Running Back DeAndré Washington
Are you ready for some football?
After a seven-month hiatus, the Oakland Raiders will play a game Friday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, squaring off against the Arizona Cardinals in the first of its four preseason matchups.
Now, the result of Friday's contest doesn't count in the standings, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot on the line for many of the players on the Raiders roster, so let's take a look at five questions we have going into the preseason opener against Carson Palmer and Co.
1. How much will the starters play?
It's the first preseason game, so conventional wisdom would suggest that the Raiders starters probably won't play all that long, likely just a few series, but no more than a quarter.
Friday night is the first of four dress rehearsals for the Silver and Black, starters included, so hopefully they'll put their best on tape before exiting and watching the rest of their teammates get their opportunity to shine.
Quarterback Derek Carr said Wednesday that his main goal for Friday is to "play clean," so I'll be looking forward to seeing if that is the case during the first team's limited run against the Cardinals.
2. Will Karl Joseph hit the field?
After missing the entirety of the team's Offseason Workout Program recovering from a knee injury, rookie safety Karl Joseph has participated in almost all of Training Camp 2016, and looked pretty good doing it.
He did acknowledge that there was a chance he might miss the first, and maybe even second, preseason games as a precautionary measure, but we won't know for sure until Friday night.
Joseph was a full participant in Wednesday's practice, skying high and contorting his body to bring down an impressive interception on a pass thrown by Carr, but with the regular season still a month away, it is possible that the Raiders first round selection could lie in wait during a preseason game or two.
It wouldn't be too much cause for concern if Joseph did indeed miss a preseason matchup, but at this point, any live reps he gets would only pay dividends for him and the team's defense down the road.
3. After Latavius Murray, what is the state of the run game?
Heading into the desert, all signs seem to indicate that Latavius Murray will once again be the bell cow for the Raiders in 2016.
However, the real intrigue begins with the players behind him on the depth chart, particularly rookies DeAndré Washington and Jalen Richard.
The Raiders drafted Washington in the fifth round (No. 143 overall) to provide a change of pace in the backfield, and Richard has been impressive throughout training camp, routinely making impressive plays both on the ground, and out of the backfield as a receiving threat.
Richard didn't practice Wednesday, so it remains to be seen if he'll play Friday night against the Cardinals, but after Murray gets his touches and vacates the game, I'll be keeping a close eye on the other running backs to see how they carry the rock.
4. How will Connor Cook perform?
After a sluggish start to his first training camp as a Raider, rookie quarterback Connor Cook has shown a marked improvement over the past several days. He looks more comfortable operating the offense, and seems to have a better grasp of what he's trying to do with the football during practice.
Currently listed as the third quarterback on the depth chart, Cook should get ample opportunity to show the coaching staff what he has to offer versus the Cardinals, and his reps are something I'll be playing close attention to.
Friday will be his first game as a professional, and there are no expectations that his performance will be perfect, but hopefully the Michigan State-product can put some quality work on tape, and use it as a building block through the rest of the preseason.
5. Which under-the-radar player will make an impression?
With the Derek Carrs, Khalil Macks, and Amari Coopers of the world not getting an extended run in Arizona, it means that other players on the bottom part of the roster will get a plethora of chances to show what they bring to the table.
Each year it seems like one or two players really make the most of their opportunities in the preseason, and put together a convincing case to make the 53-man roster, and I anticipate the same happening this year.
Will one of the young wide receivers make a bid to be the team's fifth wideout, or will another edge rusher make his presence felt against the Cardinals?
Only time will tell, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on as the team prepares for its first preseason game of 2016.