As the Raiders completed their exhibition season Thursday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, coach Jon Gruden, general manager Mike Mayock and his staff got one last chance to evaluate players who may or may not make the 53-man roster.
And pretty much anyone who was on the field against the Seattle Seahawks was competing for a job. The Raiders suited up fewer than 50 players out of 90 on the roster. Many players didn’t even make the trip and in all, 46 did not play.
The Seahawks won 17-15, with the Raiders limited to Daniel Carlson field goals of 43, 20 and 23 yards and a 3-yard touchdown run by James Butler with 1:43 left. The Raiders (3-1) mercifully failed in their attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion.
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) August 30, 2019
Next up will be trimming the roster from 90 to 53 by Saturday, then determining which players if any are going on injured reserve and comprising a practice squad.
“We’ve got to sit down as a staff,” Gruden told reporters after the game. “Certainly Mike and will do that on the way home, and go from there.”
Then it’s time to start serious preparations to host the Denver Broncos in Week 1 at the Coliseum.
With all the practices and walkthroughs, the following questions remain unanswered. Some will be answered soon, others await actual games that count in the standings. Here are the most important ones:
Are Derek Carr and Antonio Brown in sync?
Brown missed most of training camp. Gruden said Brown kept up via I-pad and technology, which isn’t the same as running routes and catching passes. Yes, Carr and and Brown got in plenty of work in the off-season, but it’s not the same.
Brown is used to starting fast. In the last four seasons, Brown has 37 Week 1 receptions for 534 yards and four touchdowns. That’s an average of nine catches for 133 yards and a score. Carr needs to pick up where Roethlisberger left off and get the duo off to a good start.
The duo stayed behind rather than get in some pregame work on a rainy field.
Who will open at guard?
The Raiders have known since July 12 they’d be without Richie Incognito, the 34-year-old left guard who signed as a free agent and will begin serving a two-week suspension Monday. They’ve known since Aug. 8 they would be without Gabe Jackson for approximately a quarter of the season and perhaps more. Jackson had an MCL strain in the seocnd of two scrimmages against the Rams.
Jordan Devey, a free agent guard and center, got first crack at right guard, with Johnathan Cooper on the left. Cooper was signed after Denzelle Good had off-season back surgery. The two starters are expected to come from those three players.
The Raiders started Cooper on the right side against Seattle, with undrafted rookie free agent Lester Cotton Sr. — a likely practice squad candidate — starting on the left side.
Who will provide an an edge rush?
Rookie first-round draft pick Clelin Ferrell and second-year man Arden Key both sat out against Seattle. So did Maxx Crosby, the rookie fourth round pick who may or may not be able to play after breaking a hand in the first exhibition game against the Rams.
Key had a single sack as a rookie last season. Ferrell and Crosby are both rookies. It’s not an ideal scenario.
The question is whether the Raiders can generate enough interior pressure to free up the youngsters to come free from the outside.
Josh Mauro, who hadn’t played because of a hamstring issue, saw his first action against Seattle. He’s an end who’s been listed as first team throughout camp, but his strength is defending the run.
“He hadn’t played at all. Needed to get him on the field, get him back in rhythm, back in playing shape,” Gruden said. “Made some plays tonight. Excited about that.”
How will the Raiders cover right ends?
It’s been a problem seemingly forever with the Raiders. The plan is to team rookie Johnathan Abram with Karl Joseph on the back end, neither of whom measure up in stature to the likes of Travis Kelce and others. The same goes for 5-foot-9 slot corner Lamarcus Joyner, who will most often be in the middle of the field.
None played against Seattle.
Brandon Marshall, an undrafted free agent from Denver, comes with the reputation of being good in coverage. He’s coming off a knee injury, played extensively against Green Bay but sat it out against Seattle. That could be an indication the Raiders are satisfied Marshall has recovered fully.
It’s at least a little concerning that tight end Darren Waller looked so good during training camp against he Raiders defense.
Which undrafted rookies have the best chance?
Punter A.J. Cole is a lock, even with a dropped punt snap against Seattle. Keisean Nixon didn’t suit up against the Seahawks, an indication he may have a spot locked up. Wide receiver Keelan Doss played against Seattle and remains a hometown favorite, having grownup in Alameda. He dropped two passes but caught six others for 63 yards.
Incumbent Keith Smith started at fullback ahead of Alec Ingold, the undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin. Anthony Rush started against Seattle, with second-year player P.J. Hall and veteran Ethan Westbrooks also playing indicating the trio were still in competition.
Combined with the draft class, the infusion of youth on the roster should be considerable.
“We might have 12, 13, 14 rookies wearing the silver and black this year,” Gruden said. “We had to develop young players. I compliment our coaches and our players for working hard to make that happen.”
Glennon or Peterman?
Mike Glennon was 9 of 13 for 78 yards and led the Raiders to a field goal in the first half before giving way to Peterman. With Peterman getting most of the work, it’s likely a clue the job as Derek Carr’s backup belongs to Glennon.
Gruden said he hadn’t made up his mind. Even if he has, no way he was going to say it at the podium before talking to Glennon and Peterman. He attributed red zone failures against Seattle to a minimal play sheet.
“I thought both quarterbacks moved the rock and put our team in position to score and took care of the ball,” Gruden said.
Don’t rule out Gruden keeping three quarterbacks, especially if he and Mayock believes Peterman will clear waivers and be available for the practice squad.
Who was available vs. Seattle?
If you believe those who suited up against Seattle have reason to be ill at ease, some the those who were available on defense against Seattle: Defensive tackle P.J. Hall, linebacker Kyle Wilber, linebacker Jason Cabinda, cornerback Nick Nelson and safeties Erik Harris, Curtis Riley and Jordan Richards.
Wilber, who was a special teams captain, had a first half-sack of Geno Smith against the Seahawks.
On offense, wide receiver Marcell Ateman and tight end Luke Wilson, Paul Butler and Brandon Barnes were all suited up.