Tomorrow the Oakland Raiders will open up their 2017 campaign by playing the Arizona Cardinals in their preseason opener. By now, it has been reported that several of the Raiders’ “big names” will be playing very little or not at all. However, there will be plenty to look at in this game that will help to start clearing up some of the questions for the team moving forward.
Raiders CB Breon Borders
Is the practice hype train real or will he get burnt like toast right out of the gates?
Borders has been getting rave reviews from many followers attending training camp. He has earned time with the first team defense, albeit from injuries and such. On Saturday night he may have to go one on one with future NFL Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, no doubt his first real game action test. That will be a match up to watch as the undrafted rookie gets the tremendous opportunity that I am certain he has been craving for since joining the team.
Connor Cook or E.J. Manuel
Who earns the shot to be the Raiders backup quarterback behind Derek Carr?
These two will be studied very carefully by the coaching staff to see who can be the legitimate “number two.” We all know what Cook did last season, but now he must show that he has grown as a quarterback but more importantly, if has he gotten better. For Manuel, he must showcase his knowledge of Todd Downing’s system in a short amount of time. Both players will be leaned on immensely the entire preseason with Carr presumably playing sparingly and not at all. The emphasis to secure the job behind “DC” will be “must-watch TV” for sure.
Right Tackle, Defensive Tackle, and Middle Linebacker
Without Pro Bowl anchor Donald Penn who’s not playing due to an untimely holdout, what will the offensive tackle rotation look like in this game, as well as the entire preseason?
Keep an eye on Marshall Newhouse, rookie David Sharpe, and Denver Kirkland as they will get the most reps. Newhouse and Kirkland certainly have more experience, but Sharpe has flashed some strong potential in practice with Penn holding out. Moreover, don’t count out Vadal Alexander as a starter on the right side of the line either.
At defensive tackle, all the buzz has been about rookie Eddie Vanderdoes. The former 5-star prospect has lit it up in practice and should turn heads against Arizona’s O-line. Darius Latham showed signs a season ago and must build on that. Another rookie, Treyvon Hester will see time, while Justin Ellis is now the leader of the group with the departure of Dan Williams.
Cory James, Ben Heeney, and Marquel Lee are also hopefuls to keep an eye on as many are expecting them to emerge as solid contributors in the middle of the defense. Lee grew up revering Ray Lewis, and Raider fans can only hope that he plays half as good as Lewis did. James will get much playing time as well, but the position looks like Marquel Lee’s to lose. Raider Nation will be praying that all goes well for the entire team in Glendale tomorrow evening.