SEATTLE – The NFL preseason’s end is generally cause for celebration. The exhibition season is largely fruitless, with games devoid of star talent and quality play.
We’re finally ready to move on to games that count, and that’s a good thing for most.
Not for Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who has some tough choices and conversations ahead before Saturday’s roster cuts.
“This is all pretty emotional, really. You hate to the see the preseason end,” Gruden said after Thursday’s 17-15 loss to Seattle at CenturyLink Field. “We’re excited about the regular season, but what we have in store with these cuts is very, very hard. You get attached to these guys. I really like this team. We have some tough decisions to make.”
The Raiders have more qualified candidates than roster spots available, meaning some solid players will hit the waiver wire on Saturday afternoon.
Making choices at receiver and defensive tackle should be particularly challenging. Gruden has to declare position battle victors at fullback and guard and cornerback, with other choices already made.
Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock will start sorting out final issues to form the 53-man roster, with an eye on the waiver wire and an understanding that more turnover is in the cards this week.
“We’re not just evaluating our players. We’re evaluating players from around the league,” Gruden said. “…I’m not going to speculate here at the podium. We have to look at the tape and we have to sit down as a staff. Certainly Mike and I will do that on the way home and go from there.”
While most preseason headlines followed Antonio Brown’s feet and helmet issues, the Raiders progressed steadily during a productive training camp and preseason. Gruden didn’t play impact players much in games – only a few played the last two weeks – but the Silver and Black got better and grew together as a squad.
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“Getting out of the preseason healthy was a big goal we had,” Gruden said. “We got a lot accomplished on the practice field. We had a good few days against the Rams [in joint practices]. We saw the emergence of some young players. Our draft picks, and several players who weren’t drafted have a chance to make this team. We might have 12, 13, 14 rookies wearing the silver and black this year. We had to develop young players. I compliment the coaches and players for making that happen.”