Punter Marquette King
Heading into the Oakland Raiders preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks, we highlighted five questions that we hoping to get answered Thursday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
The Silver and Black dropped their final preseason matchup 23-21 to Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks, finishing the preseason with a 1-3 record. The next time the Raiders will hit the field will be Week 1 at the Mercedes Benz-Superdome against the New Orleans Saints.
The preseason is now officially behind us, but before we dial in on the regular season, let's take a look back and see if our questions were answered.
1. Will any starters see the field?
For the most part, no.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the offensive starters didn't take the field for a single play in Thursday night's loss to the Seahawks, and the only presumed starters on the defensive side of the football to play any snaps were a pair of rookies, safety Karl Joseph, and defensive lineman Jihad Ward.
Joseph played 31 snaps, finishing the night with one tackle, and Ward was on the field for 32 snaps, totaling three tackles.
"We elected to play a few of our younger guys tonight like Karl [Joseph], and like Jihad [Ward], and like [linebacker] Cory James," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio postgame. "[Running back] DeAndré [Washington] got a lot of work. [Running back] Jalen [Richard] got a lot of work, and we just felt like it was important for them to get that experience. A lot of good tape to evaluate."
2. How will Matt McGloin look?
With Carr watching Thursday's game from the sideline in a baseball cap, Matt McGloin was the Raiders starting quarterback in their preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks.
The veteran signal caller exited after the end of the first quarter, finishing his night four of six for 37 yards, playing primarily against the Seahawks starting defense, before ceding the quarterbacking duties to rookie Connor Cook.
Cook went the rest of the way for the Silver and Black, completing 15 of 30 passes for 145 yards and one interception.
Although the rookie wasn't able to find the end zone against the Seahawks, Cook was able to take away several positives from his performance, and has been able to use his first NFL preseason as a huge learning experience.
"It's a fast game," Cook said. "In football, there's no such thing as a perfect game. You're going to make mistakes, you have to try to bounce back from them. It's obviously much faster than college. Guys are smarter, guys are better at disguising defenses. I have to try to get better at my post-snap reads."
3. Can the rookie running backs keep it up?
Unsurprisingly, running back Latavius Murray didn't hit the field Thursday night, instead letting the rookie tandem of Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington handle the majority of the rushing duties.
Combined, the pair of Richard and Washington finished the evening with a total of 14 carries for 24 yards, and while their individual rushing statistics might not have been overly impressive, they each shined in other aspects of their game.
Richard was once again a dynamic force in the return game, returning one kickoff for 15 yards, and one punt for an impressive gain of 25. Washington, on the other hand, proved yet again be a valuable asset in the passing attack, hauling in four catches for 39 yards, including one impressive 18-yard scamper.
While Thursday's effort might not have been as complete for the rookie rushers as Saturday's game against the Tennessee Titans, they have shown that the NFL game isn't too big for them, and that they have the ability to be effective against some of the premier talents in the league.
4. Who will excel on special teams?
The real MVP of the special teams unit Thursday night was punter Marquette King.
King was spectacular against the Seahawks, punting eight times for an average of 48.9 yards per attempt, and was able to drop five of those punts inside the 20-yard line.
In a game like Thursday's that turned into a defensive standoff, field position is absolutely vital, and King's effort helped the Raiders defense find itself in advantageous situations all evening.
As far as the return duties went, Washington returned two kickoffs for 36 total yards, but running back George Atkinson III proved to be the most effective, returning his lone kickoff for an 81-yard touchdown.
On the punt return front, Washington returned three punts for 24 total yards, and Richard returned one for an impressive gain of 25.
5. Who makes the most of their opportunity?
With the starters not playing in the preseason finale, it allowed the younger players on the depth chart to get an extended run, and show why they belong on the Raiders 53-man roster.
In what would be serve as their final audition for the coaching staff, there were two players that really stood out to me – wide receiver K.J. Brent and defensive tackle Darius Latham.
On the offensive side of the football, Brent was impressive, pacing the team with four catches for a team-leading 59 yards. Defensively, Latham also put together a quality outing, finishing his night with five total tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass defensed.
Heading into the final round of roster reductions, both players needed to leave a positive imprint against the Seahawks, and in what was assuredly one of the more pressure-filled games of their career, both undrafted free agents delivered.