The Las Vegas Raiders are approaching their first preseason game of the season. They will be home vs. the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, and we will finally get action on the field. how much of the starters we will see remains to be seen, but it will be on-field action nonetheless.
That is where joint practices come into play, where teams can simulate games. It allows their starters to get reps against another football team and face different looks from the offense and defense. It will also be a litmus test, displaying if the Raiders are ready to compete with the best teams in the league.
Here are the main storylines heading into joint practices:
The passing offense
A good amount of the news coming out of training camp involves interceptions. Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown multiple picks to the defense, with seven coming in practices last week. While it is encouraging to see the defense perform, it would be good for confidence to have a good showing.
One of the issues for Garoppolo has been the timing with his receivers. It has been reported that he is late with the football, holding the ball longer than he should in the pocket. Changing offenses was going to be an adjustment for Garoppolo. He didn't work with the team during OTAs and minicamp, and it is starting to display itself on the practice field.
Garoppolo's never really been one to have a bunch of turnovers. Just watching practice, seems like his timing is the biggest issue right now.— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) August 5, 2023
If the Raiders passing offense can hold its own vs. the 49ers, it will prove practice is just practice. An ugly showing might start to ring a few alarms around Raider Nation.
Is the defense for real?
On the flip side of the offensive struggles is the defense exhibiting the potential to be a solid unit. The practice turnovers and the defensive line pressure have been highlighted early in training camp. With the 49ers coming to town with their offensive guru as head coach, it will answer questions about the defense going forward.
The presence of Marcus Epps and Marcus Peters has elevated the secondary. Trevon Moehrig is having an excellent camp working with Marcus Epps at the safety position. Peters has multiple interceptions in camp, rubbing off on Jakorian Bennett, who has added a couple of his own. Add in the pass rush with Maxx Crosby causing pressure in the backfield the defense could take a leap.
The joint practice against an offense with their own quarterback coming off an injury could allow them to make plays. The defense has been a calling card for the Raiders, and the team hopes to find its way back to those traditions.
Offensive line competition
The offensive line improved throughout the year last season. While they were strong in the running game, pass protection was an issue for the unit. With battles happening on the right side of the offensive line facing the 49ers' defensive line will allow players to separate from the pack.
Right tackle and right guard both have players competing for the starting position. Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford are competing for the right tackle spot. Munford took the lead last week after Eluemunor's constant penalties in practice. Alex Bars and Greg Van Roten are in the mix for starting at right guard. Van Roten has over 50 starts in the NFL and could start to take the reigns with a stand-out performance.
It will be important for Josh McDaniels and the company to find the right five, no matter what. With Garoppolo's injury history and struggles under pressure, it is paramount for a successful season. It could get ugly vs. the vaunted 49ers' defensive line rotation, but if the Raiders hold their own, it will be a great sign for the season.