Behind Enemy Lines: Raiders personnel

The Bears square off this Sunday against the Raiders. With the loss of Jay Cutler, it will be a tough road game to say the least. We take an in-depth look at Oakland's starting roster.


Offensive Rankings
Points scored: 14th (23.5)
Total offense: 10th (376.5)
Rushing offense: 3rd (156.8)
Passing offense: 19th (219.7)

Skill position players
QB Carson Palmer, RB Michael Bush, FB Marcel Reese, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Chaz Schilens, WR Louis Murphy, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, TE Kevin Boss

Palmer will be starting his fifth game with Oakland, after being traded from Cincinnati last month. He's an experienced veteran who makes up for his lack of mobility and arm strength with accuracy and decision making. He's good at recognizing the blitz and getting the ball out quickly. He's had a passer rating of more than 100 the past two games, which signifies his growing comfort in the Raiders' offense.

Michael Bush is a powerful back that can just as easily turn the corner as he can run you over. Between the tackles, he's a beast. He can be a weapon as a receiver as well. We break down Bush in more detail here.

Reece gets the occasional carry and is extremely agile for a fullback. He's also dangerous in the flats as a pass catcher.

The Raiders are seriously banged up at wide receiver. Denarius Moore (foot) and Jacoby Ford (foot) are not expected to play. Heyward-Bey (neck) practiced sparingly the past few days and will be limited even if he does suit up. That leaves Schilens and Murphy as the starting wideouts. Both are young and inexperienced, yet both can flat out fly. Neither is polished and they struggle with drops, but their pure speed makes them dangerous. Houshmandzadeh will work out of the slot. He's slow but runs good routes and has decent hands. He'll serve as Palmer's possession outlet, especially on third downs.

Boss is one of Palmer's favorite targets, particularly on passing downs. He's very good down the seams and presents a big target over the middle when opposing defenses blitz. Palmer will look his way when he's under pressure.

Offensive line
LT Jared Veldheer, LG Stefen Wisniewski, C Samson Satele, RG Cooper Carlisle, RT Khalif Barnes

Veldheer (6-8, 315) is a second-year player who shows a lot of promise. He shut down Minnesota's Jared Allen last week, halting the defender's string of consecutive games with a sack at 11. He'll be asked to do the same with Julius Peppers this week. On the other side, Barnes is a seven-year veteran with a massive frame (6-5, 325). Yet he doesn't play with a lot of aggressiveness and can get pushed around at times. He's inconsistent as a run blocker but gets the job done as a pass blocker due mainly to his experience.

Wisniewski is a rookie who played center in college. Physically, he has all the tools one looks for in an NFL guard. At times, he can absolutely maul in the run game. He shows decent awareness at the second level as well. Yet he's inconsistent and has made a number of mental mistakes this year. Satele has been a starting center in the NFL for five years now. He's an intelligent player who relies more on his fundamentals than brute strength. He's a solid anchor in the middle. Carlisle is a 12-year veteran who is more of a finesse blocker than a road grader.

Overall, this is a huge front five that has played a lot of games together. Their collective size and experience makes them very dangerous when they get on a roll.


Defensive Rankings
Points allowed: 27th (25.4)
Total defense: 24th (371.7)
Rushing defense: 25th (131.6)
Passing defense: 20th (240.1)
Turnover ratio: 17th (-1)

Defensive line
DE Lamarr Houston, DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, DE Jarvis Moss, DT John Henderson, DE Trevor Scott, DL Desmond Bryant

Houston and Moss are not your typical edge rushers. The Raiders employ a 4-3 defense yet use the defensive ends in more of a 3-4 role. They are tasked with holding their ground and covering two gaps, instead of penetrating into the backfield. A such, Houston and Moss have combined for just 2.5 sacks on the season.

For Oakland, the pass rush comes from the interior of the defensive line. Kelly and Seymour are both powerful one-gap rushers who explode off the ball and create havoc in the quarterback's face. The two have combined for 10.5 sacks on the season. Seymour is dealing with a knee injury and will only be used on third downs.

OLB Aaron Curry, MLB Rolando McClain, OLB Kamerion Wimbley

Wimbley is the team's outside pass rusher. He lines up on the line of scrimmage in more a of a 3-4 linebacker position on most plays. His job is to work his way into the backfield. He's fast off the edge and uses his quickness to maneuver around blockers. He leads the team with 6.0 sacks. McClain is second on the team in tackles. He's aggressive against the run and is a solid tackler. He's not strong in coverage though and is fooled easily by play action. Curry also struggles in coverage and cannot get consistent pressure as a blitzer. Athletically, he's top-tier and he can lay the lumber when he has a head of steam. He's the team's best run-stopping linebacker but comes off the field in nickel and dime packages.

CB Stanford Routt, CB Lito Sheppard, SS Tyvon Branch, FS Michael Huff, S Matt Giordano, S Mike Mitchell

The Raiders have been without starting cornerback Chris Johnson since Week 4, which forced them to go out and sign Sheppard in late October. Sheppard is a 10-year veteran who is a ball hawk. He doesn't have great speed anymore but he makes up for it with his field vision and aggressiveness. Yet he takes chances going after the ball and often bites on double moves. Routt has good size (6-1, 195) and outstanding speed. He can be dominant in man coverage at times, yet he does make a number of mental mistakes. He relies more on his raw talent than technique, which can get him in trouble.

Branch is a force in the box. He's essentially another linebacker on the field and he leads the team in tackles. The Raiders love to use him as a blitzer, similar to the fashion in which the Bears employ D.J. Moore. In man coverage though, he struggles mightily. Huff is also an athletic hard hitter. He has great closing speed and is getting better at diagnosing plays. Still, he misses his assignments far too often and will allow the occasional deep ball.

The Raiders are very thin at cornerback. As such, the team uses its safeties as the nickel and dime players. Giordano and Mitchell will see plenty of time on the field in passing situations.


K Sebastian Janikowski, P Shane Lechler, KR Taiwan Jones, PR Nick Miller

Jacoby Ford (kickoffs) and Denarius Moore (punts) serve as the Raiders' main return players. Both are out, so those duties will fall on Jones and Miller. Jones is averaging 20.6 yards per kickoff return and has great speed. Miller has returned just two punts this year. As a whole, the team is middle of the pack in both punt and kick returns.

Lechler has a canon attached to his hip. He leads the league in average yards per punt (51.2). His directional kicking is hit or miss though, as he has just 14 punts inside the 20 so far this year. Janikowski also has a big leg but he's dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. When healthy, every one of his kickoffs sail out of the back of the end zone but he may not have as much zip on his kicks this Sunday due to the hammy.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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