The Raiders embark on their final preseason game of 2014 on Thursday when they welcome the Seattle Seahawks to town. Here a few Raiders storylines and things to watch for in the game:
Starting the Carr
It is common that the starters sit out the final preseason game so it doesn't mean much from the standpoint of Matt Schaub vs Derek Carr. But there was probably a chance Schaub would have starter and gone at least a series had he been healthy. With him out, Carr will start the game and play probably into the third quarter. He will, of course, be playing against mostly Seahawks backups but it will still offer a nice long look at the rookie second round pick. If he performs well, he could give the coaches something to think about should Schaub struggle early in the season.
Which receiver will catch a break?
With the open competition at wide receiver this year, it will be interesting to see if any of the Raiders wide receiver sit out the game. If they do, that would tell you they are a lock to start. I don't see how any of these receivers are a lock to start. Even James Jones, who is clearly Matt Schaub's favorite target, could be the team's primary slot receiver as opposed to a starter on the outside. After him, the most likely candidate would be Rod Streater, He and Jones seem to be the only receivers on this team not to slide up and down the depth chart this preseason.
Khalif Barnes can't be in three places at once. But the Raiders wish he could be. He is the starting left guard but with both right tackles, Menelik Watson and Matt McCants coming off injuries, he will be starting at right tackle and rookie Game Jackson will take his place at left guard. Barnes was the left tackle last year and his ability to back up that position is a valuable thing. They also like to use Barnes as an eligible receiver in jumbo packages but may have to hold off on that this week. As for the other positions, Kevin Boothe and Tony Bergstrom will again see extensive time at center and right guard respectively as each is still fighting to be the team's utility center/guard. Whether Donald Penn starts this game is yet unknown. If he plays, it won't be for long. Jack Cornell will play the bulk of the snaps at left tackle.
For the second-straight week, the Raiders will be facing off against one of their starting quarterbacks from last season. Last week it was Matt Flynn, who lost his job to begin last season and then was cut after one bad start. Now it's Terrelle Pryor who was the beneficiary of Flynn's face plant which gave him the starting job for eight games early in the season before losing it to Matt McGloin. Pryor was traded to the Seahawks this off-season for the last tradable pick in the 2014 draft. He is currently fighting for the third quarterback job in Seattle and his preseason numbers have not given the Seahawks much reason to keep him around. He is currently 10 for 22 for 147 yards with no touchdown passes and two interceptions. He has run the ball well, which is his MO. He hopes to show the Raiders they made a mistake in giving up on him and his 69.3 career passer rating. Dennis Allen hopes to show he and the Raiders made the right choice in parting ways with him.
Thorpe vs Carrie
While cornerbacks TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe will be teammates across from each other much of this game, they will also be in a competition for playing time this season. Both have shown up this training camp and preseason are locks to make the team. Now it's a matter of who gets the nod as the nickel corner to open the season. Thursday night, they make their case.
The Seahawks have a very strong team, especially on defense. A couple years ago, the Raiders brought in several players from the Seahawks after they were cut. How they performed in their annual preseason game helped greatly in the Raiders taking notice. Seattle is stacked with talented young players which means they will be making some tough cuts, and the Raiders should be taking notes. So should you.
Andre Holmes entered training camp looking like he had a shot at starting. The coaches and Matt Schaub were raving about him, and the first depth chart had him as a starter. Since then, he has been abysmal. What looked like a lock to make the roster, may not be quite so airtight anymore. Both he and Greg Little have had their issues catching the football. Another poor performance from Holmes could mean trouble for him.
Currently this team has decent depth at most positions. But that could change in an instant with an injury in this game. The linebacking corps jumps to mind where Kaluka Maiava and Miles Burris both struggled with injuries last year. The Raiders defense wore down last season and will need these two as insurance and to help in different alignments and in rotation. Getting out of these preseason games healthy is always the number one goal. Injuries are a part of the game, but it's best that they happen in games that actually matter.