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Five things to watch for in Raiders preseason opener vs Rams

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Los Angeles Rams v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

These preseason games aren’t about wins or losses. And if last year’s preseason is any indication, it isn’t about the established starters getting playing time either. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything worth watching. There is still the rest of the team to think about.

1. Guards

The Raiders will be without both starting guard for the first two games of the season due to Richie Incognito’s suspension and without right guard Gabe Jackson for at least the first four. That means the Raiders have to find not one, but two worthy guard to fill in for Jackson and Incognito. Jonathan Cooper is expected to start at left guard while Denver Kirkland appears to be getting the first shot at right guard.

2. Rookie contributors

Several rookies could be starting for the Raiders this season. Namely the three first round picks Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, and Johnathan Abram. Will we get our first look at them in this game or will they sit with the established starters? If they play, they will be the key players to watch as they will be expected to upgrade their positions as starters this season. Others rookies to watch who could either start or play significant snaps this season include second round cornerback Trayvon Mullen, fourth round tight end Foster Moreau, and fifth round wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.

3. Swing tackle

With Kolton Miller and Trent Brown entrenched as the starters at left and right tackle respectively. But who is the next man up at those positions? Expect to see a lot from former fourth round pick David Sharpe at left tackle and 2018 third round pick Brandon Parker at right tackle. Parker was dreadful as a rookie last season and hasn’t looked good in training camp. He needs to start showing improvement right now heading into his second season as does Sharpe heading into his third season.

4. Third down pass rushers

Ferrell and Josh Mauro have been the first team defensive ends throughout the offseason and training camp. On third down passing situations, Mauro can move inside and another edge rusher can come in. Who that will be will be between veteran Benson Mayowa, second year edge Arden Key, and rookie fourth round pick Maxx Crosby. Their performance will be crucial in upgrading the Raiders anemic pass rush.

5. Punter

Last season Johnny Townsend was statistically the worst punter in the NFL. His primary competition is undrafted rookie AJ Cole. Gruden has raved about Cole’s punting in camp and I can confirm he has looked quite good. His one area of concern now is consistency. Pressure situations can bring out the best or the worst in a player. If he holds up in the game and can manage not to shank any punts, he should win this battle. If he struggles, the Raiders punter may not be currently on the roster.