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5 things to watch: Raiders vs. Packers

Updated August 23, 2018 - 7:18 pm

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Raiders’ last exhibition produced a strange workday for quarterback Derek Carr.

No uniform. No throws in warmups. No game snaps.

“It was weird to actually go to the stadium and not do anything,” said Carr, who watched Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams in shorts and a T-shirt. “I’m not going to try and get used to that anytime soon.”

Carr is expected to see actual work Friday evening against the Green Bay Packers. Coach Jon Gruden said that he anticipates his starters will play into the second quarter. This represents the most significant action of the preseason for the top units, which is fairly common for a team’s third exhibition; it is often referred to as a regular-season “dress rehearsal.”

No starters are likely to play next Thursday at the Seattle Seahawks.

The Packers apparently will take a different approach Friday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers reportedly will be among the offensive starters not to appear in the game.

Here are five things to watch.

1 All right, Penn

The Raiders are expected to enter the season with rookie Kolton Miller at left tackle and veteran Donald Penn at right.

For the latter, this matchup will be a litmus test.

Penn missed the entire spring while recovering from a right-foot Lisfranc fracture he suffered last December. On Aug. 14, he finally returned to practice. He’s since worked exclusively at right tackle after having spent nearly his entire NFL career on the left side.

Perhaps no starter needs Friday’s exhibition more than Penn.

The 35-year-old is still working to get into football shape while four-quarter assignment on Sept. 10 versus the Rams looms.

“The big thing we just want to see is some progress in his conditioning,” Gruden said. “We want to see progress in Kolton Miller and our entire offense, honestly. It’s been a while since they played. (The Detroit Lions game on Aug. 10) seems like a long time ago.”

2 Slot wide receiver

Someone has to seize this spot sometime.

The Raiders pride themselves on developing versatility from their receivers, teaching them to play multiple positions to diversify how they attack opponents over the course of a season. They trust Amari Cooper. They trust Jordy Nelson. They want someone who can entrench himself as the No. 3 option behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson.

Seth Roberts missed the first two exhibitions after a concussion earlier this month. He is expected to make his preseason debut Friday. Martavis Bryant has dealt with inconsistency rooted in his practices and overall grasp of Gruden’s scheme. The Raiders are looking for either to emerge.

Ryan Switzer and Griff Whalen also are competing as slot options.

3 Special teams

Anyone looking to piece together the Sept. 1 makeup of the Raiders’ 53-man roster should not underestimate Rich Bisaccia’s influence on it.

The special teams coordinator oversees a unit with a new kicker, new punter, new long snapper, new kick returner and new punt returner in 2018. Now, his eyes are on piecing together protection and coverage teams that can round out his units.

Some attention should be on Bisaccia’s flyers in punt coverage.

Wide receiver Johnny Holton is expected to occupy one spot. Friday will reveal the possible favorite for the other. Cornerback Shareece Wright received a look against the Rams, but he exited with an untimely hamstring injury and has yet to practice since. The team signed cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Wednesday.

Wide receiver Dwayne Harris is a capable option; however, in a deep group of wide receivers, it’s unclear if that is enough to warrant a roster spot.

4 More from Arden

Arden Key got his feet wet Saturday in his preseason debut.

He is building toward a splash.

The Raiders hope defensive end Khalil Mack will rejoin the team in time for Week 1. In case he surprises and doesn’t, Key must be prepared for significant snaps versus the Rams. The third-round pick and former LSU defensive end rushed the quarterback only eight times last weekend, seven of which were on third down.

A heavier workload is expected to be placed on his plate Friday.

Arden missed the preseason opener against Detroit to an ankle sprain.

5 Medical

Carr could throw two interceptions. Running back Marshawn Lynch could fumble twice. Linebacker Bruce Irvin could miss every tackle and cornerback Gareon Conley could allow long scores.

Fine. So be it.

Just get out healthy.

With the starters seeing more snaps, the most important development to come from Friday’s tilt with Green Bay is the simplest: avoid injury. Overall, the team has done well in this area thus far. Gruden will maneuver his way through the first half when balancing the importance of preparing and protecting players for the regular season.

If all goes well, head athletic trainer H. Rod Martin and his staff will see as little action as Carr did Saturday in Los Angeles.

More Raiders: Follow all of our Raiders coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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