It's true, the preseason is largely over-hyped and over-analyzed — a series of games with no meaning or bearing on the regular season. It's full of a few minutes with starters and a lot more minutes with guys who probably won't make the roster.
Really, the best thing the preseason has going for it is HBO's Hard Knocks.
Despite the lack of meaning of these four games, there are still some things to be on the lookout for — things Raider fans can keep an eye on in anticipation of what the 2015-16 season will bring...
1) Derek Carr and Amari Cooper
Typically a team's best players don't get a whole lot of run in the preseason, but it wouldn't surprise me if the "starting" Oakland offense doesn't get a bit more time than most given their youth. The reports out of camp on Cooper and Carr have been all positive, but until they can put their connection to the test against opposing defenses, it will all be for naught. That's why this pairing rests atop my list of things to watch for — after all, the success this season rides heavily on these two sets of shoulders.
2) Backup QB's
There's nothing sexy about a No. 2 quarterback, and yet, a No. 3 quarterback is even less sexy. In one of the most hotly contested (and yet hopefully meaningless) position battles this preseason, Christian Ponder and Matt McGloin will duke it out for who gets to hold Derek Carr's clipboard.
Most believe that Ponder entered the year with the advantage, but as anyone around Oakland knows, there's no challenge that Matt McGloin has ever shied away from — many of which he's overcome.
3) Calling all corners
Of all positions on the field this season, none will be as intriguing (and hopefully not depressing) as the cornerback position. Despite boatloads of cash to spend, the Oakland front office brought in exactly zero guys capable of starting at corner for the Raiders.
The reason? An apparent faith in the youngsters they've got — namely TJ Carrie, DJ Hayden and Keith McGill. Like Cooper and Carr, this is a group I expect will see more playing time than most other starters for a couple of reasons: first, they need the reps; and second, they need the reps.
4) Right side, strong side?
Like cornerback, another area of the field with a number of question marks is the right side of the offensive line. The team-released depth chart (which Jack Del Rio downplayed) lists J'Marcus Webb and Menelik Watson at right guard and right tackle respectively, but anyone who has been around the league a couple of years knows how big those two question marks really are.
Webb appeared in just one game last season, and Watson — a second-round pick from 2013 — has failed to live up to expectations in his first two seasons. Now, that's not to say these two won't combine to contribute along the right side, it just means it isn't exactly likely. The third name in this conversation is another interesting one — Austin Howard, who was the Raiders' big signing last off-season. Like Watson, he too has been disappointing.
5) Jacked Up
The final thing to watch for this preseason is the impact of the new coaching staff. Obviously the play-calling will be vanilla and we won't get a good sense about a real game plan for the season, but it will be really interesting to see what kind of energy this team will play with.
All the reports from camp have been about Ken Norton and the energy he has brought to the lockerroom, and so I'm curious to see how that carries over to the field. Yes, these games don't count when it comes to making the playoffs, but they can help build confidence and belief around the organization, so we'll see whether Jack Del Rio and Co. can get the guys fired up to play.
The Oakland Raiders open the preseason at hom Friday night at 7:00 pm Pacific time against the St. Louis Rams. They'll also play at Minnesota Vikings (8/22), home vs Arizona Cardinals (8/30) and at Seattle Seahawks (9/3).