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5 storylines to watch heading into Raiders/Rams joint practices

The Las Vegas Raiders are in Southern California getting ready for another week of joint practices, this time against the Los Angeles Rams, culminating in their second preseason game of the year at SoFi Stadium on Saturday.

"I think our team has been consistent in terms of their approach," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said Monday via Zoom interview. "Now, we're trying to fine tune some of the details, depending on the phase we're talking about in our game so we can improve. There's a lot of things we saw last night and this morning on the film that we know we can do better, and we're going to need to do better as we go forward.

"We'll be hard at work tomorrow discussing that with our team, and then hopefully we can make some progress here in LA."

Here are five top storylines to follow heading into practice with the Rams.

1. Slingin' O'Connell

After last Sunday, Raider Nation should be excited by Aidan O'Connell.

The rookie quarterback popped off in his first preseason game, going 15-of-18 for 141 yards and a touchdown pass to Keelan Cole Sr. It stood out as one of the best rookie quarterback performances in Week 1 of the preseason. It will be interesting to see if he can keep the momentum going against the Rams and if he gets the chance to start again.

"I thought he generally handled himself well for the first opportunity," McDaniels said of O'Connell's performance Sunday. "He's gonna learn a lot from some of the things that we might have been able to do a little bit better that would have helped us maybe sustain a few drives, but that's why he was in there. He's just a sponge. He soaks it all in, and he'll take every opportunity to improve."

2. Aaron Freakin' Donald

The Raiders offensive line will get some reps against a potential first-ballot Hall of Famer this week.

The Silver and Black will greatly benefit from competing against three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Unbiasedly speaking, Donald has been one of the best defensive players in the league within the 21st century.

With that being said, this Raiders offensive line looks a lot different now than it did in 2021, which was the last time the Raiders had a joint practice against the perennial All-Pro. This will be a great opportunity for young players like Andre James, Alex Bars and Netane Muti to test their skills against elite talent heading into the regular season.

3. Who's on the right side?

Several players are competing for the starting right tackle position, with Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford Jr. leading the way.

Both players saw a lot of action during the 2022 season, and both had impressive showings against the 49ers. Eluemunor got the start and played 16 snaps on the right side, with Munford coming in soon after and seeing 19 snaps. Neither allowed a pressure or a sack in the game.

"Both of them did some good things," McDaniels said. "I thought both of them were challenged. ... [49ers] is a really good front, so they got a decent chunk during the week and then each of them had a handful of drives yesterday in the game too. Some good, some positive, and then a few things that I think our entire tackle group can learn from relative to playing that style of defense.

"I'm pleased with the way they're going about it, they're competing hard. I think they're making one another better, that whole group, and look forward to seeing the challenges that we're going to see this week too."

4. Applying the pressure

It was a great week for the Raiders defensive line that forced Brock Purdy to throw several interceptions in the joint practices and sacked Trey Lance four times on Sunday.

"I thought the defense was really connected tonight for the most part and tried to make the windows as tight as they could, and we were punching and stripping out the ball a little bit," McDaniels said postgame. "That's the way we want to play and that's how we want to force the offense to drive the ball and do it that way."

It will be imperative for the D-line to keep up the energy against the Rams, practicing against Super Bowl-winning quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Silver and Black may also get a lot of looks against 2023 fourth-round pick Stetson Bennett, who won two national championships at Georgia. He finished last Saturday's preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers with 191 passing yards and a touchdown, but was sacked three times.

5. An empty Kupp

According to Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, Cooper Kupp will "more likely than not" miss out on practicing against the Raiders. The All-Pro receiver suffered a hamstring injury earlier in camp.

With LA's elite receiver potentially out, the Raiders secondary will be tested by the likes of TuTu Atwell, Demarcus Robinson and Van Jefferson. Jefferson could be a potential target to lockdown for the Silver and Black defensive backs, if they still remember the game-winning touchdown he caught against them in Week 14 of last season.

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View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Preseason Week 1 victory against the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium.

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