Raiders Notes: Aidan O'Connell, Charles Wodson weighs in Raiders preseason

Predicting the Las Vegas Raiders preseason awards; ORotY, DRotY, OPotY, DPotY

After a seven month hiatus, Las Vegas Raiders football is finally back. The Silver and Black will kick off their preseason against the San Francisco 49ers at home, and Raider Nation will get to see Jimmy Garoppolo in action for the first time as their team’s QB1. Fans didn’t witness a single loss last year, and the hope is this Raiders preseason brings more of that.

While the Raiders get to start their preseason at home, it’ll be the one and only time they play in front of their fans at Allegiant Stadium. In six days, Josh McDaniels and his team will be in Los Angeles to face the Rams, and the Saturday after that will host a meeting with the Cowboys in Dallas.

With only three contests scheduled, opportunity is limited throughout the roster. It’s difficult to predict who the stars of the preseason will be due to the constant rotating allowing most players to see the field.

But, I’m going to do it anyway.

Let’s predict the Las Vegas Raiders’ preseason awards

Offensive Rookie of the Year – QB Aidan O’Connell

Garoppolo will play early in this week’s preseason contest, but there shouldn’t be much of him after that. O’Connell and second-year Raider Chase Garbers should get the bulk-share of quarterback snaps as 37-year-old Brian Hoyer has nothing to prove.

I’m not sure exactly what I expect from O’Connell, being the rookie has had his ups and downs in camp, but I do expect him – as the quarterback – to be more impactful than both Michael Mayer and Tre Tucker.

The one thing about O’Connell that blew me away during the draft process is his ability to perfectly float passes in buckets outside the numbers. By all accounts, he was my top quarterback in the entirety of this year’s draft class in that regard. In February, I had to honor of watching O’Connell at the East West Shrine Bowl, and although he struggled, his throws outside the numbers didn’t disappoint.

Fun fact: This home-opener won’t be O’Connell’s first game at Allegiant Stadium, as that’s where the East West Shrine Bowl took place.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – CB Jakorian Bennett

The Raiders drafted six defensive players this year, and yet, this pick couldn’t be easier. Ok, Tyree Wilson not being ready yet is the big reason why this pick is so easy, but still.

Bennett has some of the best ball skills in his entire draft class. He’s had five interceptions over the past two seasons, and in 2022, he held opposing quarterbacks to a 44.4 completion percentage with zero allowed touchdowns.

This kid is the real deal.

Combine that with his 4.30 40-time, and you get your Raiders preseason Defensive Rookie of the Year.

With the rookies out of the way..

Offensive Player of the Year – RB Brittain Brown

Zamir White is penciled in as Las Vegas’ RB1 with Josh Jacobs still unsigned, but who can be sure how much time White will see. Brown, on the other hand, is trying to solidify his roster spot; which he likely gets anyway, unless things go really bad.

I’m expecting Brown to get the bulk-share of snaps among running backs this preseason, and I’m expecting good things. Last preseason, the Raiders’ seventh-round pick totaled 152 rushing yards on 4.5 yards per carry. He also added another 47 yards though the air.

Defensive Player of the YearS Isaiah Pola-Mao

This is, by far, the trickiest. I could see a lot of players ending up with this unofficial honor, namely in the secondary. David Long, Chris Smith, Sam Webb, and aforementioned Jakorian Bennett are players who should play frequently, and should play well. However, my gut is telling me Pola-Mao is that guy.

Raiders’ coaches cannot stop signing praises of Pola-Mao’s progressions, and I’m buying the hype. Last season was a struggle for the 24-year-old as he failed to break up a pass in coverage, and earned a lowly grade of 39.9 against the run via Pro Football Focus.

The preseason will give us a chance to see exactly how far the young safety has come.

*Top Photo: AP Photo/Sam Morris

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