The coaches of this team will tell you that everyone has something to prove in the Raiders' preseason opener tonight against the Dallas Cowboys. And in some regard, they are right. But not everyone's proving ground is the same. Some are in the running to move up the depth chart and some are in danger of slipping down.
With 90 players on this team, there are about half of those players who must show the coaches something tonight or they will find themselves unemployed once the final roster comes out. So it goes without saying that all of the fringe guys have something to prove. We will see plenty of them near the end of the game.
But this is about the guys that have higher hopes than to just make a roster. And that's where the intrigue lies.
Terrelle Pryor- The former third round compensatory pick, and Al Davis' final draft pick, has been the most intriguing and polarizing member of this Raiders team. Some Raider fans think he will be the next Cam Newton (even though he is NOTHING like him) and others think he is destined to switch positions. He has not had a single official play in the NFL even in a preseason game so at this point, how he performs on an NFL stage is a complete mystery. I have seen him in the past two weeks of camp and I can hypothesize on how he will look based upon that. But a live game is much different. Plus the fans can take my word for it but it's not the same as seeing him for yourself. Today we will get our first look. And I am as interested as anyone to see how he will perform.
DeMarcus Van Dyke/Shawntae Spencer- Van Dyke came into camp running with the first team across from Spencer while Ron Bartell was nursing a pulled hamstring. During that time, Van Dyke looked great while Spencer struggled. When Bartell came back, Spencer retained his first team status and Van Dyke was back to second team. Since then, Spencer has stepped up his game and played quite well. It will be interesting to see how each player performs. But keep in mind, Spencer will be facing the first team receivers and Van Dyke will be going against the backups.
Pat Lee/Chimdi Chekwa- While Van Dyke has been making his case to start, Pat Lee has been making his case to be on the second team. Chimdi Chekwa came in as the second team along with Van Dyke. But Pat Lee has outplayed Chekwa and for a time he was given running ahead of Chekwa. Be on the lookout to see who hits the field first and if they switch out. The coaching staff is very interested to see who can win this battle. He who loses, will be in some danger of not making the roster.
Lonyae Miller- Miller will see the bulk of the snaps in this game while Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones are both out with injuries. The Raiders are hoping they have a big, change-of-pace back in Miller. They will get a nice long look at him in this game. His performance in this game will go a long way to deciding whether he will make this team and/or how much we see him this season.
Miles Burris- This rookie fourth round pick has been running with the first team all camp while Aaron Curry has been trying to come back from a knee injury. The team will be watching close to see how urgent things are with regard to possibly adding a free agent linebacker. Allen has said Burris has been good but inconsistent. If he can play beyond his years, the team will feel more comfortable about the possibility of heading into the season with him as the starter. If not, the Raiders could start to work the phones to get an insurance policy.
Richard Gordon/David Ausberry- These two second year tight ends were chosen in consecutive rounds in the 2011 draft. Neither player has seen the field much and both are looking to be more featured in the offense. Gordon was listed as the primary backup for this game and then starter Barndon Myers went down in practice with a shoulder injury. Suddenly Gordon looks to be the starter tonight. In the Raiders' new two tight end sets, even second team means he is nearly a starter. Who gets the start tonight will be more about skill set than talent level. Gordon is a blocker with developing receiving skills while Ausberry is a receiver with developing blocking skills.