One year ago, linebacker/defensive end James Cowser was an undrafted rookie about to play in his first preseason game. With the Oakland Raiders set to open the 2017 preseason against the Arizona Cardinals Saturday Night, Cowser reflects on his first preseason experience, and shares why those games are so crucial for young players trying to make an impact.
By James Cowser
The first thing I remember about that first preseason game was how tough it was.
The level of play is about the same you see in practice, but conditioning-wise, it's so hard because you're on all the special teams units, then you have to deal with defense, and then more special teams.
It's exhausting, but you still have to prove what you can do. It's a mental battle. It's a physical battle. It's everything.
I just went in with the mindset of, 'I just have to go play.' I remember the first preseason game went well last year, but the second one was rough, and I didn't even play in the third, and then in the fourth one I played well. I played well, but it was interesting to see how everything changed in those games, you know what I mean? From a great first preseason game, to a decent second one, and then nothing really in the third, but good in the fourth. You have to see the full spectrum of how people see you, how you play, your confidence in yourself; I got the full spectrum in those preseason games.
I still feel like I'm that boat where I have to show something again during the preseason. It's critical, because practice is different, especially for defensive linemen. From a defensive line prospective – maybe even offensive line too – you're not finishing people, you're not finishing tackles. There are a lot of question marks where you have to hold up. Like at the top of your rush, there are times when it comes down to you either bury back into that tackle, give it all you've got, and you end up taking him into the quarterback, or you let off, just because this is our team. From a defensive line standpoint, the preseason is where you can finally let it rip, and you can make those extra dips, you can make that extra push on the offensive tackle, and just kind of show to yourself, show to the coaches, and show to everybody that hey, I did win that rush. You think it the whole time, but now you get to show it.
It's refreshing to go up against somebody else after we've been at camp for so long; it's just refreshing. Finally you get to go up against a guy you haven't been analyzing the past six months. I know exactly – let's say [offensive lineman] Vadal [Alexander] – I know exactly how he's going to set. I know how he's going to push on me, and so if I'm trying to work a different move, I know I might not get the win, but I need to work it anyway, at the same time, he's watching. He knows what I'm going to get. He knows how to set on me if he wants to win, if he wants to win, if he wants to try out new stuff, so finally it's like, alright, I have a new guy. I have someone that I can just give my best, and they're not sitting on it.
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