The time is finally here for the Oakland Raiders to strap on the pads and hit the field for their first preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. The game will take place at the O.Co Collesium in Oakland and will start at 5pm PT. The Raiders can tune out the recent Antonio Brown drama and focus in on football.
Oakland had a chance to share the practice field with the Rams for a couple days this past week, so they should have a good idea of what they’re up against. It’s unlikely that many of the starters or veterans will play much in this first preseason game, but it’s possible we’ll at least get one drive with Derek Carr and the first unit. The team should already know what they have in those guys, so it’s the chance for the rookies and younger players to prove themselves. Below we’re going to go through of the players to watch during Saturday’s game.
The team and fans will finally get an idea of what rookie running back Josh Jacobs is made of. It’s been hard for Jacobs to show off much in training camp because there’s only so much contact that’s allowed during practice. He will probably be limited against the Rams, but he’ll definitely get a few chances to make some plays. Jacobs was listed as a starter in the Raiders’ first depth chart, but head coach Jon Gruden has said that he needs to earn the spot.
Regardless of if the first-team offense plays much, Jacobs will probably see a heavier workload than the rest of them. It’ll be interesting to see if the Raiders decide to use him as a receiver at all in this first game. It sounds like Gruden has some creative plans for Jacobs, so he might want to show that off until the team gets to games that matter. With that said, it should be exciting to see the rookie in his first NFL action.
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There are few players on the roster bubble that would benefit more from a big preseason than rookie defensive end Quinton Bell. The Raiders have added a lot of depth to his position and he’s missed several training camp practices due to injury. When the team drafted him, they were getting a raw prospect that still needs work. If Oakland is going to invest the time needed to develop him, he’s going to have to show that he has the potential. If he can get to the quarterback, even if it’s the second or third unit, he’ll make his case to at least keep a spot on the roster. There’s no other area the Raiders need more help in than pass rush.
As an undrafted free agent, Te’Von Coney is going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to make the roster. He was listed all the way at the bottom of the Raiders’ middle linebacker depth chart. However, he’s already gained hype as a potential steal. According to Chris Roling of Bleacher Report, Coney is one of the undrafted free agents with a chance of making an NFL roster.
“Yet another ‘small’ linebacker, Coney was a stud in coverage at Notre Dame, where he started his last three years, had seven sacks overall and led the team in tackling two years in a row,” said Roling. “A 6’1″, 234-pound frame isn’t too small for an off-ball linebacker these days, to say the least.”
Coney played college ball at Notre Dame, so it’s not like he wasn’t facing top competition. There are obvious concerns about his size, but he’s been noted as a solid coverage linebacker. What have the Raiders been terrible at during the last few years? Covering tight ends. If Coney can show an ability to cover tight ends in the preseason, he has a really good shot of making the roster. The Raiders have to face Travis Kelce, Noah Fant and Hunter Henry each twice a year. If Coney can offer any kind of help in stopping those guys, he deserves to make the team.
Last year’s second-round pick P.J. Hall has been mostly overshadowed by Maurice Hurst, who was drafted in a later round of the same draft. Hall came from a small school and didn’t do much to impress in his rookie year. The Raiders are now loaded with bodies at defensive tackle and he isn’t considered to be one of the starters just yet. Justin Ellis, Johnathan Hankins and Hurst are the favorites to get most of the workload. Hall will need to show up well against the Rams if he’s going to make the case that he should see more playing time.
With the crushing news that starting right guard Gabe Jackson is going to miss eight weeks and several regular-season games with an MCL injury, the Raiders will need Denver Kirkland to step up. Kirkland has been on and off the Raider roster since the team signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He’s only played in six games and hasn’t seen the field for a regular-season game since 2016. He has a rare opportunity to show that he belongs in the NFL with Jackson out. With Richie Incognito out for the first two games of the season, Kirkland has to prove that he should keep Jackson’s spot over Jonathan Cooper, who will likely fill in for Incognito. Kirkland has a tall order going against the Rams’ fierce defensive line. If he holds up well, the Raiders may not have to look elsewhere and Kirkland could find a long term spot as Jackson’s backup.