I know there are a lot of eager Raiders fans out there as this team gets ready to take the field for their first game. Here’s what I’ll be looking for.
1. Beast. Mode.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this excited to see any player in a Raiders uniform. We got a couple tastes from Marshawn Lynch in the preseason. He ran the ball four times for 16 yards (4.0 yards per carry). He got the ball on the first play in the second game and on his first carry he found a crease, made a few moves and went for six yards. His next couple carries, he looked to be stopped at and behind the line, but he broke a tackle and for four yards after contact in both instances. He looks every bit Beast Mode and seeing him on the field again has the football fan in me giddy with anticipation to see him go Beast Mode again in a game that counts.
2. Jared Cook
The other new, exciting offensive weapon on the Raiders. Cook was originally drafted by the Titans out of South Carolina in the third round of the 2009 draft. He had 1717 yards and 8 touchdowns in four seasons in Tennessee, including a career best 759 yards in 2011. He averaged 15.5 yards per catch that season, nearly three yards more than his career average. After four years with the Titans, they let him leave as a free agent and he signed with the Rams. Meanwhile the Titans replaced him with Delanie Walker who has proven to be an upgrade, heading to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.
After four years in St Louis and Green Bay, Cook returns to Tennessee for the first time, likely with some payback in mind. When he is at his best, he is among the best in the league at the tight end position. You’d be crazy not to think Cook would like to show his former team they made a mistake and outdo his replacement.
3. Karl Joseph
Coming off his first full, healthy offseason everyone should be excited to see what ‘the Hitman’ has in store. If you’ll recall he was the best safety in the country as a senior at West Virginia before tearing his ACL. He was talented enough to be chosen at 14 overall by the Raiders even knowing that he would require some rehab time and he might not return to form as a rookie.
Joseph is a heat seeking missile against the run and has the coverage skills to match. He said he was hesitant as a rookie after the injury so it will be exciting to see him play without hesitation. If he can play this season as he did in college before the injury, it will be something to see.
4. Marquel Lee
Ready or not, this fifth round rookie is in line to start at linebacker. The Raiders are hoping Cory James will be able to go as well. He was the best looking inside linebacker this preseason. Lee, however, did not play well. He was routinely beaten in coverage by tight ends and running backs and will have his hands full with the Titans.
5. Marshall Newhouse
This offseason, the Raiders let oft-injured tackle Menelik Watson leave as a free agent and released Austin Howard. Right tackle has long been the weak point on an otherwise dominant offensive line. Newhouse is supposed to be an upgrade over the combo of Watson and Howard, though the veteran Newhouse has only looked as such for one season in New York in which he switched back and forth between tackle and guard. The Titans had 40 sacks last season which was tied for sixth most in the league and you can bet they’ll be looking to test Newhouse.