Thursday night is the final preseason game for the Oakland Raiders, who are 0-3 thus far. Here are five things to watch for the Raiders, who will sit most, if not all, of their starters against the Seahawks:
Will Gareon Conley play?
This is an interesting one. Conley has one practice under his belt this summer — and he was limited. The Raiders’ first-round pick suffered a reported shin injury in June. The cornerback from Ohio State didn’t start working until Tuesday. The kid has missed a ton of work.
However, now that he is healthy, the Raiders would like to get him in a game as soon as possible. That means the Raiders would love to have Conley on the field Week 1 at Tennessee. But the clock is ticking. It would make sense if Conley doesn’t play on Thursday because he is not prepared. But you never know. Still, the likely bet is the Raiders work him hard in practice next week and then make a decision to see if he’s ready to face the Titans.
Backup quarterback race
Two weeks ago, it looked like E.J. Manuel had the gig to backup Derek Carr all wrapped up. Oakland coach Jack Del Rio almost admitted it. Since then, Cook has outplayed Manuel in the past two preseason games. The Raiders would like Cook, who they drafted in the fourth round in 2016, to be the backup, but they won’t just hand it to him. So, this game could be the final factor in determining who will back up Carr.
Watch the young defenders
The Raiders have some good, young defensive players. Youngsters such as defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, linebackers James Cowser, LaTroy Lewis and Nicholas Morrow and safety Shalom Luani are all back-of-the-roster types who have flashed this summer.
Hester, Cowser and Luani all should make the 53-man roster, while Morrow and Lewis may need to make their presence felt against Seattle. But these players have a chance to help the Raiders at some point this season. Keep an eye on them all in this game.
K.J. Brent, Johnny Hilton and Jayson Mickens all may be playing for one spot. Holton was the guy year. Can he do it again? This fifth receiver spot is as much about special teams — especially this year, as the Raiders need an infusion there — as it is about receiving skills. So, watch special teams closely in this game.
Another skill-position offensive player to watch is rookie running back Elijah Hood. The seventh-round pick started slow, but he made some noise against the Dallas Cowboys last week. If Hood, a North Carolina product, has a big game, he could push his way onto the roster. He may be the type of player who could get claimed off waivers.
Enter the regular season with a win
The Raiders are 0-3 in this preseason. It would be nice to end the preseason slate with a victory. It’s been a long training camp and a long preseason. Del Rio would like to celebrate a bit with his players as they head to regular-season mode.
If not, it is certainly not the end of the world. If the Raiders end up 0-4 in the preseason, it won’t matter in Tennessee in 10 days. Remember, three years ago, the Raiders thumped the Seahawks in the final preseason game. The Raiders then lost the first 10 games of the season and the Seahawks came within a yard of winning the Super Bowl. So, yes, this is just the preseason. Still, it’s always better to win than to lose.
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