With Thursday's practice in the books, the next time the Oakland Raiders take the field will be Saturday night at University of Stadium in Phoenix.
Saturday's bout with the Arizona Cardinals will be the first time the Silver and Black have played a meaningful game since the Wild Card Round of last year's playoffs, and after a few weeks of training camp, excitement is understandably high to square off against someone not wearing silver or black.
The four weeks of the preseason serve as a dress rehearsal for the 16-game, regular season, even if a few, major players likely won't see a ton of time against the Cardinals; although, Head Coach Jack Del Rio didn't close the door on anything, as he wouldn't disclose who would or would not play Saturday night.
"We haven't really settled on what we're going to do with reps across the way," said Del Rio Thursday afternoon. "We don't typically play the front line a great deal in the first game. We'll see when we get there."
To be fair though, in recent years, it has become more the exception than the rule for a team to have its marquee players see extensive time in the opening week of the preseason.
However, even though the Derek Carr's, Khalil Mack's, Amari Cooper's, and Kelechi Osemele's of the world don't see a ton of reps during the preseason, the time they do get on the field is invaluable in getting their bodies right for Week 1 when the games start to mean something.
"Every rep that you get is valuable," Kelechi Osemele said. "A lot of what we do is muscle memory, so the more you're in there with the guys you're going to be working with, it's exponentially important as the season goes on, because right now you can't really overload on reps. You need to be fresh for the season."
And even the times when Osemele and the rest of his running mates on the Raiders starting offensive line aren't in the game, they're still gaining valuable insight by watching their teammates at work.
"You need to able to put the young guys in for them to grow, and then also get the mental rep when they're in there, and you're not getting that look," Osemele explained. "Everything, every step that we take, everything that we do, every play, it's valuable, because that's the gelling of the offensive line, that's the timing with the quarterback and the receivers, and that's mental reps when you're not physically out there on the field, you're watching. You're still getting that rep. You're still getting something out of that."
The benefit of the preseason for teams is two pronged; not only does it allow for their starters to ease back into live action, it also provides a great opportunity for coaching staffs across the NFL to further evaluate the talent a little further down the roster.
And for those players in particular, a strong preseason can be the difference in whether or not they make the team.
As far as Osemele is concerned, he has two, young lineman specifically that he's looking forward to watching develop over the next month.
"I'd say Vadal Alexander," Osemele said when asked about players he's keeping an eye on. "He started early in . I think he started at right tackle. He got some playing time in the Kansas City game versus the Chiefs when I was out. I think he's a really talented player. I think he has a lot of room to grow. He's physical. He's strong, and it's just one of those things where he has to gain confidence, and get real game reps, and have some time playing the same position.
The other player? Denver Kirkland.
"I'm really interested to see how he's going to play when he gets out there on Saturday, and in the next weeks coming after that," Osemele said.
The Silver and Black fly to Arizona Friday, and kickoff Saturday against the Cardinals is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT.
-Before Thursday's practice got underway, Derek Carr made a lot of people's days, running over to the assembled crowd of fans, and hosting an impromptu autograph session. No. 4 signed for a little over five minutes before jogging back onto the practice field, and getting to work.
-Offensive lineman Jon Feliciano made his training camp debut Thursday afternoon. The versatile lineman began Training Camp 2017 on the active/physically unable to perform list, so seeing him back on the field was a welcome sight.
-Punter Marquette King thrives on energy, and he got pretty fired up Thursday afternoon after executing an impressive punt that pinned the defense back deep in their own territory. The #KickSquad President has become one of the more entertaining characters in the NFL, and it was good to see him having some fun out on the practice field.
-With an impressive Training Camp 2017, it seems like K.J. Brent finds himself in the practice notebook every day, and Thursday was no exception to that trend. Brent hauled in a difficult catch in traffic during a seven-on-seven session, and he's one player in particular who I'm excited to see Saturday night against the Cardinals.
-Brent wasn't the only wideout getting involved in the fun either, as Keon Hatcher hauled in a pretty pass from EJ Manuel during an 11-on-11 drill.
-Cornerback Chris Humes made a little noise Thursday, nearly securing an interception when the team was scrimmaging. Humes is a player who has been solid this training camp; be sure to keep an eye on him throughout the preseason.
Song Of The Day:
"Really Really" – Kevin Gates
After nearly three weeks of training camp, I'm really really ready for a game.
"We do have Arizona this week. (laughter) We look forward to competing with them (the Cowboys) in a couple of weeks. That one caught me off guard." (laughter)
-Head Coach Jack Del Rio when asked about his team's matchup with the Dallas Cowboys…. In two weeks.
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