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Gordon: Key Raiders players should sit out whole preseason

Updated August 12, 2023 - 8:03 am

As perennial All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams walked gingerly from the field outside Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center and into the gaudy facility away from public viewing, the joint football practice between the Raiders and San Francisco 49ers only seemed to intensify.

All the while, Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson booted moonshots into the blazing desert sky.

If only he could boot away the NFL’s preseason.

Not a single surefire starter should play Sunday for the Raiders, who gleaned more from their two joint practices with the 49ers than they will during their preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Not the injured Adams, obviously. Nor oft-injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, he of the offseason foot surgery — and the improving rhythm he showcased Thursday and Friday against his friends turned foes from San Francisco.

Joining the battery on the sideline should be Maxx Crosby, Kolton Miller, Jakobi Meyers, Chandler Jones and the rest of the definitive difference-makers set to to suit up this season for the Silver and Black.

The risk of injury too far outweighs the reward: a handful of plays recorded for review that stem from vanilla schemes … against opposing vanilla schemes devoid of the intricacies either squad will see come September.

It’s just not worth it

“We have not made any final determination, really on anybody,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “There’s guys that got a ton of reps the last two days … so we wanted to try to give everybody the same opportunity depending on how practice went.

“Then you kind of divvy up the game reps. We’ll kind of take stock of it here today.”

Raiders starters practiced plenty on Thursday and Friday against starters from San Francisco, among the best teams in the NFL, yielding plenty of tape from which McDaniels can teach without the unnecessary risk of real football on Sunday.

There’s already enough of that baked into each and every practice, especially during training camp in the August oven known locally as the Las Vegas Valley.

The repetitions in the game belong to those in competition for spots on the roster, ensuring starters safety on the sideline and the coaching staff a more thorough evaluation of the players who aren’t featured as much in practices or as proven as some of their peers.

“You don’t want anybody to get hurt, but when somebody does go down, it’s your moment,” said Meyers, who was not drafted in 2019 before signing with the New England Patriots — and can relate to the players in competition: “My only advice would be ‘Just enjoy it and let the moment come to you.’ … Go out there and be free, and you’re applying for a job with 32 teams.”

Some success stories

That Meyers did in his first preseason, catching 12 passes for 151 yards to solidify his standing among Patriots receivers. Other preseason success stories include former fourth-round pick turned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (2016) and former sixth-round pick turned Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis (1995), who turned unexpected opportunities into starting spots.

The casualties include Michael Vick (2003), Chris Spielman (1999) and Jason Sehorn (1998), established players with little to prove when they were seriously injured in exhibition play.

“If you put me out there, just know, I only go how I go,” Meyers said. “So it’s not going to be, ‘Go out there and be careful.’ It’ll be, ‘Go out there and be you.’ That’s all I can do.’”

Precisely why the Raiders should sit their starters.

Far more important football games loom this fall.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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