Two weeks into training camp and now the time has come for the Oakland Raiders to return to the football field. This Saturday night, the Raiders travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals in week one of the preseason campaign.
Coming off their best season in over a decade, “Raider Nation” has plenty to be optimistic about. The return of quarterback Derek Carr, the addition of veteran running back Marshawn Lynch, the fast receiving corps of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and an impressive offensive line has the Raiders as one of the best offenses on paper. Their defense has been beefed up as well as they have sack leader Khalil Mack, Justin Ellis and Mario Edwards Jr. on the defensive line. Powerhouses Bruce Irvin, Nicholas Morrow and Corey James anchor the linebacker position. Oakland’s secondary is a mix of a fast veteran presence with Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, David Amerson and Keith McGill II. They also have promising second year safety Karl Joseph.
“I feel good about our team. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I feel good heading into the preseason,” said Head Coach Jack Del Rio.
One glaring absence from training camp in Napa this past week was Pro Bowl tackle, Donald Penn. He has been a holdout from camp this season and as of Thursday, he has not yet reported to the team. Del Rio was not fielding questions about Penn on Tuesday.
Saturday’s preseason opener will feature young Raiders and give fans a firsthand look at some of their rookies including running back Elijah Hood.
Hood played his college football at University of North Carolina and was a seventh round draft choice by the Raiders back in April.
“It was a surreal experience being drafted. This is a legendary franchise and I am ready to play for them,” said Hood.
He realizes he has many hurdles to jump through to make the team’s 53 man roster come Sept. 2.
“We have a deep roster, especially at the running back position. With Marshawn (Lynch), DeAndre (Washington) and Jalen (Richard) it will be tough but I am a positive guy and will work on every aspect of the game. Special teams is a big part of making this team and I know that,” Hood added.
The 242nd pick in this year’s draft will likely see a large volume of carries throughout the preseason.
First round draft pick Gareon Conley is a question mark for Saturday night, as he has been placed on the Active/Physically Unable To Perform list.
Another interesting camp battle to keep an eye on is who will be the team’s backup quarterback to Derek Carr. Second year man Connor Cook played in the absence of Carr last season and completed 14 of 21 passes, with one touchdown and one interception in his lone regular season start, a 24-6 road loss to Denver in week 17. Cook also played in the team’s 27-14 road playoff loss, completing 18 of 45 passes with one touchdown and three interceptions. This offseason the Raiders signed veteran quarterback EJ Manuel to the roster to add to the depth chart. No word as of Thursday on who will start the game under center for Oakland.