Raiders getting mileage from undrafted players


ALAMEDA — When rebuilding a car’s engine, most mechanics install major new components, like cylinder heads and camshafts. They might keep a few original parts, though often, it’s very few.

For Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, the rebuilding process isn’t quite the same.

After cutting several overpaid players, McKenzie was forced to find his local pick-and-pull in search of used pistons and 0-rings.

Then, McKenzie found the rest at the neighborhood dollar store.

Rashad Jennings. Matt McGloin. Jeron Mastrud. Rod Streater. They’re all offensive starters for the Oakland Raiders. But they also all joined the team after being undrafted or picked late in the draft.

A good portion of the Raiders roster is made up of players who fell in the draft — or weren’t picked at all. A 4-9 record has been the result, though the team has played in many close games.

With Oakland’s depth worn to a semblance of 10-year-old work boots, the lack of top-pedigree talent is looking head coach Dennis Allen in the face. It’s not all bad, though. He said:

“Every one of our skill players in the Jets game were undrafted free agents, and I think it speaks to what those coaches have been able to do. I think it speaks to those players, and their determination, their work ethic and the way they go about doing their job.”

Marcel Reece, who recently rushed for 123 yards and caught two passes for 38 yards, is yet another example of Oakland’s ability to scout for talent overlooked by other teams. Reece was the absolute last resort to start on Sunday, but proceeded to dominate the league’s best run defense.

Jennings stepped in for an injured Darren McFadden and has averaged 4.7 yards per carry this season. Streater has become one of the premier receivers in the league after being passed over by 32 general managers seven times over.

Allen considers the roster strong in value and seems to believe that there are some building blocks:

“It’s also something we have to continue, to develop our roster. We gotta try and add pieces here and there to add pieces that can help us.”

With $60 million in cap space for 2014, the Raiders appear to be in a good position moving forward. But it’s still 2013, and there are three games that remain. It’s not all bad.

With Jared Veldheer healthy, and a passing game emerging, Andre Holmes will have better chances to shine. Facing a very tough defense this Sunday against the Chiefs, everyone will have a tough test.

Another two games against passing teams with weak secondaries — San Diego and Denver — offer the wide receiver group and McGloin an opportunity to show out.

The roster has an opportunity to learn to communicate better, something that defensive coordinator Jason Tarver touched on a bit:

 “One of the things we showed them as coaches (is communication). ‘Look at these times when we do it right. What’s the difference?’ … ‘You look like you’re talking, you look like you’re moving, you’re hips are down.’”

Communication is something Tarver says translates into good defensive play, while a lack of communication translates into giving up big plays.

Oakland hosts the Chiefs on Sunday, currently as 4-1/2 point underdogs. Some of the Raiders’ young players will get a chance on a national stage against a team that has dominated almost opponent they’ve faced.

Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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