Raiders' Top 10 players to watch vs. Rams
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The Raiders haven’t played a football game in over eight months. That streak ends on Friday against the St. Louis Rams. The game is an exhibition, so the final score doesn’t matter, but the preseason opener at O.co Coliseum is important for several players fighting for a role with the Silver and Black. Let’s take a look at 10 players to watch through all four quarters...
10) WR Seth Roberts
Roberts spent last season on the practice squad, but has worked his way into first-team reps during training camp. He’s making a solid impression, but has an uphill battle ahead to earn a roster spot in a deep, competitive position group. There’s only one spot open, and Roberts has to fend off others with a solid preseason performance.
9) S Jonathan Dowling
The Raiders’ last seventh-round pick in 2014 has made some physical plays in practice, and head coach Jack Del Rio has kept Dowling under close watch. He’s on the back end of the depth chart at safety, and needs to show he’s better than others with more experience.
8) RB Taiwan Jones
The fifth-year veteran has seen a ton of reps early in his training camp since returning to running back from cornerback. While we won’t see parts of a possible package that would capitalize on Jones’ blazing speed, a steady performance and solid ball security – an issue for Jones in the past – will give coaches confidence to get him more involved.
7) TE Gabe Holmes
The Raiders should be down a few tight ends on Friday. Lee Smith likely won’t play with injury, and it’s uncertain whether University of Miami rookie Clive Walford will suit up after just two days of practice since returning from a hamstring injury. Mychal Rivera should work with the first unit, but a bunch of reps will be left for Holmes, an undrafted rookie who has been active this camp. His fight for a roster spot or practice-squad placement starts Friday.
6) WR Amari Cooper
It’s uncertain how much this year’s No. 4 overall pick will play in the first preseason game. He’s already the team’s top wideout, and won’t stick around longer than the starters. Fans are interested to see Cooper in a game and flash the big-play potential he clearly has. The Raiders should find Cooper early, get him some touches and get him out healthy.
5) QB Christian Ponder
Ponder was brought in to be the backup quarterback, but he’s made some inaccurate throws and ill-advised decisions during training camp. Matt McGloin hasn’t been perfect, either, but he could make the backup quarterback job a real competition unless Ponder picks it up in preseason games.
4) DL Mario Edwards Jr.
Edwards Jr. has flashed potential during camp, and could be a heavy contributor as a run stuffer and an interior pass rusher in sub packages. We’ve heard not to trust his college tape now that he’s 30 pounds lighter. Watching Edwards live will be a good chance to gauge his progress with roughly a month left before the regular season starts.
3) KR/PR Trindon Holliday
The Raiders have openings when it comes to returning punts and kicks. Holliday could fill both roles as a specialist, which will be his way to make the 53-man roster. He should get some attempts in the exhibition opener. Ball security and solid returns could help his standing on this roster.
2) CB Keith McGill
The second-year pro out of Utah has been running with the first unit despite precious little game experience on defense. McGill has just one start to his name – the season finale vs. Denver, where he played well – and could increase his standing among young Raiders cornerbacks with a strong showing in the early going. He might not play much, but could make a quick impact.
1) RB Trent Richardson
Richardson should see significant touches while the Raiders figure out whether he’s worthy of a role on this team. His performance in camp has been mixed, though game action is where a running back’s true colors come out. Latavius Murray shouldn’t see much action and Roy Helu is hurt, so Richardson should have a chance to get in a rhythm.