Raiders vs. Cowboys: 5 things to watch for Saturday night’s preseason game

Updated August 25, 2017 - 5:38 pm

ARLINGTON, Texas — The past can foreshadow the future.

In 2015, Jack Del Rio oversaw his first preseason as Raiders head coach. He played his starters extensively in the third exhibition. Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree did not appear in the second half, but quarterback Derek Carr and the starting offensive line handled the opening third-quarter series.

In 2016, Del Rio again played many of his starters into the second half. As before, Cooper and Crabtree did not join Carr and the offensive line for it.

This is where Saturday’s expectations should begin. Carr is expected see his most action of the preseason when the Raiders face the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

If the past is any indicator, his evening won’t end at halftime. The same cannot be said for position players such as Cooper, Crabtree and running back Marshawn Lynch.

Here are five things to watch.

The venue

Since its 2009 opening, AT&T Stadium has been a crown jewel among the newest generation of NFL venues. It is multipurpose. It was built with the assistance of public money. And it is a revenue maker, substantially increasing local margins for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

For the Raiders, it’s a preview. The organization doesn’t have a state-of-the-art venue to call home yet. Of course, one is coming, a Las Vegas site currently scheduled to open in time for the 2020 season. Saturday’s venue will provide a glimpse of what’s to come.

AT&T Stadium carried a $1.2 billion cost. It seats 80,000, can expand to 105,000 with standing room, and features a 175-foot scoreboard, which stretches below a retractable roof and over the field of play.

The future home of the Raiders will be domed and seat about 65,000. At a projected cost of roughly $1.9 billion, it shouldn’t lack for extravagance, either.

Donald Penn

The past suggests the entire Raiders O-line will play into the second half. Donald Penn is the obvious exception, unlikely to see the second quarter.

The left tackle has logged just two practices since he ended his holdout Wednesday. And the second of those was about as light and slow-placed as they come. Del Rio said Thursday that Penn will appear against Dallas but be eased into action.

The intrigue surrounding Penn isn’t how much he plays. It’s how well.

The 34-year-old is considered a pro, someone who knows how to prepare his body, even while away from the team. He has never missed a regular-season game with starts in 156 of 160 contests.

Still, a layoff is a layoff.

Penn needs to capitalize of these next couple weeks, as he looks to handle a full workload in the Raiders’ Sept. 10 season opener against the Titans. In the process, with his play, Penn can deliver the Raiders reminder as to why he believes he’s worth more than the $5.8 million salary he is set to earn in 2017.

Third-down defense

Yes, it’s just the preseason.

Still, they want to see better execution from their defense. That includes on third down.

Oakland has offered little third-down (or overall) resistance thus far. In the exhibition opener, the Cardinals converted 13 of 19 third downs. Last Saturday, Los Angeles Rams converted eight of 15. The unit looks to clean up its play.

In both of their exhibitions so far, the Raiders allowed 17 points in the opening four possessions. That includes a touchdown in the opening series.

“I think last week was a lot of little things that guys weren’t being detailed on, and it ended up costing us,” cornerback David Amerson said. “We just want to go out there before the season starts — luckily, it’s preseason, and that’s what you play these games for — but we want to go out there in the next game and eliminate all of the mental errors.

“It’s one thing if a guy just beats you off a good route or things like that, but when you have little mistakes like your eyes not being in the right place, you’re beating yourself. You want to eliminate those.

Second-round pick

Penn’s debut isn’t the only one Saturday. Rookie safety Obi Melifonwu will make his first NFL appearance after missing much of camp to an apparent ankle injury. His role to begin the season largely will focus on special teams, so he’ll look to build a rhythm there while acclimating on defense.

Over time, Melifonwu’s defensive role should increase. The Raiders hope the second-round pick from Connecticut can develop into an early difference maker against tight ends. His combination of speed and a 6-foot-3, 247-pound frame stands out on paper.

Undrafted rookie class

There have been flashes. There’s been Nicholas Marrow, a Division III prospect from Greenville College whose athleticism has led to work as a dime linebacker. There’s been wide receiver Keon Hatcher, who showed coverage and situational recognition last Saturday when getting open at will in the fourth quarter. There have been others like cornerback Breon Borders who had solid training camps.

There isn’t much time left for the Raiders’ undrafted rookies, as they vie for either a spot on the roster or 10-man practice squad. Six days separate this game from Thursday’s preseason finale against the Seahawks. Then, the team will begin reducing its roster from 90 to 53 players.

Final impressions start now.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

Raiders Videos
Las Vegas Morning Update — Sunday, July 8
The Raiders team is secretive about tickets, and the new Miss Nevada is Alexis Hilts.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Analysis of Raiders Stadium Construction Site
Review-Journal sports reporter Ed Graney and business reporter Rick Velotta go over the recent updates on the Raiders stadium and owner Mark Davis serving food to construction workers.
Las Vegas Morning Update - Friday, June 29, 2018
The Resort on Mount Charleston has sold, Raiders owner Mark Davis throws a barbecue, and a Las Vegas woman found dead was a police informant.
Vegas Nation: Gruden Gives "Final Exams"
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over the Raiders improvement throughout training and how Gruden has been pushing the Raiders.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Deciding On Opening Day Kicker
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken and Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney go over he Raiders choosing an opening day kicker and Doug Martin's potential.
Vegas Nation: Mandatory Mini Camp
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond, Raiders beat writer Micheal Gehlken and Review-Journal sports writer Ed Graney go over day one of the Raiders mini camp.
Vegas Nation: Derrick Johnson standing out at OTAs
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over the Raiders OTAs and how the team is adjusting to new coaching style of head coach Jon Gruden.
Vegas Nation: Week Two Of OTA's
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over the start of week two of the Raiders OTA's.
Vegas Nation: NFL Owners Meeting Day 2
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Review-Journal sports writer Gilbert Manzano go over the NFL owners meeting.
Las Vegas Stadium construction site drone footage
The Raiders set up a drone at the Las Vegas Stadium construction site on May 20, 2018.
Las Vegas Stadium Milestones
Las Vegas Stadium Milestones as of May 16, 2018.
Vegas Nation: NFL Owners Meeting Day 1
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Review-Journal sports writer Gilbert Manzano go over the NFL owners meeting.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Participate In First Day Of Practice
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over the Raiders first day of practice.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Minicamp
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over the Raiders minicamp and questions surrounding the Raiders picking defensive lineman Maurice Hurst from Michigan.
P.J. Hall, Maurice Hurst and Jon Gruden Talk About Mini Camp
P.J. Hall, Maurice Hurst and Jon Gruden go over the Raiders Mini camp.
Reggie McKenzie On Final Day Of NFL Draft
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie talks about the Raiders final draft picks.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Final Draft Picks
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond, Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken and Review-Journal reporter Gilbert Manzano go over the last day of the draft pick for the Raiders.
Gruden On Day Two Of Nfl Draft Picks
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden discusses the teams second day draft picks.
Raiders trade again, draft DT P.J. Hall and OT Brandon Parker
Raiders trade again and draft DT P.J. Hall and OT Brandon Parker. The team moved back again Friday, this time exchanging the No. 41 overall pick for the No. 57 selection. It then selected former Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall. The Raiders parted with No. 75, trading up 10 spots to select former North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker.
Gruden On Bryant Joining Raiders, Bryant On What He Has Left To Prove
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden talks about what Bryant will bring to the Raiders and Bryant talks about what he has left to prove.
Gruden, Miller On First Round Pick
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and first round pick Kolton Miller talk about the NFL draft first round pick for the Raiders.
Las Vegas Raiders Stadium can help economic boom, expert says
Study after study has concluded that stadiums aren’t effective economic development drivers. But a leading urban growth researcher says Orlando and Las Vegas are exceptions because of the strength of their regions’ tourism economies. The Raiders are building a 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion indoor stadium at Interstate 15 and Russell Road using $750 million of public money authorized by the Nevada Legislature. Las Vegas has a leg up on many cities, because it has an airport at which business people can catch a nonstop flight to virtually any domestic destination. Panelist Cathy Tull, chief marketing officer of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the presence of out-of-town media for playoff games featuring the Vegas Golden Knights has given the city media mentions that money can’t buy. Another issue receiving the panel’s attention is the need for mass transit with all the teams, venues and anticipated visitation they will generate. Panelists also discussed the prospect of attracting big events like the Super Bowl, the NFL draft and NCAA tournaments.
Reggie Mckenzie On Raiders First Draft Pick
Raiders general manager Reggie Mckenzie on Raiders first draft pick.
Vegas Nation: First Round NFL Draft Pick
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond, Review-Journal writer Gilbert Manzano and Raiders beat writer Michael Gelhken go over the first round of the NFL draft picks and the Raiders choices.
Vegas Nation: NFL Draft preview
Bryan Salmond and Michael Gehlken breakdown the Raiders offseason moves as well as what they could be looking at in the upcoming NFL Draft.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like