Raiders at Vikings Preseason Game 2

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Raiders at Vikings Preseason Game 2

Postby RF34 » Fri Aug 21, 2015 8:29 am

Things Del Rio, McKenzie will be looking for in Vikings game

By Steve Corkran Staff Writer

The Raiders looked sharp in their exhibition opener against the St. Louis Rams. That gives them plenty of confidence as they head in to their next game, against the Minnesota Vikings. The Raiders dominated the Rams, for the most part, in their 18-3 victory at the Oakland Coliseum. However, there still are plenty of things for the Raiders to shore up or get answered Saturday against the Vikings and between now and the regular-season opener Sept. 13. “I just want to keep getting better,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “I want to keep playing good football. We had a lot to clean up. I knew there would be, there always is. So a lot of things that we need to do better.

“So we’re just back at work, just back into camp mode. It’s really more about preparing for the season and us, the drills and the fundamentals and the basics of what we want to be good at, and that’s really what I’m after.” The Raiders had four practices this week in order to make headway on the things Del Rio talked about. Now comes the Raiders first road game of the season, which presents another opportunity in and of itself. What follows is a look at a handful of the things that Raiders coach Del Rio and his staff, as well as general manager Reggie McKenzie, will be paying close attention to Saturday:

Pass defense: The Raiders notched only 22 sacks last season. Against the Rams, the Raiders showed that they have bolstered their pass rush in terms of the number of players able to apply pressure. Last season, rookie linebacker/end Khalil Mack was about the only player who succeeded in getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis, and he finished with only four sacks. In terms of coverage, the cornerback positions remain unsettled with less than a month to go before the season-opener.

DJ Hayden and TJ Carrie are the projected starters. Carrie has looked the part. Hayden has been hit and miss in practice and against the Rams. That has allowed the likes of Neiko Thorpe, Dexter McDonald and Keith McGill to push for playing time. The Vikings figure to give the Raiders a good measuring stick for how far along their pass rush and pass defense have come. Teddy Bridgewater and his two backups completed 27 or 33 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns, without any interceptions and being sacked once.

Right offensive tackle: Menelik Watson and Austin Howard continue their audition Saturday, with Watson still the leading candidate. Watson has yet to establish himself as an NFL player, but he is making strides in his third season. Howard was moved from right guard to tackle, his natural position, as a means of getting better play from him than he put forth last season. Neither Watson nor Howard stood out against the Rams. The Vikings game is a good opportunity to shine, given the game is on the road and played in a not-so-friendly environment. Before long, one of these players has to seize the job or else give way to veteran Khalif Barnes.

Backup running back: Latavius Murray was handed the starting job as soon as the predecessors Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew were purged from the roster. He hasn’t done anything to cause Del Rio to second-guess his decision. The real question at running back entails who is going to emerge as the primary backup from a crowded field of candidates. As of now, no one has an edge from a group that includes Trent Richardson, Taiwan Jones, Michael Dyer and Roy Helu Jr. A strong showing against the Vikings by any of the aforementioned players would go a long way toward swaying Del Rio and McKenzie when roster cutdown day arrives.

Wide receiver: Former No. 1 Rod Streater is back on the practice field after a lengthy illness, which never was diagnosed, according to the Raiders. He now simply is competing for a roster spot, with plenty of competition this time around. Streater is apt to make the 53-man roster with ease, provided he regains the form he showed from 2012-14. However, time is of the essence, as Streater battled his illness for two months or so and missed significant time in camp, as well as the first exhibition game. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have emerged as the presumptive Nos. 1 and 2 based upon their showing in camp and the Rams game. The four or so other spots at receiver are up for grabs.
Things got even more interesting this week when veteran Andre Holmes went down with a broken hand. He is expected to miss at least three weeks and perhaps a month or more.

With Holmes’ absence, Seth Roberts, Kris Durham, Josh Harper, Streater, Brice Butler and Kenbrell Thompkins are in line for more playing time. Butler and Roberts looked sharp against the Rams. That memory won’t linger too long, especially if some of the other receivers step up and perform at a high level against the Vikings. ... ings-game/
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