We’re on to the second Raiders preseason game of 2019. Last Saturday was their preseason opener against the Rams. Now they’re in Arizona to face the Cardinals. Let’s take a look at a few things to watch for tonight.
1. Starters watch
Jon Gruden has said some starters will play tonight. We will know well before kickoff who will suit up and who will not. From there, we follow just how long those starters play in the game. Derek Carr said he wouldn’t find out until the night before the game whether he will play. It would be nice to see him play if only to get a better judgment of the receivers with their starting QB throwing to them.
Last season we barely saw any starters in the preseason. If this were like years past, the second preseason game would have the starters play a good portion of the first half. But it’s hard to know what Gruden has planned. We’ll know soon.
2. Kyler Murray vs Raiders D
The number one overall pick is an exciting player to watch. He is worth watching all by himself with his live arm and elite mobility. Gruden was very complimentary of Murray’s talent and skillset. He studied Murray quite a bit during the leadup to the draft, so he knows what to expect. The question is if the Raiders defense is prepared to stop him. They faced former number one overall pick QB Jared Goff in practice all last week. It will make for a nice test to see how they hold up versus the most recent top pick.
3. Ready for primetime players?
Tonight’s game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, which means there will be no hiding for the players in this game. Whether it’s their mistakes or their big plays, they will be on display for all to see. They know that a strong performance tonight increases their chances of either making the Raiders roster or getting claimed off waivers by another team at the roster cutdown on August 31. It isn’t their final chance, but it certainly is their most visible.
4. Josh Jacobs debut
The only one of the Raiders nine drafted rookies who didn’t suit up for their preseason opener was their first round running back, Josh Jacobs. I asked Gruden about it after the game and he said Jacobs had seen a lot of work in scrimmages with the Rams, so he got a rest for the game. There’s no reason to keep him under wraps anymore, so he should start this game, giving Raiders fans their first look at the team’s starting running back for this season. The Alabama product was considered the top back in this class and therefore was the first one taken at 24 overall, so fans are naturally pretty excited to see him take the field.
5. Rush to judgment
The best player on the Raiders defense last week was 6-5, 340-pound defensive tackle Anthony Rush. The undrafted rookie out of UAB was mowing over the Rams reserve offensive line and has played himself into contention to make this team.
One interior defender who is on some shaky ground with Rush’s emergence is PJ Hall. The 2018 2nd round pick didn’t play in the preseason opener due to injury. He returned to practice this week and will have to show up big to answer Rush’s outstanding performance last week.
Also making a case to make the Raiders roster at defensive tackle was Oakland native Ethan Westbrooks so it’s an intriguing competition at the position.