Oakland Raiders: 3 Players to Keep an Eye on in Monday Night's Preseason Opener
Monday night's preseason opener gives the Oakland Raiders a chance to play against one of the most talented teams in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys. For a young, up-and-coming offense like Oakland's, playing against the Cowboys defense gives the team a chance to see where it stands as the 2012 season begins.
Playing in a wide-open AFC West division, the Raiders have a legitimate shot at contending for a playoff spot this season. In order for that to happen, several Raiders players, both young and old, will have to live up to expectations this season.
Here are three Raiders to keep an eye on tonight.
After arriving in Oakland midway through the 2011 season, quarterback Carson Palmer failed to live up to expectations. Playing in 10 games, Palmer threw for more interceptions than touchdowns (13 touchdowns, 16 interceptions).
The reason behind Palmer's struggles is likely due to the fact that he was still get acclimated to the players and coaches in Oakland. With a full offseason in Oakland under his belt, Palmer should be much more successful in 2012.
Tonight's game will help to give an idea as to whether a full offseason with the Raiders helped Palmer.
One of the winners of the 2012 NFL offseason was rookie wide receiver Juron Criner. The former University of Arizona standout reportedly stood out in Oakland's mini camp (as noted by the Contra Costa Times here) and is expected to contribute for the team this season.
At 6'3", Criner is a big-bodied receiver who could become one of Palmer's go-to targets down the road.
Monday's game on national television will give Criner a chance to justify the overwhelming praise he received back in May and June.
Perhaps the highlight of tonight's game will be quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is expected to play for a significant amount of the second half, which will give him an opportunity to display his impressive skill set.
He is currently listed as the third quarterback on the depth chart and will likely stay there for the 2012 season. But if Pryor can improve as a passer, particularly in this year's preseason, he could be the backup in Oakland in 2013.