Evaluating the roster: LBs, DBs and ST

How much of an impact will newly signed safety Greg Wesley have in Oakland? Silver and Black Illustrated's Michael Wagaman takes a look in his final installment of a four-part series breaking down Oakland's roster player by player, position by position.

* Not a depth chart. Players listed in alphabetical order only. Jersey number in parentheses.



(47) Jon Alston, 6-0, 225, Stanford: Found a home on special teams and will likely use that path again this season. He played sparingly on defense when Oakland went to four-linebacker sets and but he's listed third on the depth chart heading into camp behind Thomas Howard and Ike Ekejiuba.

(57) Ricky Brown, 6-2, 235, Boston College: Showed some spark during offseason workouts and continues to get better with time. Still he's battling for a backup job at best on defense. His niche remains on special teams where he has become one of the Raiders' top players.

(50) Isaiah Ekejiuba, 6-4, 240, Virginia: Very similar to Brown. Does very well on special teams and is good as a backup but was hindered by a variety of injuries in 2007 that limited his playing time and production. Has great speed, which is his biggest asset.

(44) Edgerton Hartwell, 6-1, 240, Western Illinois: Played very well for Baltimore a few years back but hasn't been the same player since. He's trying to latch on with the Raiders as a backup to middle linebacker Kirk Morrison, and he might add some depth to special teams as well.

(53) Thomas Howard, 6-3, 240, UTEP: Coming off the best season of his career and looking more impressive with each workout, Howard is primed to take his game to a Pro Bowl level. A tenacious tackler who flies around the field, he also had a team-leading six interceptions and was a great downfield matchup.

(48) Grant Irons, 6-6, 285, Notre Dame: Back with the Raiders after being out of football all of last year, Irons isn't flashy and hasn't been consistent enough to merit much playing time in his career. He played sparingly in four seasons with Oakland during his first go-round and isn't likely to garner much more action this time around, though he could help on special teams.

(49) Malik Jackson, 6-2, 230, Louisville: Showed some promise at strongside linebacker early in college but didn't play up to expectations as a senior and saw his stock drop. The Raiders aren't entirely set at the position so he has a chance, and he could lend a hand on special teams as well.

(55) Robert Thomas, 6-0, 235, UCLA: Filled in nicely at the strongside spot last season and heads into camp atop the depth chart again. Thomas is a steady player and an efficient tackler, something the Raiders have lacked from the position for some time.

(52) Kirk Morrison, 6-2, 240, San Diego State: The leader of Oakland's defense and one of the top linebackers in the entire NFL, Morrison is a dominant force in the middle who was tied for 12th in the league in tackles a year ago. Has yet to get the Pro Bowl recognition he does but has the respect nevertheless.

(54) Sam Williams, 6-5, 260, Fresno State: One-time starter who wound up in a reserve role last season, Williams will be vying for a backup spot again while contributing on special teams.



DB

(21) Nnamdi Asomugha, 6-2, 210, California: Lockdown cornerback who has played on a Pro Bowl level the last two seasons but doesn't have the recognition to go with it. Asomugha missed all of the offseason workouts because he has yet to sign his franchise tender offer from the team and could also sit out training camp in protest.

(27) Rashad Baker, 5-10, 200, Tennessee: Reserve safety who is with his fourth team, Baker made a few nice plays during offseason workouts but is most likely headed for special teams.

(35) John Bowie, 5-11, 190, Cincinnati: Best known as the player Oakland acquired with the draft pick they got from New England in exchange for Randy Moss, Bowie played in only two games as a rookie and has a long list of players ahead of him on the depth chart.

(33) Tyvon Branch, 6-0, 205, Connecticut: Third-round draft pick will backup starters Gibril Wilson and Michael Huff and could also serve as a nickel or dime back. Great tackler who has very good speed, Branch could also factor in on special teams as a kick returner.

(39) Darrick Brown, 6-4, 200, McNeese State: Undrafted free agent will get a look at safety where his size could serve as an advantage. Played wide receiver for two years in college before switching to defense, Brown also ran track and has the type of speed Al Davis loves.

(40) Jarrod Cooper, 6-1, 215, Kansas State: Veteran backup who doubles as a dime back, Cooper is the lifeblood of Oakland's special teams and a vibrant locker room presence who is coming off an injury-shortened 2007 season.

(31) Hiram Eugene, 6-2, 200, Louisiana Tech: Worked his way into the starting lineup at free safety late last year but didn't do much to stand out and is headed for a backup spot again. Decent in coverage and can help in dime situations.

(23) DeAngelo Hall, 5-10, 200, Virginia Tech: Raiders are expecting big things after trading for Hall in the offseason and the veteran cornerback has the skills to deliver. His attitude will make as much a difference as his play, as he gives Oakland a swagger it's been missing.

(24) Michael Huff, 6-1, 205, Texas: Making the move back to free safety after playing down in the box his first two years in the NFL. Huff struggled against big tight ends and never delivered the physical package Oakland had hoped for. Now he's back in more comfortable surroundings playing deep, where he'll be counted on to be better in the open field.

(37) Chris Johnson, 6-1, 200, Louisville: Spent most of the season on the inactive list after signing with Oakland in the offseason, Johnson didn't play very much but has a chance to stick with the team this year as a kick returner.

(26) Stanford Routt, 6-1, 195, Houston: Will likely work with the starting defense during the early part of camp until Asomugha signs. That's a bonus because Routt has, at times, played well in a starting role but needs more experience. When the season starts look for him to be Oakland's nickel back and line up against slot receivers.

(32) Michael Waddell, 5-10, 180, North Carolina: Played sparingly in three seasons with Tennessee before landing on injured reserve all of last season. Will need to crack the roster on special teams because of the crowded depth chart ahead of him.

(??) Greg Wesley, 6-2, 206, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Signed by the team on the eve of training camp, Wesley was a seven-year starter with Kansas City before falling into a backup role last year. Cut by the Chiefs in the offseason Wesley played strong safety early in his career before moving to free safety in 2005.

(28) Gibril Wilson, 6-0, 210, Tennessee: Takes over Huff's job at strong safety after helping the New York Giants win the Super Bowl last season. Wilson should bring both stability and ability to the position, as he's a very good tackler and has experience to settle a secondary that has had its share of problems.



ST

(59) Jon Condo, 6-3, 250, Maryland: Settled into the long-snapping job last year and did very well, which likely means he's through playing defense where he'd be hard-pressed to break into the rotation. A good long-snapper can last a long time in the NFL and Condo could be on his way to doing just that.

(11) Sebastian Janikowski, 6-2, 250, Florida State: Jano continued to have his ups and downs in 2007 but the bright spots seemed to outweigh the negatives. He improved his kickoffs and improved dramatically with his field goal attempts from beyond 45 yards, although his consistency continues to be an issue.

(9) Shane Lechler, 6-2, 225, Texas A&M: The best punter in the NFL, no questions asked. The only issue is where he'll be listed in the history books.

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