Thursday night LaTroy Lewis finished the Raiders’ preseason as he started it — sacking the quarterback. And in between he made other big plays as well. It will give the Raiders coaches a lot to think about come Saturday when they must make a decision on who to keep and who to cut.
“I think he’s taken full advantage of the reps he’s had,” Head coach Jack Del Rio said of Lewis. “He’s been a guy that’s been able to come in there and make some plays for us. Certainly, had some nice moments throughout the preseason. That’ll be good tape to evaluate.”
Lewis came out in the preseason opener and opened some eyes, sacking the quarterback twice. They weren’t cheap sacks either. They came the hard way — around the edge, beating his blocker one on one.
Thursday night he had his third sack, which ties him for 4th in the league this preseason.
The undrafted rookie had just 4.5 sacks his entire four year career at Tennessee and just 2.5 as a senior, making it all the more surprising he eclipsed that 10-game total in four NFL preseason games.
Last week, he had probably his biggest play, when Antonio Hamilton came around the left edge to hit get a strip sack and Lewis was there to pluck the ball out of the air and return it 65 yards for the score.
Putting these kinds of plays on tape for the rest of the league to see makes it less and less likely the 6-3, 254-pound linebacker would be available to add to the practice squad should the team opt to waive him.
“Honestly, I have proven to myself mentally before I actually go out and perform,” said Lewis after the game. “For me, it was not to prove everyone else wrong, but to prove to Reggie [McKenzie] that he was right for taking a chance on me. That was my motivation, in every play, every practice, to prove him right.”
The Raiders front office and coaches have not been afraid to hold onto undrafted players over more experienced or drafted players.
With 37 players who will receive a pink slip Saturday, there will be some tough decisions to make. Lewis’s performance this preseason gives them plenty to think about. Which means they either have to make a tough decision about him, or about the guy who loses their job because of him.