As we get closer to the regular season, Raider Nation should see more of the first-team offense and defense as the Raiders welcome the Green Bay Packers to Oakland on Friday night. Here are some storylines to watch.
The Raiders head into their third preseason game Friday night against the Green Bay Packers back home in Oakland. How much will we see of the first offense? How about the defense? Let’s look at three things Raider Nation should watch for:
PENN AT RIGHT TACKLE:
Friday will be the first time veteran offensive tackle Donald Penn participates in a preseason game this year since signing a restructured team-friendly contract. It comes at a good time for him to develop at right tackle given the starters will likely get at least the first half of snaps, maybe more.
Penn is moving to the right side since Kolton Miller has shown great promise and the Raiders didn’t want to stunt the rookie’s development. The Raiders want the five best players on the line, and — with respect — David Sharpe, Breno Giacomini and Brandon Parker (among others) are not among them.
The only logical choice was to move Penn. Switching from left to right tackle can be difficult technically because the footwork and hand placement are much different. Penn should benefit from having spent two years at left tackle adjacent to right guard Gabe Jackson, who was the left guard in 2014 and 2015. If Penn adjusts to right tackle, and Miller continues to develop, the offensive line should be among the league’s best.
DEEP LINEBACKER CORPS:
It’s a small sample size, but the Raiders finally appear to have depth at linebacker. Tahir Whitehead is a lock to start on the weak side. Emmanuel Lamur is the likely starter on the strong side, although he might relinquish some snaps to Nicholas Morrow, a second-year player the coaches like.
The big battle is in the middle, where Marquel Lee is working in base packages, while Derrick Johnson is subbing for Lee in the nickel. I suspect coordinator Paul Guenther hopes Lee continues improving his coverage and becomes a prototypical three-down middle linebacker.
Lastly, don’t sleep on James Cowser. Cowser is a former defensive end who had an interception last week against the Rams. He is adept as a special-teamer, which should help his chances at one of the 53-man roster spots.
WHO STEPS UP AT WIDE RECEIVER:
Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson will be starters at wide receiver, but it’s a murky situation behind them. The Raiders wanted Martavis Bryant to take the third receiver spot by the scruff of the neck, but he had trouble digesting the playbook early in training camp and missed some practices due to a migraine.
Ryan Switzer was acquired via trade during the draft and has been better than expected. Switzer is going to be a special-teams ace and has shown ability in the slot. He reminds me of a young Wes Welker.
Jon Gruden has also praised veteran Griff Whalen, who backed up the head coach’s comments with a touchdown catch against the Rams. Seth Roberts is another possibility, although he is more likely to be traded. Gruden has stressed the importance of excelling in dirty work such as run blocking, and Roberts excels without the ball.
Friday’s game will play a big part in determining the outcome of the wide receiver battle.