We probably won’t see any of the established starters in this game. That’s what the third preseason game was for. This one is to showcase the depth on the roster as well as those players looking to make a final impression in their attempts to earn a roster spot.
Among those reserves and hopefuls there are players who viewers should keep a close eye on.
A fourth round pick in 2015, he came with high the hopes of being the answer at right guard where the Raiders were most weak along the line. He didn’t win that job, but got a few starts late in the season when Austin Howard was lost to injury and the team move J’Marcus Webb over to fill in. Now Feliciano is the team’s reserve interior Oline Swiss Army knife. He has come in the game at center for the most part, but would also fill in at either guard spot if called upon. With Kelechi Osemele not practicing this week, it was Feliciano who stepped in for him at left guard. It will be interesting to see where Feliciano lines up in this game. He has played well this preseason and has proven his worth as a solid backup.
With all the multiple alignments the Raiders look to deploy, they insist on versatile linemen. In 2015, they drafted Mario Edwards Jr in the second round, having him lose some weight and play defensive end. This year they selected Ward in the second round, having him gain some weight and move inside to defensive tackle. In the end, however, the two are very similar players. Since Edwards has been lost to a hip injury, Ward has bounced between defensive tackle and defensive end, and even getting the start at end in Edwards’ stead. He and Denico Autry have both filled in for Edwards since he has missed time, with Ward offering more as a run defender. Now with Edwards expected to miss at least the first six games this season, Ward’s play is even more crucial.
From what we’ve seen so far from Calhoun, he’s got a long way to go before he is ready to step up as a rotational player for this team. All he’s shown is flashes of pass rush. In run defense and coverage he is a huge liability which would keep him off the field. This is the last game in which the team can afford to put him on the field without knowing he can at least be competent in those other areas.
If the Raiders were smart, Ben Heeney would see snaps in this game. He needs all the reps he can get as the team’s new middle linebacker. But they also like what they see from James as the reserve middle linebacker. Also it will be good to see if he can be a force on special teams. Barring injury or lackluster play from Heeney, the James will see most of his field time on special teams.
After missing the first two preseason games, he got his first shot last week and even saw a few snaps with the first team offense. He had looked very much worthy of a roster spot in training camp and I have little doubt the team would like to keep him. The question for them is whether they have the roster space to do it. Tonight he will give them a lot to think about. Should he play well, the team may be forced to hold onto him regardless, or risk having him claimed by another team before he could make it to the practice squad.
It seems like we talk about Holton every week. He has earned the fifth wide receiver spot on the team. Last week, he had a fantastic one-handed grab around the back of a defender that was a good example of what we’ve been raving about from camp. Fans should be eager to see what he does for an encore. In this game, he should see a lot of time, both as the third receiver early on with Matt McGloin in at quarterback and as a top target for the second half when Connor Cook enters the game.
Wearing that number 80, the 6-3, 202-pound Brent bears a striking resemblance to former Raiders UDFA receiver, Rod Streater (now with the Chiefs). Brent still has the opportunity to prove himself with the Raiders. It’s hard to see him making the roster, but he has a place waiting for him on the team’s practice squad. Last week he led the team with three catches for 54 yards.
A seemingly forgotten man among those vying for a roster spot with Mario Edwards likely headed for IR (for six games). This undrafted rookie has played well in limited snaps this preseason. Darius Latham has been pegged as the one getting the last roster spot among the defensive linemen. The Edwards news could open another spot. Stacy McGee would seem to be the favorite, but McGee is a defensive tackle. Keeping five defensive tackles (including Ward) may or may not be where the Raiders go. The 6-4, 268-pound Jackson can play that defensive end spot to help ease the burden of the loss of Edwards. Having a big game tonight would drastically improve his chances. And either way, the practice squad is always there.
It’s really quite intriguing just how much could still be decided among this group of corners. Obviously the two starters are settled with David Amerson and Sean Smith, but I fully expect they’ll be spectators for this one, meaning former starters DJ Hayden and TJ Carrie should take the field together to start things off.
The team has not wavered from their decision to have Hayden play the nickel/slot corner over incumbent Carrie. But Hayden hasn’t looked like he has the job on lockdown and Carrie hasn’t stumbled and ‘lost’ the job either. Every game matters and I don’t see that battle being over anytime soon.
Then there’s the battle for the fifth spot behind Hayden and Carrie. That job is being waged between Dexter McDonald and Neiko Thorpe. And it’s even possible both of them make the squad, depending on how the roster shakes out. As per usual, special teams could play a big role as well.
After that, the two remaining corners are Antonio Hamilton and Kenneth Durden who will be battling to grab a spot on the practice squad.