Cornerback Sean Smith, Defensive End Khalil Mack, and Safety Nate Allen
Heading into the Oakland Raiders third preseason game, we highlighted five questions that we were looking to get answered in the team's matchup with the Tennessee Titans.
The Silver and Black dropped their first home preseason game at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum 27-14, but since it is the preseason, the final score wasn't the biggest takeaway from the team's time on the field.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio's squad will be back on the field in short order this week, wrapping up the preseason at home Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks, but before we look ahead to that game, let's take a look back and see if our five questions were answered.
1. How does Jalen Richard look?
After missing the first two games of the preseason, undrafted free agent running back Jalen Richard made his much-anticipated debut Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans.
The Southern Mississippi-product was involved from the Raiders first play of the evening, returning their first kickoff for a gain of 38 yards, then proceeding to stay on the field and begin working with the starting offense.
In total, Richard played 19 offensive snaps, and during his time on the field, he carried the ball seven times for 35 yards (5.0 avg), and also added two receptions for seven yards.
It was a solid debut from the powerful rookie, and he now plans to use Saturday's effort as the springboard for what he hopes will be another quality outing this Thursday against Seattle.
"It felt good to get the cobwebs off," said Richard. "I practiced all week but to really get out there with the full intensity and guys trying to take your head off that are not your teammates felt good. I did well, but there's always room for improvement. I'm going to take this game is a step forward to continue to improve."
2. Will Derek Carr find the end zone?
Yes, not once, but twice.
After a somewhat quiet start to the preseason, the Raiders starting quarterback delivered what was unquestionably his best performance of the exhibition season, finishing his evening completing 12 of 18 passes for 169 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.
Carr's first visit to the end zone came on the team's first offensive series of the game, as he connected with rookie running back DeAndré Washington on a six-yard pass to bring the score even with 8:35 left in the first quarter.
However, it was his second touchdown of the game that was the truly impressive one.
With 10:21 left in the second quarter, Carr dropped back, and threw a dart deep down the left sideline to wide receiver Amari Cooper, who juggled the ball before securing possession.
It was Carr's best throw of the game, and since he likely won't take the field Thursday night against the Seahawks, it was good for him to end his preseason on a high note.
3. Will Reggie Nelson suit up?
Along with linebacker Neiron Ball, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., and tight end Gabe Holmes, Nelson was one of the four players to not suit up for the Raiders Saturday night in their bout with the Tennessee Titans.
Although the veteran safety didn't play, his absence isn't all that surprising, considering he was a limited participant in practice leading up the game, and then didn't practice Thursday afternoon.
Safety Nate Allen stepped into the void left by Nelson, playing 46 total snaps, and finishing his night with five total tackles.
Since the starters rarely play in the preseason finale, conventional wisdom would suggest that Nelson won't suit up Thursday night, but I'll be keeping an eye on the veteran safety to see if he returns to practice at all during the week.
4. Will Connor Cook continue to progress?
Cook remains listed as the third quarterback on the Raiders depth chart, and he entered the game with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter.
During his abbreviated time on the field – 10 snaps to be exact – the rookie signal caller completed three of six passes for 51 yards, and one interception.
As a rookie, Cook's preseason outings have unsurprisingly been a mix of highs and lows, and while Saturday's performance wasn't his best, he'll likely get a fair amount of playing time Thursday night as the Raiders wrap up the preseason.
5. Can the defense put together a complete effort?
Saturday was another day of mixed results for the Raiders defense.
While the starting unit allowed 276 total yards to the Titans offense in the first half, they were able to somewhat limit the damage and buckle down in the red zone to force a pair of field goals, in addition to the two times Tennessee found the end zone.
Although the preseason is used to work out any issues before the regular season arrives, Saturday's effort didn't sit well with defensive end Khalil Mack.
"It definitely bothers you, especially being a defensive guy and being a leader on this defense," said Mack postgame when asked about the team's defense. "It's stuff that you don't want to see, but at the same time, it's a great learning experience right now. This will only get us ready."