The Oakland Raiders third preseason game will be a homecoming of sorts for two Raiders and possibly give the league a look at what they actually could do this season. The third preseason game is ususally the big dress rehersal, when all starters play the entire first half and show more than the basic vanilla offensive and defensive schemes. Despite some defensive lapses in their win over Detroit last week, there was a lot of good to take from the game. Here are things to watch this week as the Raiders take on the Green Bay Packers.
Receiving corps hierarchy
Last week in a surprising move, James Jones started over Andre Holmes after Holmes struggled in the first game. Even more surprising was the fact that Denarious Moore ran with the starters in Holmes’ place. Moore was his usual speedy, but inconsistent self. Holmes struggled mightly, catching only two of seven targets.
The good news is that Greg Little is locking up his roster spot. Although he is making sporadic splash plays on offense, Little is putting his size and speed to good use on special teams coverage units as a gunner.
This week will see Jones most likely continue as a starter as he faces his former team. The passing game made many improvements last week and should only get better against a Green Bay secondary that is known for letting receivers get open. Little and Holmes should improve their roster chances against the Packers backups.
Hidden behind Derek Carr getting work with the first team offense was the rotation of Gabe Jackson and Khalif Barnes at left guard. While Barnes started the game, Jackson was rotated in every other series. Its a promising sign for the rookie, who looked good, especially in pass protection. How he fares this week against a deep defensive line of the Packers will determine if he can make a sizable push for the starting job.
The exciting seventh round rookie has made the most of the injury to DJ Hayden, running with the first team defense and performing very well. He was beat for a touchdown badly last week but he is a 5’11/6’0 corner in a jump ball situation with a 6-foot-6 Kris Durham. It was just a bad matchup.
Not only is he making waves with his outstanding work in the slot, but his punt return skills are a fresh sight. His 50 yard return put him at the front of the punt return job. This week he gets a tougher job: taking on Randall Cobb, who is one of the most dangerous receiving weapons on the Packers. If he can at least slow no. 18 down, he should have a starting job locked up for week 1.
Defensive line depth
Last week we got to see more of the first team defense, and more importantly got to see their main pressure package on passing downs. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver unleashed a NASCAR package against the Lions with defensive tackle Antonio Smith and defensive end Justin Tuck inside and defensive end Lamarr Woodley and rookie linebacker Khalil Mack at the ends, along with linebacker Sio Moore blitzing.
The spots behind all of them are still wide open for roster spots. Seventh round rookie Shelby Harris has been a force late in games. At defensive tackle, 2nd year player Stacy McGee has played well with the second team. Fourth round rookie Justin Ellis hasn’t been practicing since suffering a concussion almost two weeks ago. This is giving McGee and free agent signing CJ Wilson more reps.
Former Packer Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch are entrenched as the starting free and strong safety respectively. Behind them is getting kind of crowded. Larry Asante, who was only signed two weeks ago, ran with the second team vs the Lions. Alongside him was seventh round rookie Johnathan Dowling, who has been taking advantage of the reps with Usama Young on the PUP list.
Now Young is back from injury and needs to play catchup to save his roster spot. The only way for him to keep his spot even if Dowling stays ahead is to stay an ace on special teams, something that hes done most of his career. Also in the mix is Brandian Ross, who started 13 games last season. While Ross will never be counted on for meaningful defensive snaps again, he could still fight for a roster spot with good preseason play, especially on special teams.
It was announced today that the Raiders will keep Derek Carr out of this weeks game due to his rib injury he suffered vs the Lions. Now Matt McGloin will get most of the reps with the second team, and possibly even Trent Edwards will see some action. With a good game, McGloin can seal up his roster spot, and possibly make himself look good for teams looking for a good backup. McGloin is most likely going to make the 53 man roster, but only as a 3rd stringer insurance arm. He almost led the comeback vs the Vikings, and orchestrated a beautiful victory vs the Lions. With more impressive plays such as that, teams could want to pluck him from Oakland and make him a quality backup.