The Oakland Raiders are back in action Friday night, as they host the Green Bay Packers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their last home preseason game of 2018. It's bittersweet, while the Raiders will be playing their last home game of the preseason this evening, it also means the next time they return to the Coliseum it'll be the start of the regular season.
Before Head Coach Jon Gruden faces his protege in Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay Week 1, he's focused on beating the Packers. Gruden said earlier this week that the starters could play into the second quarter tonight, and it should be a fun one.
Kickoff is set to begin at 7:30 p.m., so let's check out three things you should watch for this evening.
Ever since Penn reached the NFL back in 2007, the former Big Blue member of Utah State has been a starting left tackle. The three-time Pro Bowler – once with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, twice with the Oakland Raiders — has been used sparingly over his career at right tackle, but as a result of recent developments, No. 72 has transitioned to the right side.
After drafting left tackle Kolton Miller in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the offensive line had plenty of depth except at right tackle. With Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson all manning the middle, the group needed another dominant tackle to anchor the end, and it appears as though Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable has figured out a solution.
Being the team player that Penn is, he was more than open to the move from left tackle to right tackle if it meant he could continue to provide protection for quarterback Derek Carr. The Pro Bowl tackle has spent the majority of his career building the fundamentals of a left tackle, and now he'll be asked to use those same fundamentals just in reverse. The body and mobility adjustment will take some getting used to, but Penn showed he's more than capable of playing the position, and I'm anxious to see how he performs Friday against the Packers in his new role.
The wide receivers
Jon Gruden is looking for consistency, a point he hasn't been shy about making.
Aside from wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper, a handful of players at the position have missed playing time due to injuries. Gruden — like any coach — wants his players on the field, where they can succeed, and his team can succeed. When those players miss time, they miss valuable reps, and right now Gruden needs to see more from the No. 3 receiver spot.
"Well, more consistency, honestly," he said Monday. "Seth has been out now for nine, 10 days. Martavis has been in and out of here. It's been tough. I think just someone to come out here and string four or five really good days together and showcase their stuff. Make some plays. With and without the ball."
Through two preseason games, running back Jalen Richard is currently the team's leading receiver with 70 receiving yards and seven receptions.
Since many of the starters will see extended playing time compared to recent weeks, now is the time for players like Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer to develop more chemistry with Carr. Whether you're watching the game from the bleachers, or your couch, keep an eye out for the receiver that separates himself from the group.
The second-year cornerback out of Ohio State had an up and down year in 2017, in large part to the injuries he endured, but he did show a lot of promise. Last week, Conley participated in his first preseason game of 2018, and he's expected to be a full go once again tonight against the Packers. If the Raiders defense hopes to take a step forward this season, Conley will need to play an impactful role. Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie have been vocal in their desire to feature No. 21 in the secondary, and keeping him healthy will be a priority.
Conley has all the skills necessary to be a reliable corner in the NFL, but he needs more experience. He played in a total of two games last season, and if he wants to further his development, he must face the gauntlet of talented wide receivers across the league. Fortunately, Conley can practice and train against Cooper and Nelson, who will certainly challenge him in every way. As time goes on, we'll continue to see just how impactful Conley can be, and Friday night is a good start.
For those of you not attending the game, here's how to watch or listen to the action if you missed it.