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
Vegas Nation: Vontae Davis Visiting Raiders
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over Vontae Davis visiting the Raiders in Alameda California.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Estimated Cost Remains at $1.9 Billion
Ed Graney, Rick Velotta and Bill Bradley discuss updates around the Las Vegas Raiders stadium, scheduled to be completed by 2020.
Vegas Nation: Las Vegas could host NFL Draft
Bryan Salmond and Michael Gehlken talk about Vegas' chances to host the NFL Draft.
Vegas Nation: Eagles take down Patriots in Super Bowl LII
Bryan Salmond, Ed Graney, Michael Gehlken and Sam Gordon talk about the Eagles Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
Vegas Nation: Eagles win Super Bowl LII
Bryan Salmond recaps the Eagles Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.
Las Vegas, Raiders aim to host Super Bowl as early as 2023
Las Vegas and its $1.9 billion stadium project won’t be forgotten when nine NFL owners and team presidents, together wielding influence over an adjusted Super Bowl bid-selection process, meet in the coming months. Raiders owner Mark Davis serves on the Super Bowl and Major Events Advisory Committee, positioning him to have an active role in where Super Bowl LVII will be located on Feb. 5, 2023. Las Vegas, upon hosting the game, would be the latest NFL city to which league owners have awarded a Super Bowl following a stadium construction. There is no guarantee the game is coming to Las Vegas then. A combination of recent history and comments from an NFL executive, however, indicate the opportunity should arrive in the next eight years.
Vegas Nation: Minnesota running an efficient Super Bowl
Bryan Salmond and Ed Graney talk about Minnesota running a good Super Bowl and a Raiders rookie making an impact.
NFL Commissioner Goodell gives updates on hot topics with the Raiders
At a press conference ahead of Super Bowl LII, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to questions about the Raiders hiring process with Jon Gruden and about the team having many home games played abroad.
0130 sb wrap with mention
Bryan Salmond, Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney talk about Tom Brady's Minnesota ties, Jon Gruden's advantage in coaching as well as the Patriots demanding respect.
Vegas Nation: Here's how the RJ will cover Super Bowl LII
Ed Graney, Michael Gehlken and Sam Gordon preview their coverage plan of the Super Bowl in Minnesota.
Vegas Nation: Pro Bowl edition
Bryan Salmond recaps the NFL Pro Bowl, including how Raiders quarterback Derek Carr performed.
Vegas Nation: Jon Gruden Does Not Attend Senior Bowl
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken discuss what the Raiders coaching staff are doing at the Senior Bowl.
Vegas Nation: Raiders announce several coaching hires
Review-Journal Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and reporter Michael Gehlken talk about the Raiders coaching hires as well as a significant omission.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Construction of stadium on schedule
Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney and reporter Rick Velotta talk about how the Raiders' stadium construction is progressing and the complications that might occur due to pricing.
Raiders hire Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator
Paul Guenther is the new defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. Guenther spent the past four years as the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive coordinator. Guenther, 46, worked with the Bengals from 2005 to 2017. He will call defensive plays in 2018, a role that Ken Norton Jr. handled the first 10 games last season before being fired. Guenther expressed his interest in working with Raiders defensive backs Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu. “I really like both of them,” Guenther said. "(Conley) was probably my favorite corner coming out last year." "We just need to get these guys on the grass, keep them healthy and teach them the system," Guenther said.
McKenzie shares memory of Gruden coaching in Green Bay
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie shared one of his memories of working alongside head coach Jon Gruden back when they were both in Green Bay.
Vegas Nation: Raiders introduce Jon Gruden as head coach
Bryan Salmond, Ed Graney and Michael Gehlken discuss the Raiders introduction of Jon Gruden as their new head coach, including the unique atmosphere and how Gruden will work with Derek Carr.
Former Raiders discuss what the team and fans can expect from Jon Gruden
Following a press conference to announce Jon Gruden as the Oakland Raiders head coach, former players discussed what it is that he'll bring to the team and the fans.
Jon Gruden news conference highlights
The Oakland Raiders announced Jon Gruden as their head coach on Tuesday at the team headquarters in Alameda, Calif. Gruden previously coached the team from 1998-2001. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mark Davis says the Raiders' edge will come from leadership and coaching
Following a news conference announcing Jon Gruden's return as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, team owner Mark Davis said the Raiders' edge will come from leadership and coaching.
Vegas Nation: Raiders hire Jon Gruden
Michael Gehlken talks about the Raiders decision to hire Jon Gruden as their new head coach.
Vegas Nation: Gruden to be named Raiders head coach
Bryan Salmond and Ed Graney discuss the Raiders hiring of Jon Gruden as their new head coach.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Votes to occur in coming meetings
Ed Graney and Rick Velotta talk about the latest news about the Las Vegas Stadium.
Vegas Nation: What Does The Raiders Future Look Like?
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over the potential hiring of Jon Gruden and the Raiders performance during the 2017 season.
Raiders’ Crabtree frustrated by lack of playing time to end season
Michael Crabtree expressed his frustration Sunday when asked about his future with the Raiders. The Raiders are expected to part ways with the ninth-year veteran wide receiver this offseason. “I’m out here playing ball,” Crabtree said. “Whatever they ask me to do. Like today, if they only want me to play 10 plays, I’ll play 10 plays." Crabtree started the season hot as the team’s top wideout, catching six touchdowns during the first six games. Crabtree received just three targets against the Eagles on Christmas night and two targets versus the Chargers. Crabtree is owed a $7 million salary in 2018, the third season of a four-year, $34 million extension he signed late in 2015. “I did everything they asked of me. These last two games, I’ve probably had three targets, but nobody saying anything about that," Crabtree said.
Raiders might lure Jon Gruden back to coaching
The Raiders are reportedly pursuing ESPN analyst Jon Gruden to fill their vacant head coaching position. Gruden, 54, has not coached since the 2008 NFL season. “I don’t want to sit here and speculate. There is no news to report,” Gruden told ESPN on Saturday. The NFL Network reported that Davis plans to offer Gruden more than $10 million a year to coach the team with an stake in team ownership. Gruden has been connected with openings in recent years, including a lucrative offer from Indianapolis last season. Gruden was the Raiders head coach from 1998-2001, going 38-26 in four seasons. “I know (Gruden),” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “I’ve known him for a while. But the (Del Rio firing) is still pretty fresh.”
Raiders fire Jack Del Rio
Following the Raiders loss to the Chargers, head coach Jack Del Rio was fired. Del Rio was hired in January 2015 after spending time as the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator. In 2016, Del Rio led the Raiders to a 12-4 record and their first playoff birth since 2002. After the 2016 season, Del Rio signed a 4-year contract extension. In three seasons as the Raiders head coach, Del Rio amassed a 25-23 record. “I’m very grateful," Del Rio said. "My childhood team. But it’s a results business.”
Vegas Nation: Del Rio fired after Raiders drop season finale
Bryan Salmond, Ed Graney, Michael Gehlken and Gilbert Manzano discuss the aftermath of the Raiders loss, including Jack Del Rio getting fired and what might follow.
Raiders' QB Carr reacts to Del Rio firing
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr addressed the media following the team's loss to the Chargers and discussed his thoughts on head coach Jack Del Rio being fired.
Jack Del Rio announces Oakland Raiders fired him following loss to Chargers
After three years of serving as the head coach for the Oakland Raiders, Jack Del Rio announced he was fired by the organization following the team's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Nacion Vegas: Raiders pierden 30-10 contra los Chargers
Nacion Vegas: Los Raiders pierden 30-10 contra los Chargers para finalizar la temporada. Nación Vegas tiene los detalles del juego entre los Raiders y los Chargers.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like