Most roster decisions have been made already. A handful may depend on tonight’s performance, both for making the Raiders roster and their practice squad. And, of course, they may show up enough that even if they’re cut, another team would scoop them up off the waiver wire.
With no established starters playing in the game, here are five players to watch who have a lot to fight for still.
Gruden is moving the usual left guard over to the right side for this game. This would appear to be a move to see if Cooper can be the team’s reserve swing guard for the first two games of the season. That means Denzelle Good and Jordan Devey are set as the starters in place of Richie Incognito (2-game suspension) and Gabe Jackson (knee injury). Should Good, Devey, or Rodney Hudson go down, they want to know if Cooper can step in to either guard spot. Devey would move to center should Hudson need replaced. If Cooper can’t do it, the next best option would probably be Denver Kirkland.
Sharpe may have locked up the reserve swing tackle job already. But just in case, he can’t afford a letdown in this game. After all, if Sharpe makes the squad, it likely means they are waiving Brandon Parker and letting go of a recent third round pick is no small decision. If Sharpe does a face plant, and especially if Parker shows any progress at all, the Raiders could go with their recent draft pick. Sharpe was a fourth round pick, but keep in mind that was for the previous regime.
Another guy threatening to knock a 2018 draft pick off the roster is Rush. What he puts on film will be important even more for other teams than the Raiders. They would like nothing more than to keep Rush and 2018 second round pick P.J. Hall, but that may not be an option. It already looks like Rush will have little chance of clearing waivers to get the practice squad, but if he balls out again as he did in the preseason opener, the rest of the NFL will absolutely take notice – if they haven’t already – and the Raiders will know they must keep him on the roster or lose him altogether.
Cabinda became a Gruden favorite last year as an undrafted rookie, and he’s been the team’s primary backup at middle linebacker behind Vontaze Burfict. Whether he stays would depend on if he has made himself indispensable. His primary competition is Marquel Lee who had played in the middle, but was moved outside. Both players are in their second season in Paul Guenther’s defense. Lee is a special teams standout which works in his favor. But it’s harder to replace a middle linebacker this late in the game. Guenther would need someone who can step in immediately and run the defense should Burfict get injured, or more likely if he gets suspended. He gets suspended quite a bit. None of that matters if Cabinda can’t perform at a reasonably high level. He missed a tackle on a 20-yard screen in last week’s game, but had a great game otherwise. He has to keep it going.
The speedy cornerback turned receiver, has made some plays this preseason. He caught a long 59-yard bomb in week two and made the heads-up play to recover a late fumble to give the Raiders the comeback win last week. He hung around the Raiders practice squad last season because he’s a tremendous athlete. He may have already earned a spot back on the Raiders practice squad, but if he plays well again, he may not make it through waivers to get there.