Running Back Jalen Richard
After a brief layoff between their second and third preseason tilts, the Oakland Raiders are scheduled to hit the field again Saturday night, hosting the Tennessee Titans at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their first home game of the preseason schedule.
The third preseason game is typically referred to as the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season, so conventional wisdom would say that the team's starting units will figure to get their most extended run of the exhibition slate.
With the first roster reductions of the season less than a week away, tensions will surely be high Saturday night, so here are five questions I have heading into the Silver and Black's matchup with the Titans.
1. How does Jalen Richard look?
The undrafted running back reminds me of the trendy band that everyone's talking about, but nobody has seen in concert quite yet.
Well, Saturday night, it's show time.
After an impressive first few weeks of training camp, the Southern Mississippi-product was forced to miss the first two games of the preseason after suffering a minor knee injury.
He returned to practice earlier this week, and while he wasn't willing to speculate about his availability for Saturday's matchup with Tennessee, Head Coach Jack Del Rio was clear – the rookie running back will play.
"He [Richard] had a good week," said Del Rio after Thursday's practice. "Anticipate him being able to play, so yeah. We've been excited to see him. Obviously, he had the minor setback, but he's done great. Had a good week of practice and we're excited to get a look at him."
Del Rio isn't the only one excited to see what Richard can do in a game, as the dynamic running back was routinely making his presence felt during practice before his minor setback, and had been the recipient of some high praise from coaches and teammates alike.
Now, practice and games are two very different animals, but I'm excited to see what Richard does going against an opposing defense for the first time.
2. Will Derek Carr find the end zone?
Through two preseason games, quarterback Derek Carr has yet to throw a touchdown in his limited time on the field.
Is that lack of production cause for any type of concern? Not at all.
Carr threw for 32 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards last season, so getting off to a perceived "slow" start in the preseason this year is nothing to worry about.
That being said, since he probably won't play too much in the preseason finale next week against the Seattle Seahawks, I'm sure the starting quarterback would like to finish the preseason with a little momentum heading into the Week 1 matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
3. Will Reggie Nelson suit up?
After being a limited participant in both Tuesday and Wednesday's practice session, veteran safety Reggie Nelson did not practice Thursday afternoon at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility.
Since he didn't hit the field much this week, I'll be interested to see if he suits up and plays Saturday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Nelson has been working almost exclusively with the starting unit, so if he weren't able to play against the Titans, I'll be keeping a watchful eye on who takes the majority of his reps.
Safety Nate Allen would be the logical choice to fill the void, but former cornerback Keith McGill has also been working his way into the defensive rotation as of late.
There has been no definitive ruling on Nelson's status for the matchup with the Titans as of yet, but his availability will be something of note.
4. Will Connor Cook continue to progress?
The rookie quarterback didn't come firing out of the gates at training camp, but over the last few weeks, and in both preseason games, Cook has shown a measured growth in his performance on the field.
In the team's road matchup with the Green Bay Packers, the Michigan State-product finished his evening 6 of 9 for 101 yards, and while he did throw an interception, he looked more comfortable running the offense than he had in the week previous.
For a rookie quarterback, the preseason is all about progress, and while he likely won't see as much time Saturday night as he did in the previous two games, I'll be interested to see how he looks in his time on the field.
Cook has enjoyed a quality few weeks as of late; let's see if he can keep it up.
5. Can the defense put together a complete effort?
The last time the starting defense hit the field, it yielded mixed results.
On the Packers first drive of the evening, running back Eddie Lacy ran rampant, totaling 45 rushing yards and punctuating a 14-play, 74-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown.
However, on their second drive, the Raiders defense really buckled down, and forced an impressive three-and-out.
That formula seemed to be the model for the starting defense's time on the field last week – allow a sustained drive, then dig in and force a three-and-out.
In total, the starters allowed the Packers just that lone touchdown before they exited for the evening, but the group will want to leave Saturday's action against the Titans with a better taste in their mouth.