What to watch for in the first Raiders preseason game
The Oakland Raiders play a football game tomorrow!!!! Ok, so it’s only the preseason and doesn’t count but still. After a long offseason, it’s hard not to get excited about the return of football, even if only in the form of meaningless games. Or at least, kind of meaningless games.
Because while the outcomes of preseason games do not matter at all (just ask Art Shell and the Bed and Breakfast offense) what happens on the field during those games certainly does matter (just ask Derek Carr who earned his starting job in the preseason).
So, while there’s no reason to care about the final score, there are plenty of reasons to watch the Raiders preseason games. Here are a few reasons to watch this first preseason game in particular:
I still think that Donald Penn will be back at left tackle by game one of the regular season at the latest (likely before game three of the preseason). BUT, until then, it’s a good chance to look at what the offensive line looks like without Penn. Because while Penn will likely return for this season, who knows how much longer he will play.
His absence now is a great opportunity to take a look at the stock of tackles behind him. Seeing Marshall Newhouse at left tackle isn’t particularly exciting but getting the chance to see Alexander Vadal get first team snaps is. Vadal played pretty well for a seventh round pick as a rookie but also showed he had a lot of improvement to do before he’s a starter. Getting a ton of reps in preseason with the first team is a great way for Alexander to work on his skills and show improvement.
We know who the starter is, but what if Derek Carr gets hurt again? Are the Raiders in a better position to deal with an injury to the golden boy this year? I’m not entirely sure. The game plan was likely to have Connor Cook at the point where he would take over as backup. Instead, the afterthought signing of EJ Manuel has turned out to be significant.
Early in camp, Manuel has reportedly outplayed Cook and by a lot. Part of that has been Manuel playing well and a big part of it has been Cook just flat out being bad. But things could change and Cook could be one of those guys who looks way better in the game than in practice. Either way, this is one competition to watch closely.
Eddie Vanderdoes and Marquel Lee
While most of the guys who will be starters in week one aren’t likely to play many snaps, there are exceptions to that. Eddie Vanderdoes and Marquel Lee are both looking like they could be starters in week one, but both are also rookies and could use the playing time in preseason. And beyond that, while Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu were the big names, Vanderdoes and Lee could end up having a bigger impact on the team this season simply because they could see the field more often.
In particular, I would keep a close eye on Vanderdoes, who could be a HUGE addition to this team. The kind of addition that will make you forget all about Mario Edwards, Jr. if he gets hurt again.
The Oakland Raiders had one of the best special teams units in the NFL last season and despite saying goodbye to a number of their key special teamers this offseason, the unit could very well be better this year. The return game is clearly going to be much better with Cordarrelle Patterson on the team. But kick coverage could be better as well.
Keep an eye on Patterson on kick coverage, not just kick returns. Last year he became one of the best gunners in the league and is set to be one of the most important special teamers on the Raiders. Also keep a close eye on James Cowser. Many are excite about Cowser’s prospects as a rotational pass rusher, and with good cause, but he also brings a ton of value as a stud special teamer. He is all over the field and especially so on special teams. There will be others who contribute as well, but Patterson and Cowser in particular, are looking like they will be some of the best special teamers in the NFL this season.
- August 11, 2017
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- james arcellana