Well, it’s finally (almost) here. The moment we’ve all been waiting for…kind of. Whether the scoreboard matters or not, the Las Vegas Raiders get to put the pads on and hit somebody else for a change against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.
While the starters will maybe play one series, there’s still plenty of storylines to keep an eye out for. Between a veteran fighting to prove his worth and a handful of rookies and second-year players getting their feet wet in the NFL, there are several reasons to tune in.
Those that caught the early edition of this article saw Marcus Mariota in this spot. Well, today The Athletic’s Tashan Reed reported that Mariota is questionable and probably won’t play this weekend. That means it’s Peterman’s time to shine and he has a huge opportunity in front of him.
Normally, the third-string quarterback will get a quarter or two of playing time during the team’s first preseason game. But with Mariota on the shelf, Peterman will get the start and might even get to play three or all four quarters. Case Cookus is the only other signal caller on the roster and was signed a few days ago, so he definitely doesn’t have a full grasp of the playbook and might not be ready for game action just yet.
When most people hear the name ‘Nathan Peterman’, they think of his infamous first NFL start against the Chargers in 2017. While he’s been working behind the scenes to change that narrative, the resilient gunslinger hasn’t gotten an opportunity to show the progress he’s made. However, his time will come on Saturday, and facing a defense that gave up the second-most passing yards per game a year ago should help matters.
Muse has been one of the biggest winners from Las Vegas’ training camp so far. Both beat writers and the coaching staff have raved about his development, and he’s listed as a starter on the team’s first unofficial depth chart. If the latter is true, that could limit his playing time on Saturday, but he still should see more action than a normal first-stringer.
In college, the Clemson product was primarily used as a defensive back, but he’ll be lining up as a linebacker for the Silver and Black. That’s a spot he only played 20.2 percent of the time during his senior year for the Tigers, so the Raiders’ coaching staff would be wise to get him as many reps as possible before the games start counting.
Las Vegas has made it a point to get more athletic on the second level of its defense in recent years, and Muse is a big part of that revolution. This will be a lot of people’s first glimpse of him in a Raiders uniform, so it’s time to see what the hype is about and for him to prove he was worthy of a top-100 pick.
We’ll stay within the Silver and Black’s linebacker corps and focus on someone who was destined to become a Raider. For those that don’t know, White is an Oakland native and UNLV alumnus.
About this time last year, he was getting praised for having a good camp. Unfortunately, the league’s COVID-19 protocols eliminated the preseason which prevented the undrafted free agent from showing what he’s got in a game situation. That made it nearly impossible for him to make the final roster, but he’ll finally get a shot this weekend.
Similar to Muse, White is part of the team’s transition to get more athletic at linebacker and will be playing a position that he doesn’t have a lot of experience at. White was used as a hybrid type of player in college but was closer to a defensive back than a linebacker. About 37.2 percent of his snaps as a senior came at an off-ball backer position, and the other 62.8 percent of the time he lined up in the secondary.
Getting more specific, the McClymonds product played as a slot corner on 57.1 percent of his snaps. So, he could be a big boost in coverage for the Silver and Black, and Saturday will be the first litmus test for that theory.
White did get the call up for a couple of regular-season games last year but only registered 12 defensive snaps.
Even if Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake do play against Seattle, it likely won’t be for very long since their roles on the team are pretty much already defined. Jalen Richard has missed most of training camp already and is out indefinitely with a foot injury. That leaves Ragas with a perfect opportunity to not only get some extra reps but also potentially earn a roster spot.
Now, Ragas does have a different skill set than Richard. The rookie is more of a downhill, between the tackles type of runner who doesn’t offer much as a receiver. He’s an “early-down back” and made for short yardage with his natural leverage and leg drive. So on cutdown day, what type of running back the team is looking for could play a factor in his ability to make the team, but regardless, he has an excellent opportunity on Saturday.
In college, the Louisiana product was very productive. He finished with nearly 4,000 total yards from scrimmage and 43 total touchdowns. All four years, he eclipsed at least 750 rushing yards and had at least nine scores every season. Hopefully, some of that production carries over to the NFL.
Also, look for newly-signed Bo Scarbrough and BJ Emmons to take advantage of Richards’ absence, too.
With COVID-19 eliminating the preseason a year ago, Simpson is another returning player fans don’t know a whole lot about. He was a fourth-round pick and only played in five games with two starts. Hell, even the coaching staff is probably still trying to figure out what type of player he is since they’ve only really seen him in practice.
Of course, he’s not a complete unknown having seen some game action in 2020, but he’ll definitely be looking for a restart in 2021. On 252 snaps, Simpson allowed 13 pressures and earned a PFF pass blocking grade of 40.1. His run blocking was a little bit better with a 54.0 grade, but still not up to snuff.
The good news is, the Clemson product has apparently been playing well in training camp. In fact, he’s even been mixing in with the starters which is a very comforting sign as the Raiders are looking to become youthful upfront.
This weekend will be the first test where everyone gets to see if the training camp hype is real or not.