Wide Receiver Johnny Holton
The Oakland Raiders wrap up the preseason Thursday night at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, as they play host to the Seattle Seahawks.
In the days following the game, the team will reduce its roster to 53 players, and will then shift its attention to the New Orleans Saints and the first week of the regular season.
While the team's starters typically don't play a ton in the final preseason game, their absence doesn't mean there aren't a lot of intriguing storylines to follow in the preseason finale, so here are five questions I have heading into Thursday's matchup with the Seahawks.
1. Will any starters see the field?
The odds are that most of the Raiders starters ended their preseason last Saturday in the 27-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The third preseason game is widely referred to as the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season, with most impact players having their reps tapered down in the final preseason game.
However, Head Coach Jack Del Rio has not yet said which of the starters – if any – will suit up against the Seahawks, so that will be something I'll be keeping a close eye on.
Whether or not any of the starters play Thursday, the night will belong to the team's young players, and defensive end Khalil Mack is looking forward to see what they do with their opportunity.
"I'm excited for the younger guys, get to see them take advantage of this opportunity," said Mack. "One of these opportunities only come so many times in a lifetime. You're getting to see [linebacker] Shilique [Calhoun] and all those guys go out there and be aggressive and play for a long period of time. It's going to be exciting to see and see how they make plays."
2. How will Matt McGloin look?
Even if Derek Carr suits up Thursday night against the Seahawks, in all likelihood quarterback Matt McGloin will handle most of the play calling duties for the preseason finale.
After a statistically impressive 2015 preseason, the fourth-year signal caller has not found the end zone since the team's preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
In what is likely to be his final game action for the foreseeable future – barring some type of injury to Carr – McGloin will want to end the preseason on a high note, putting an extended run of positive throws on tape.
"For this game, I just want to go out, play well, sustain drives, and move the chains, and make smart decisions," McGloin said. "As long as I can make smart decisions, be accurate with the football, be decisive with my decision making, and play well, we'll see. We'll go from there."
Rookie quarterback Connor Cook also figures to get in the mix Thursday night, but I expect to see a lot of McGloin throughout the evening.
3. Can the rookie running backs keep it up?
While the end result of Saturday's matchup with the Titans was disappointing, one positive to take away from the game was the play of the team's rookie running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.
Combined, the tandem carried the ball 15 times for 90 yards, and both looked explosive during their time with the starting offense.
Now, let's see if the pair can continue its production Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks.
Running back Latavius Murray likely won't see a lot of action in the preseason finale, leaving a majority of the carries to the tandem of young backs, so the combined production of Richard and Washington will be a storyline to follow Thursday night.
4. Who will excel on special teams?
Once again, I'm intrigued to see who handles the return duties for the Silver and Black.
During Saturday's matchup with the Seahawks, Richard, along with Washington, and rookie wide Johnny Holton handled the kickoff returns, with Richard finding the most success, returning two kickoffs for 57 yards.
Washington, cornerback Antonio Hamilton, and wide receiver Jaydon Mickens fielded punts, and I would expect that same trio to fill that role once again.
While the kick returners naturally get a lot of attention on special teams, don't forget to keep an eye on players who make their bread on the coverage units, like linebacker Daren Bates and safety Brynden Trawick.
Both Bates and Trawick have excelled on the coverage teams this preseason, and their continued production there could be their ticket to securing a spot on the 53-man roster.
5. Who makes the most of their opportunity?
Heading into Saturday's matchup the Raiders are currently carrying 75 players on their roster, but by Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m., the team will have to reduce the roster to 53.
That means that nearly a quarter of the roster will not make the final cut, and it will be vital to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff in Thursday's matchup with the Seahawks.
A couple players to keep an eye on as they made their final bid to make the roster? Wide receivers K.J. Brent and Johnny Holton, as well as defensive tackle Darius Latham.