For a lot of the Las Vegas Raiders’ rookies, this Sunday will be the last time they get to put on the Silver and Black uniform. The NFL’s final cutdown day is on Tuesday where every team will have to trim its roster by 27 players, meaning this weekend is the last chance for anyone on the bubble to prove their worth.
Even for the first-year players that are in no danger of losing their spot, this last preseason game is extremely important. It’s their final opportunity to get adjusted to NFL game speed and make mistakes before the games start counting and the miscues are magnified. Plus, winning the individual matchups below can serve as a nice confidence boost for those players heading into September.
However, emerging victorious won’t be an easy task for the Raiders’ rookies as the 49ers have an impressive young core.
Tyree Gillespie vs Trey Lance
Originally, I wanted to highlight Tre’von Moehrig against Trey Lance since it’s not very often that two top picks get to square off against each other as rookies. However, Moehrig has been running with the starters since basically Day One of training camp, and Lance has been second on San Francisco’s depth chart and that doesn’t sound like it will change anytime soon.
So that means the No. 3 overall pick will likely see Tyree Gillespie in Las Vegas’ backfield more often than Moehrig.
As you probably already know by now, Lance has cannon for an arm that can really test a safety’s range. He and wide receiver Trent Sherfield have been in sync just about all camp, and they connected on an 80-yard touchdown in the first game of the preseason and on a 41-yard bomb in the second.
While Gillespie has primarily played in the box this preseason, position versatility is something the Raiders are going to be relying on from him this season. Also, 21 of his 55 defensive snaps have come at the free safety spot this August, which is where he played the majority of the time at Missouri.
Especially since the former Tiger missed some time at the beginning of training camp with an injury, I’d expect him to get a lot of playing time on Sunday and at multiple positions. Hopefully, Gillespie brings his PF Flyers to Santa Clara for when he’s lined up deep because Lance will certainly be looking to hit a couple of deep balls to build his case to be the 49ers’ starter.
Dillon Stoner vs Deommodre Lenior
It’s been a month to forget for Dillon Stoner. He’s only managed to haul in two receptions on five targets for 22 yards and hasn’t even sniffed the endzone. On top of that, his 0.47 yards per route run ranks dead last among Las Vegas’ wideouts with at least 2 targets, and he’s only managed to generate three yards after the catch. Not exactly the numbers someone who is trying to make the team wants to have.
At this point, Stoner’s best chance to stick around in Sin City is to make the practice squad but even that could be an uphill battle. However, he does get one more chance to prove himself, but he’ll have to do it against a corner that has been playing really well lately.
There has been a lot of buzz in San Francisco about Deommodore Lenoir and part of the reason is he’s currently allowing one reception for every 64 coverage snaps, which ranks first among all corners this preseason.
Lenoir also boasts a league-leading 0.0 passer rating when targeted, and has an interception and pass breakup to his name. Pretty impressive for a fifth-round pick.
That’s a tough draw for Stoner given the importance of this game for him, but it also allows him to show growth and beat a player that a lot of people are really high on right now. A big day could be just enough to push the Oklahoma State product ahead of DJ Turner and Keelan Doss, both of whom aren’t that far ahead in the completion.
Divine Deablo vs Trey Sermon
As a hybrid safety/linebacker type of player, one of the biggest questions Divine Deablo is facing this season is how well can he hold up against the run?
While Deablo does have some experience playing in the box, he only lined up as a linebacker about 25 percent of the time as a junior and senior at Virigina Tech. So playing on the second level, which the Raiders are going to ask him to do, is somewhat of foreign territory to him. The team will need him to figure it out quickly as they’ll likely be counting on him to contribute early in the season after the injury bug bit the position group hard last week.
This Sunday will be a great but extremely difficult test for the former Hokie. 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shannan is known for his prolific outside zone rushing attack, and his scheme puts some added pressure on linebackers with a heavy dose of play action. Shannan also has a very impressive rookie running back at his disposal in Trey Sermon.
Sermon is an athletically gifted back who scored a 9.09 out of 10 RAS score during the pre-draft process and is a perfect fit in Shannan’s system. However, the latter is more of a projection as the running back struggled in his first preseason game, accounting for just 26 yards on nine carries and coughing up a fumble. He left that game with a shoulder injury and didn’t play the following week but is expected to suit up on Sunday.
That should make for an interesting battle between two rather unproven commodities in Sermon and Deablo.
To make things more difficult for the linebacker, San Francisco has a good blocking tight end in Charlie Woerner. The second-year pro currently has the highest PFF run-blocking grade (87.1) at his position this preseason, meaning Deablo will need to bring his “A-game” this weekend.