleak indeed.
I ask how can any NFL team seriously consider going into a regular season with only four fully fit defensive linemen?
As an offensive coordinator, I would certainly look to run the ball late in the game, with a clear expectation of success. If you have no one to spell your starters at any point, they are just going to wear down in the fourth quarter. In higher temperatures this will have an even bigger impact.
I accept that with the injury to Michael Bush we needed to keep an extra running back, but seven receivers?
Yamon Figures must be considered a luxury at this point, and there is little practical reason for keeping five safeties. Ten offensive linemen I can live with.
Is it just me, or does anyone else out there think that this decision is going to cost us heavily down the line?