GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Raiders haven’t practiced much between last Saturday's preseason opener and Thursday’s second showing at Arizona. They had one full session and some walkthroughs, but progress and production still are expected from a group firmly on the roster bubble as we work through the preseason.
Head coach Jon Gruden said some veteran starters will play against the Cardinals, though probably not much. That includes one prominent player on this list of six to keep an eye on during this preseason contest against the Cardinals.
QB Derek Carr
The team’s starting quarterback should play a little bit here in Arizona, but it might look more like a cameo than a prolonged stretch. Every throw will be overly scrutinized, as Carr’s efforts always are, but it’ll show whether he has found sync with receivers not named Antonio Brown.
He has developed chemistry with Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson and, if Carr’s going to play, it only makes sense that the first-team offensive line and prominent skill players join him.
Carr told NBC Sports Bay Area that he’s quarterbacking as well as he ever has in this training camp. A solid, short performance should build momentum through the preseason and help him prep for what should be a big year for No. 4.
DT Anthony Rush
The undrafted defensive tackle, who wasn’t signed until training camp, has really impressed since joining the interior rotation. He had three tackles in the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, and every tackle was either for a loss or no gain.
He’s pushing hard for a roster spot inside, and P.J. Hall’s is vulnerable after struggling to stay healthy and perform well in training camp. Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins and Justin Ellis are roster locks. Ethan Westbrooks has a leg up on another spot, and Rush could fit into a fifth tackle spot if they keep that many interior guys. If the Raiders only keep four, then Rush, Hall and Westbrooks will battle for the final opening.
Rush has a real shot a job if he continues to shine.
“Anthony Rush is a 340-pound guy that really took advantage of his snaps [against the Rams],” Gruden said. “He’s only been here eight or nine days. Caused some tackles for loss, made a couple of plays and pushed the pocket pretty good. We like him. We’re going to try to keep working him into great shape and looking forward to see him play here against Arizona.”
WR Ryan Grant
The veteran receiver was largely invisible in camp’s early stretch, outshined by rookie slot man Hunter Renfrow and other talented rookies. Then Grant showed up in the Rams game, reminding everyone he can be a smooth, reliable receiver able to contribute to a talented receiver corps.
Finding a roster spot might be more of a challenge than originally expected, but Gruden likes him. Gruden’s brother loved working with Grant in Washington, and that’s a point in his favor.
Grant must continue to produce in these preseason games to fight for a roster spot against several quality options of varied skill sets.
S Curtis Riley
The veteran has worked behind the three top safeties options most of camp. Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph and Erik Harris seems to have roles locked up, but Riley has experience playing deep and has the veteran knowledge Gruden likes in that spot. He started alongside Abram in the Rams game -- Joseph was held out to preserve health -- and received some first team reps with Joseph this week.
He must convince the Raiders to keep four safeties, something that seems unlikely considering slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is an excellent safety, but don’t count the former New York Giant out just yet. Solid games could keep him in the mix this summer.
OLs Denver Kirkland and Jordan Devey
The Raiders must survive the first quarter of the season at least without Gabe Jackson, who injured his knee during joint practices against the Rams.
Gruden said Devey has the first crack at that right guard spot, though Kirkland’s auditioning for that role as well. Devey will be a super sub at guard and center and thus should have a roster spot secured, but Gruden must feel comfortable with him or Kirkland at the right guard position moving forward. Solid performances at right guard from one or both of those guys would keep general manager Mike Mayock’s eyes from wandering to the waiver wire or street free agents for Jackson’s stand-in.