Micah from RaiderRamble.com breaks down three players who he believes will break out against the Los Angeles Rams.
Oakland’s first preseason game of 2017 produced much drama and perhaps raised more questions than answers. Questions like: Is Ken Norton Jr. the right man for the job? How will the Raiders use a struggling Sean Smith? How do the Raider’s shuffle the offensive line around to most effectively protect the quarterback? Is Reggie Nelson over the hill?
The defense for Oakland has the most questions marks surrounding it heading into the 2017 season; however, there were a few bright spots in Saturday’s game. Second-year man linebacker Cory James was a ballhawk recording a team leading seven tackles. Excellent news since the linebacker position could be the weakest unit on the Raider’s defense.
Also, second-year man safety Karl Joseph reminded us that though dynamite comes in small packages, it packs a powerful punch as Joseph brought the lumber on several different plays. Joseph showed good instincts for the ball and was a key part of the run defense even from his safety position. Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes showed the hype was real as he was routinely bullying his way into the backfield as was Mario Edwards and even Justin Ellis at times.
While most of Oakland’s questions surround the defensive side of the ball, the offense seemed decent even without Carr, Crabtree, Cooper, and Lynch. Walford was a pleasant surprise hauling in three passes for 44 yards as was Patterson who caught two passes for 22 yards. E.J. Manuel had a solid debut starting the game and ending with ten completions out of 12 pass attempts for 107 yards. Manuel is my favorite to win the backup job to Carr as Conor Cook had a mediocre outing tossing 21 passes with only ten completions and 82 yards.
Now as we look ahead to the Raider’s second preseason game against the Rams it should be noted that we should finally get to see 7th round draft pick running back Elijah Hood if his tweet from earlier this week means anything:”Hood zone coming soon #Blessings…” However, fans should not be looking for draft picks Conley or Melifonwu to hit the field this Saturday as both players continue to struggle with injuries throughout the week. Here are my three predictions for certain Raider players heading into Saturday’s game against the Rams.
#3 Vanderdoes will continue to show Raider Nation the hype is real
Eddie Vanderdoes did not record staggering numbers, but to the trained eye it was apparent, he was a force in the middle. Several times he demanded double teams and was always pushing defenders on their heels with a powerful initial punch. However, the real kicker was this; Vanderdoes was a force on the field even without Mack or Irvin! If he shows upside like I believe he will this Saturday the trenches will be hell for opposing offensive linemen come the regular season.
#2 Cordarrelle Patterson will show us why he needs more playing time
Two catches for 22 yards is not overwhelming, but for the first game with a new team, it is a solid start. Patterson will be Oakland’s juggernaut in 2017 and Saturday he will prove just that. Look for him to have a breakout game racking up 60+ yards and a touchdown. Remember Patterson has not even had the opportunity to catch passes in a game from Oakland’s best quarterback.
#1 Cory James will continue to shine and bring some stability to the linebacker position
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise last Saturday was watching Cory James fly around and make plays on the field against the Cardinals’ first-team offense. James led the team for the night with seven tackles. The linebackers unit was considered by most (including myself) to be the weakest position for the Raiders on defense heading into 2017. James will continue to stand out with another big game on Saturday. James will show up and go toe to toe with Todd Gurley Saturday and also record a sack.
Keep your eyes peeled
Watch for safety Shalom Luani to try to stand out once again as the former soccer player showed up well last week. James Cowser set the edge nicely a few times last Saturday as well. Mario Edwards was the force everyone knew he could be and should help Eddie dominate the interior of the line. Last but not least will Manuel continue to separate himself from Cook?