Ten players to watch in Raiders' exhibition finale vs Seahawks
The Raiders' preseason comes to a close on Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks, a moment that will be honored with a shrug. Starters won’t be playing in this one in an attempt to preserve health for the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 at New Orleans. This 53-man roster is mostly set heading toward cut-down day, though the remaining decisions are difficult...
10) OL Vadal Alexander
This year’s seventh-round pick sits squarely on the roster bubble despite some solid showings in camp. He has versatility to play guard or tackle, with the size and strength required to play at the NFL level. He just happens to play a position where the Raiders are deep, and a quality finish to the preseason should cement the decision to keep Alexander on the 53-man roster.
9) S Dewey McDonald
McDonald spent the offseason program and the start of training camp as the No. 2 strong safety. Then he played against Arizona, and fell behind Keith McGill for good. The tumble put his roster spot in serious doubt, though he has some practice squad eligibility left, and could end up there if he can rebound and play better in games that he has thus far.
8) S Brynden Trawick
The veteran safety was signed to contribute on special teams, and he’s done that well this preseason with solid kick coverage and a blocked punt. Playing solid defense against Seattle could only help secure a roster spot he has a grip on playing for a team that values special teams contributors. Trawick could be a leader on coverage units, bringing experience to groups often filled with young players.
7) CB Dexter McDonald
McDonald is fighting to be the team’s No. 5 cornerback, and has played well in the defensive snaps he has received. He’ll get a bunch more on Thursday night, possibly the lion’s share in the secondary. Taking advantage of them, especially with his competitors on the field, is vital to his quest of making the roster and working his way into a contributor’s role. He was on the roster last year but active for but a handful of games, and certainly wants to do more in 2016.
6) CB Neiko Thorpe
The veteran has been a Raider since 2014 and wants to remain one despite stiff competition in an upgraded cornerback corps. The Raiders valued him enough to offer a second-round restricted free agent tender, though Thorpe took a pay cut this summer and now might not make the squad. Some big plays might sway minds or secure decisions of those who think Thorpe should stick around.
5) WR K.J. Brent
The Wake Forest alum has come on strong late in camp, producing with a smooth style that features quality routes and an ability to bring down tough catches. Johnny Holton remains the frontrunner to earn the No. 5 receiver job, through Brent should be in line for a practice squad spot at worst. Despite solid practices he only has 3 catches for 54 yards, all in Saturday’s loss to Tennessee. That was his only extended stretch, but he’ll surely get plenty of opportunities on Thursday to show what he can do.
4) WR Johnny Holton
Holton has become a fan favorite this preseason after some impressive training camp practices backed up with game performance on Saturday. Holton has shown an ability to contribute on offense and special teams – a huge point in his favor – with great speed and shiftiness after the catch. The Raiders like this improved player fighting to make the team and contribute in the regular season.
3) DT Darius Latham
The undrafted rookie from Indiana seems to have a grasp on a roster spot, though it isn’t secure and one more big push on the defensive line could help him do that. Latham could be an immediate part of the rotation up front, and must continue to inspire confidence to be given important snaps in games that matter. He must continue solid play, especially against the run to force the coaches hand to keep him on the roster and off the waiver wire where other teams could steal him on cut-down day.
2) DE/LB James Cowser
The Southern Utah product was cruising through the preseason until he didn’t play a defensive snap on Saturday against Tennessee. That could be a move designed to stash him on the practice squad, or to truly see what others have to offer. He has been a second-unit edge rusher most of this preseason, working at a spot where he’d be a fourth body. If he gets steady reps on Thursday might, getting to the quarterback is essential for someone on the roster bubble.
1) Connor Cook
The rookie fourth-round pick will play most of Thursday’s game, which could be the final snaps taken this year. Cook has made some strides this preseason, but needs development that game action can accelerate. He won’t see many reps even in practice, so a solid showing could be a confidence boost that carries him through the season. This extended stretch should help Cook find a rhythm and give the Raiders an idea of how much he has learned this spring and summer.