It’s time for Raider Nation to get its first glimpse into what the future may hold. Chatter has been aplenty and there’s a healthy bit of preseason hype coming out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Facing last year’s number one defense in the league, we’ll get to see just what the Raiders offense is made of.
The Raiders head to Southern California for a few joint practice sessions with the Los Angeles Rams. Practice will lead into the preseason matchup on Saturday. The starters will see live-action for the first time, stars matching up against stars. Here are five key matchups to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.
1. Andre James vs. Aaron Donald
This is the number one marquee matchup to keep an eye on if looking to evaluate James’ pass protection capabilities. Donald is as advertised and the best in the business. James can do a lot to allay the apprehension of Rodney Hudson’s departure with a strong showing.
2. Bryan Edwards vs. Jalen Ramsey
Ramsey is a perennial Pro Bowler and a top-five cornerback in this league. Edwards has been the rave of training camp and compared to the likes of ‘T.O.’ and Randy Moss. Coming from Gruden, it’s completely natural to suspect hyperbole. It’s time to see just what Edwards really has.
3. Alex Leatherwood vs. Leonard Floyd/ A’Shawn Robinson
Leatherwood was very solid in run blocking last week against the Seattle Seahawks, but he had some coachable moments in pass protection. Lateral movement and switching sides on the line of scrimmage isn’t easy. Against the speed and power of Floyd and Robinson, he will be tested. The answer will give us a better understanding of his actual ability.
4. Raiders defensive backs vs. Rams passing attack
Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ receiving corps will put their first action on tape against the new look Raider defense. At first glimpse, the Raiders’ defensive backups appeared to play with much more discipline and focus than in years past. This new-ish secondary which has been producing quality efforts in practice will be tested. The Rams feature speed and lots of route running ability. Nate Hobbs can blitz, but can he cover the likes of Cooper Kupp? How will Casey Hayward and Trayvon Mullen look out there? Has Johnathan Abram gotten any better in coverage?
5. Raiders defensive line vs. Rams offensive line
Big-Boy-Football. Saving the best for last, we must take a look at how good the defensive line can really be. Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby are the pass rushers. Meanwhile, Gerald McCoy, Quinton Jefferson, and Johnathan Hankins all factor into the starting defensive interior. Darius Philon had an impressive outing against the Seahawks. However, the defense won’t be facing a rookie and a first-time starter.
The Big Picture
Coaches, fans, and players will all finally be able to tell just where it is they stand on the totem pole after the preseason game on Saturday. Both teams will have scrimmaged and practiced against each other for two straight days followed by a game. It will provide an excellent opportunity to get some work in against a fresh opponent with whom there isn’t familiarity.
*Top Photo: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports