Wide Receiver Jaydon Mickens
Derek Carr has nothing to worry about this weekend. Neither does Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper or the other Oakland Raiders players who have an ironclad grasp on one of the team's 53 roster spots.
Saturday afternoon, instead of nervously checking their cell phones, they'll likely be going about their business before officially launching into preparation for Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans come Monday. However, for players like Jaydon Mickens, whose fate on the final roster is yet to be determined, Saturday will be a day of waiting, hoping that either the phone does or doesn't ring.
Waiting to find out if your NFL dreams will officially become reality certainly sounds like a high-intensity situation, but after going through this exact same scenario a year ago, Mickens has a positive outlook on the process as a whole.
"For me personally, it's not too stressful," said Mickens. "It's not too nerve-racking, because it's football, and God has a plan. Last year I stressed about it, trying to make the team, and what's going to happen if not, and blah, blah, blah, but I know I'm a good football player. I'm working to be great, and I know I can play at a high level, so that's all I have to worry about is going out there, and putting my best foot forward."
Mickens will get one more shot to leave a lasting impression on the Raiders coaching staff Thursday evening when the Silver and Black conclude the preseason at home against the Seattle Seahawks, and considering a majority of the team's offensive starters likely won't see the field a lot – or at all – the speedy wide out will certainly have his fair share of opportunities to make plays.
Through three games of the preseason, Mickens has been mostly pleased with what he's put out on tape, albeit it with one exception; he hasn't found the end zone.
"Me personally, I try to be a perfectionist at what I do… I need to score more touchdowns," Mickens explained. "I need to get more yards. I need to do better at blocking. I need to get better at catching my points all the way square so I can get a fast burst up-field. I have a lot to work on, but I'm a young guy…. I'm pleased with the effort I put out for the most part."
Now playing in his second NFL preseason – and at just 23 years old – Mickens has a lot of football still in front of him, but that hasn't stopped a crop of rookies asking him to handle the inevitable stresses leading up to the day of roster reduction.
Mickens' advice? Well, it's pretty simple actually.
"I just be real with them," Mickens said. "I'm going to tell them like it is. Some guys are on the bubble of actually getting that potential spot on the roster, depending on how they do in this game, and what they want to see. A lot of guys are playing for practice squad spots."
"I told our guys, 'You want to make the best impression you can for an opportunity here, you also have 31 other teams that are going to evaluate the game tape, and you're making an impression on the league as well," added Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "So I think it's important to put your best foot forward, and we've got a good group of men."
And while at this juncture in the preseason, Mickens knows that there are a plethora of variables out of his control, he's just trying to control the things that he can, and show that he's worthy of one of the 53 coveted spots on the active roster.
"Did you get better from game one to two, two to three, three to four," he posited. "That's what they want to see, and that's what I let them know. It's really simple and plain and to the point. You just have to continue to work."
Headed into Thursday's game, players like Mickens are certainly operating in unique space; while their predominant focus is making the Silver and Black's final roster, like Head Coach Del Rio said, there are also 31 other teams they're potentially trying out for as well.
For Mickens though, he's a Raider until he's told otherwise.
"How I look at [it is] I'm a Raider," he said. "I'm a Raider until whatever happens. I'm just trying to be the best me when I get out there. I'm not going to press or do nothing extra. If it happens, and I reverse field and go to the house, it happens, but I'm just going to do me, and not only are you trying to make the Raiders football club, but you also have to have in the back of your mind that you're trying to make 31 other football teams. This is the first focus, that happens later, so you have to just put your best foot forward, and I'm just excited to play with my teammates because what an opportunity you have."