Football is officially back. The games may not count exactly but the Silver and Black are back playing football on a baseball infield. Jon Gruden’s second Raider debut went about as well as could be expected. The starters looked sharp. The offense looked vastly more diverse than last season. And the defense, especially defensive line, played superbly.
Now on to Week 2 of the preseason, the Raiders will head south to face the Rams in LA on Saturday. This match-up is different from many preseason games because the teams play again to start the regular season in less than a month. Surely, neither team will show too much of their normal offensive and defensive gameplans. However, the starters for each team should get a couple of series to prepare for the regular season, when the outcomes start to matter. There are many intriguing storylines for Week 2 that could ultimately end up deciding the fate of Oakland in 2018.
The Kolton Miller/Donald Penn Offensive Line
For those of whom haven’t heard, Donald Penn is fresh off the PUP list and working at Right Tackle. This is surprising to many as Penn has made the Pro Bowl at left tackle each of the previous two seasons. Also, Miller wasn’t considered to be the most flawless of prospects. Nonetheless, the 2018 1st rounder is expected to continue working at LT for the time being. So, Week 2 of the preseason will be another chance to make sure the guy watching Derek Carr’s blind side is competent. Donald Penn may not play, considering he just recently came off the PUP list, but if he does, it will be interesting watching him transition to RT, a position he hasn’t started at since his freshman year at Utah State in 2002. There is no guarantee that Miller and Penn start the year in the positions they are working at now but the dynamic between the two will be critical to determine the effectiveness of the offensive line.
Gareon Conley’s and Arden Key’s First Preseason Action
Two anticipated 2018 debuts are expected to take place on Saturday. Gareon Conley and Arden Key both returned to practice on Monday. Conley dressed but didn’t play with a hip problem in Week 1 and Key was a late scratch with an ankle injury. It isn’t much of a secret that these two guys will be crucial for the defense. Conley is the expected starter opposite free-agent acquisition Rashaan Melvin. Arden Key was off to a fast start in Training Camp before being slightly derailed by the minor injury. Currently, Key would be the number 2 pass rusher behind Bruce Irvin. When the whole Khalil Mack situation gets settled Key will be bumped down to number 3 but will still serve as the prime reserve. Raider Nation should have high hopes as the pair will hopefully make their highly anticipated debuts sooner rather than later.
The New Wide Receivers
Martavis Bryant, Ryan Switzer, and Marcell Ateman are all new toys for Derek Carr in 2018. Bryant and Switzer joined the crew via trades. Ateman was selected in the 7th Round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Bryant has had an odd offseason with the team. Reports have come in about him potentially being suspended and him not being able to grip Gruden’s complex offense. However, Gruden has raved about Bryant’s talent level. Recently, Bryant missed a few practices with migraines before returning. It would be nice if Bryant could make some plays on Saturday to sooth any potential concerns.
Switzer, on the other hand, has had a great offseason since being shipped from Dallas to Oakland. And he continued that with a receiving touchdown in the opening preseason game. However, Connor Cook delivered that pass, not starter Derek Carr. Personally, I hope to see Switzer on the field more with Carr this week. Finally, the rookie Marcell Ateman will be coming back off a solid four-catch effort in Week 1. Hopefully, he continues to progress as he battles for a spot on the final 53-man roster.