Raekwon McMillan vs. Lynn Bowden Jr.
Throw out the casual "just another game" responses you hear from players facing their former team. Both players have something to prove Saturday.
After two seasons with the Dolphins, McMillan was traded to Las Vegas with a 2021 fifth-round pick for a 2021 fourth-round pick. The Dolphins would then trade back the pick they acquired from the Raiders for Lynn Bowden Jr., the 2019 Paul Hornung award winner and 2020 third-round pick by the Raiders.
McMillan, who was brought to the Raiders to bolster the run defense, will see plenty of snaps against his former team after Nick Kwiatkoski was placed on the COVID/reserve list Wednesday. He's also coming off his best game in Silver and Black with five tackles and a forced fumble.
"It's a lot of familiar faces, but it's just another game," said McMillan. "Of course I'm going to be excited to see those guys, and play against them and compete with them – it's going to be good to see them, but I'm ready to compete and try and get a win.
Bowden has also started to become more of a focal point of the Dolphins offense with 13 catches for 119 yards over the span of his past two games.
"Well, he's got to play because they've had some injuries, and obviously they're using him in the slot," Coach Gruden said of his former player. "They're using some gadget plays, and we'll see if we see Lynn.
"I'm happy for him. I'm glad he found a role."
A QB duel in the desert
A week after facing rookie sensation Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers, the Silver and Black will be competing against the young man who was selected a pick before Herbert.
The Raiders turn their attention to 2020 first-round pick and NCAA championship-winning quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Since taking over as starting quarterback for the Dolphins in Week 6, Tagovailoa has played exceptional, poised football for the young Dolphins, with a 5-2 record as a starter this season. He's also thrown for more than 1,300 passing yards with a 9:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
"He's a very talented, calm, cool, accurate, quick-arm passer," said Coach Gruden. "He's tough, man. He's tough. He's got surprising mobility. I don't think people realize he can keep the ball on his own where he can do some damage."
Derek Carr is trending upward in his availability for Saturday's game after suffering a groin injury against the Chargers. He was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. Barring any setbacks he should be ready for his showdown against Tua, however they'll make sure that Marcus Mariota is prepared for any action as well, after his stellar performance last week in the absence of Carr.
"I didn't want to get hurt for it to have to happen, but I was happy to see (Marcus Mariota) play and have success if I'm being honest," said Derek Carr. "Because I know he had a long year with certain things that happened in Tennessee and with injuries and all of that kind of stuff, and I saw it on his face every day. He just kept grinding and all of that. I'm not going to lie to you, I was really happy for him as a man and as a supporter and as a quarterback because this game is tough, and sometimes we go through things. So, to see him get the ability to lead our team, it was awesome. I was really happy for him."
"I'm feeling great, but I don't know. We'll see. I took some reps, Marcus, Nate, Hunter, Zay, we all took turns at quarterback today. So, we'll see."
The present vs. the future of the tight end
Darren Waller has done more than enough to prove that he is an elite tight end in this league. This year No. 83 has let his play do the talking for him this year, as he's on the verge of a 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards on his way to his first Pro Bowl.
"Going against the grain and doing a lot of things that other people might not be doing, that's what's helped me get to this place today," said Waller after being selected for the 2021 Pro Bowl. "It's definitely an honor [being selected] because you can't trick those guys that are in the trenches with you."
Mike Gesicki, the Miami Dolphins tight end, is currently in the same spot that Waller once was in of being a great tight end still trying to prove himself to the masses. Gesicki may not yet be mentioned among the elite tight ends in the league but the way he's played this year puts him in consideration.
The third-year player out of Penn State has played the best football of his career this season, leading the team in receiving touchdowns (six) and second in receiving yards (602) and receptions (44). This game could be big for Gesicki in giving him a primetime platform to prove that he's on Waller's level.
Check into Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center for another day of practice as the Silver and Black prepare for their Week 16 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.