Raiders' Top 10 players to watch vs. Vikings
Second preseason test
The Raiders played a crisp, clean game in last week’s preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams. Head coach Jack Del Rio wants his team to build off that performance in Saturday’s exhibition at the Minnesota Vikings, execute better and continue to stay healthy as they head towards the regular season.
10) WR Brice Butler
The third-year pro doesn’t focus on depth charts, but he’s in a dogfight for a place in an upgraded receiver corps. Butler played well last week, with six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams. He got more second-unit work this week in practice, and could help secure a spot with another productive night.
9) RT Menelik Watson
Watson has played first-team right tackle every practice he’s attended since minicamp, and seems to have a grasp on that starting spot. He wasn’t perfect in last week’s game and missed a few opportunities against the run and pass. Austin Howard remained on the second team, but Watson’s going to have to earn his place with strong shows throughout the preseason.
8) DL Shelby Harris
The second-year pro spent most of last year on the practice squad, but is making a real case to be a rotational defensive lineman. He had a big-time sack on third down against the Rams – with an assist with Khalil Mack –and has made plays in practice. Those efforts must continue to stand out in a group of secondary defensive linemen playing well of late.
7) CB Dexter McDonald
The seventh-round pick plays cornerback in a new Raiders mold. He’s physical, aggressive with the ball in the air and isn’t afraid to make a big hit. McDonald has come on strong over the last week. While he doesn’t rank among the top cornerbacks, he’s a solid prospect worth keeping an eye on as the second progresses.
6) MLB Ben Heeney
The fifth-round pick out of Kansas became a Raider Nation favorite after making eight tackles against the Rams with a max-effort, all-hustle style of play that endeared him to the home crowd. There is room for improvement and, whether he’s active on defense or primarily focuses on special teams during the regular season, Heeney will be fun to watch if he keeps getting better.
5) DL Mario Edwards Jr.
The second-round pick didn’t get off to a great start last week. Head coach Jack Del Rio said earlier this week that Edwards looked a bit overmatched against the Rams. He needs to do better on Saturday and as he progresses through the preseason and earn a functional role in the defense.
4) QB Christian Ponder
Saturday’s game will be an interesting affair for Ponder in his return to Minnesota after being allowed to leave in free agency. The Vikings’ 2011 first-round draft pick expects to get booed, but he’d better perform in an difficult environment to keep hold of the backup quarterback job. He’s been good since last week’s performance against St. Louis, and must continue quality play with third-stringer Matt McGloin barking at his heels.
3) Neiko Thorpe
Thorpe started getting reps as the No. 3 cornerback early this week, and they’ve increased with Keith McGill out the past few practices. It’s hard to see McGill playing Saturday, meaning Thorpe will have a chance to get into the mix with a heavy volume of snaps.
2) Trent Richardson
Richardson was No. 1 on last week’s players to watch. I’d expect him every week during a crucial preseason where the Raiders explore what Richardson has to offer. He has taken significant first-unit snaps in practice, as the Raiders seem to be dialing starter Latavius Murray back to keep him fresh. Richardson should get a bunch of reps against Minnesota. He needs to make the most of them.
1) WR Rod Streater
The fourth-year veteran will play his first game in nearly a year on Saturday, following his first four practices of training camp after being removed from the non-football injury list. The Raiders still expect him to play a major role this season, and solid start to his season would prove he can produce and has lingering chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr.