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3 rookie matchups to watch against New England Patriots

Crucial week for bubble guys

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Las Vegas Raiders
Dyland Parham
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

It all comes down to this for the Las Vegas Raiders, a chance for the illustrious NFL preseason championship against the New England Patriots. The Raiders have an opportunity to move to 4-0 which is a testament to how their rookies and other young players have performed this month.

But, as the old saying goes, this is a week-to-week league or what have you done for me lately business, and some guys are running out of time to prove their worth to the coaching staff. The final cutdown day is on Tuesday when 27 players will get the ax, so Friday night’s game will be the last time some of them will put on the silver and black.

It legitimately is put up or shut up time for a few of the rookies listed below.

Luke Masterson vs. Jalen Wydermyer

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders
Luke Masterson
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After the Hall of Fame game, Masterson was drawing praise from the coaching staff with linebackers coach Antonio Pierce saying:

“He was a very active kid in the game right away. He was throwing his body around. Talking about being physical, I thought he was physical, using his hands. He did a pretty good job tackling, only one missed tackle for him.”

The undrafted free agent posted an impressive 75.8 overall PFF grade against the Jaguars, however, the last two contests have been a different story. His overall marks dropped down to 56.3 and 44.6 versus the Vikings and Dolphins, respectively, mainly due to poor run defense grades; 44.1 and 47.0.

All is not lost as Masterson still has a good chance to make the team with Denzel Perryman, Divine Deablo and Jayon Brown being the only linebackers who seemingly have a roster spot locked down. But the Wake Forest product could use a strong outing against another undrafted free agent to balance out his preseason performances.

Wydermyer has already had an interesting NFL career. Once thought of as one of the best tight ends in the 2022 draft class, he slid down boards like a greased-up naked person going down a steep slide with a mediocre junior season and a poor showing at the combine. He had a 16.7 percent drop rate last year and posted a 0.98 RAS score with a 5.02-second 40-yard dash time in Indianapolis.

That caused the former Aggie to go undrafted, and he ended up signing with the Bills but was let go during the first round of cuts. He did get some action in New England’s preseason game last week but only participated in six offensive snaps and drew no targets.

With this being the last week of the preseason, Wydermyer should get more action and should be hungry, but he’s also never been known as a great run blocker with a 50.6 run-blocking grade last season. In other words, Masterson should have a favorable matchup as he fights for a roster spot.

Cole Fotheringham vs. Brenden Schooler

Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp
Cole Fotheringham
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Truth be told, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Fotheringham to stick around in September. The Raiders have quite a bit of depth at tight end with Foster Moreau, Nick Bowers and Jacob Hollister backing up Darren Waller.

But Waller has missed most of training camp with an injury and head coach Josh McDaniels was noncommittal about Waller’s status for Week 1, so the door is still open, especially with how much McDaniels likes to use 12 and 22 personnel.

That being said, Fotheringham is going to have to pick it up this week to improve his chances of even just making the practice squad. He’s only been targeted twice in three games and has one drop with zero catches while also posting an ugly 49.3 PFF run-blocking grade.

Meanwhile, Jesper Horstead leads the position group with five grabs on five targets for 73 yards and has a 69.3 mark in the ground game. Granted, the latter has only been on six opportunities versus 51 for the rookie.

Fotheringham, a Utah alum, will be matched up against a somewhat familiar face in Schooler. Before transferring to Texas, Schooler began his college career at Oregon and played there from 2017 to 2019, so the former conference foes will meet again in the city where the Pac 12 championship is played.

The former Longhorn and Duck has only seen five defensive snaps during the preseason, meaning he’s got to make the most of every opportunity on Friday. He was stout in coverage in college, posting coverage grades of 88.3 as a freshman and 75.9 as a super senior with just 312 career receiving yards allowed, a passer rating of 83.0, and five combined interceptions and pass breakups to just two touchdowns yielded.

Schooler also spent time as a receiver in Eugene, so he’s a good athlete, but that also means Bill Belichick will likely be expecting him to shut down a guy like Fotheringham.

Dylan Parham vs. Sam Roberts

Las Vegas Raiders v Miami Dolphins
Dylan Parham
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Unlike all the other guys on this list, Parham is in no danger of losing his roster spot. He was the Raiders’ top draft pick and has been solid over the last three games, surrendering three pressures and earning a 64.6 run-blocking grade while taking a significant amount of reps at all three interior offensive line spots. He’s totaled 23 snaps at each guard spot and 61 at center.

So, this Friday will be more about the Memphis product continuing to get comfortable playing multiple positions versus his performance. But Parham does draw an intriguing matchup against defensive tackle Sam Roberts.

Over the last two weeks, Roberts has seven total tackles against the run, four of which were stops and his average depth of tackle has been right at the line of scrimmage; 0.0 yards. He’s also posted a strong 69.6 PFF pass-rush grade with three pressures and an 11.3 percent win rate. Not bad for a sixth-round pick out of Division II Northwest Missouri State.

Again, this is will be a battle between two guys who have likely already made their respective rosters, but it’s also an opportunity for a couple of smaller school prospects to get their feet wet in the NFL.

Game Prediction

For all my degenerates that want need to put some cash down on the game, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Silver and Black as a one-point favorite against the Pats. I’m taking the Raiders money line and against the spread, and life’s too short to bet the under so of course, I’m slamming the over!