The Oakland Raiders kickoff the preseason against the defending NFC Champions Los Angeles Rams. During Thursday’s press conference, Oakland’s head coach Jon Gruden stated that a lot of veteran starters will not be playing in the game. Resting starters allows players who are fighting for roster spots and/or playing time, more opportunities to prove themselves.
Here are three players who fit that description and should be interesting to watch tonight.
For most players who go undrafted, making a NFL roster is an uphill battle, and cracking the starting lineup in year one is nearly impossible. With the Raiders top three guards (Gabe Jackson, Denzelle Good and Richie Incognito) unavailable to start the season, Cotton has an opportunity to do both. In order to take advantage of the situation, the first preseason game will be crucial for the University of Alabama alumnus.
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For the majority of the game, Cotton will likely be facing off against the Rams fourth-round pick, Greg Gaines. The former Washington Husky accumulated 45 pressures and posted a PFF grade of 91.8 in 2018, so this should be quite the test for Oakland’s guard. For what it’s worth, Cotton allowed 30 total pressures in four years at Alabama, which should make for an interesting matchup between the two.
Last preseason Nelson had a decent showing, as he allowed a quarterback rating of 81.6 when targeted. However, the regular season was a slightly different story as that number rose to 127.1. The Raiders drafted two corners (Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson) and signed versatile defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, so the former fourth-round pick’s roster spot could be in jeopardy.
Los Angeles is extremely deep at wide receiver. While Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods likely won’t see the field much, if at all, Josh Reynolds presents a tough challenge for Nelson. Reynolds only started eight games last season, but managed to produce 402 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The former Wisconsin Badger needs to replicate his 2018 preseason efforts and performing well against Reynolds and the Rams is a necessary first step.
It’s no secret that Oakland could use help getting after the quarterback. The team selected Crosby in the fourth round to help solve that problem. In three years at Eastern Michigan, the pass rusher gathered 20 sacks and has a chance to be an impact player in year one with the Silver and Black.
Since Crosby comes from a smaller school, the question of whether or not his college production will translate to the NFL is more significant than it is with rookies who played at a power five school. The preseason is the perfect opportunity for the young edge defender to prove that he can hang with the big boys. The Rams drafted two offensive tackles (David Edwards and Bobby Evans) that combined to allow 44 pressures in 2018. This matchup is Crosby’s first chance to shake the small school narrative.
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