It’s the third preseason game for the Raiders tonight, when we see the first teamers’ most extensive action. Most of the Raiders first teamers will play into the third quarter so as to go through the same game day routine of making halftime adjustments and preparing to return to the field for the second half.
Knowing that, here are the five Raiders players to watch against the Cowboys:
1. CB Sean Smith
If Sean Smith is going to pull out of the tailspin he’s been in, now is the time to do it. He should actually match up well with Dez Bryant. That’s not to say he can keep Bryant from getting his touches, but if Smith has any value it’s as a big corner who can match up with big, imposing receivers like Bryant.
Smith’s horrible preseason opener against the Cardinals was dwarfed only by the play of teammate TJ Carrie last week against the Rams. The Raiders are desperate to see something positive from the secondary. Smith has been the worst offender so it starts with him.
2. RB Marshawn Lynch
Beast Mode made his Raiders debut last week. His first carry went for six yards off left guard. His second run, he fought for four yards off right tackle. The Raiders scored a touchdown in four plays on that drive and those two carries for ten yards was the totality of Marshawn’s day.
That little taste, should become more of an appetizer tonight against the Cowboys, giving us our best preview as to what we may see from him this season.
3. DL Jihad Ward
After missing all of training camp with a foot injury, Ward returned to practice this week, coming off PUP. He had started 13 games last season, so it will be interesting to see when he enters the game and how much he plays with relation to the other interior defensive ends/tackles Mario Edwards Jr, Denico Autry, and Eddie Vanderdoes.
Ward has some catching up to do in the seemingly ongoing competition for playing time among these four. He was said to have been making good progress this offseason before being lost to the injury. A big step in his trek back will be this game.
4. RT Marshall Newhouse
With Donald Penn back from his holdout, the first team offensive line is finally together. That means we will get our first look at Newhouse lining up at right tackle where the Raiders had him playing when they signed him this offseason.
During Penn’s absence, Newhouse was starting at left tackle while Vadal Alexander played on the right side. The entire line looked quite good last week against the Rams in that alignment. Now we get to see it as intended. It’s unclear if Penn will play into the third quarter with the rest of the line and if he doesn’t, whether Newhouse will flip over there or if rookie David Sharpe will come in.
5. S Obi Melifonwu
Making his debut tonight is Raiders second round pick, Obi Melifonwu. He had been injured throughout most of training camp, returning this week. Jack Del Rio said Melifonwu would play in the game, though, again, we don’t know when he will enter the game and how long he’ll play.
It will also be interesting to see what role he plays on the defense. Prior to his injury he would come in as the moneybacker with the first team and stay in at safety with the second team.