What to Watch as the Oakland Raiders Kick Off Their Preseason Schedule

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What to Watch as the Oakland Raiders Kick Off Their Preseason Schedule
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders have their first preseason matchup today against the Dallas Cowboys at the Oakland Coliseum. For a team looking towards the future, this game will be the start of what people consider a fierce competition—for the first overall pick in next year’s draft.

While playoff hopes are slim to none, here are three things Raiders fans should pay attention to that will go a long way in determining Oakland’s short- and long-term success.

 

Quarterbacks

Darren McFadden stated this past Wednesday on NBCN's Pro Football Talk that Matt Flynn will be starting at quarterback. But in the situation the Raiders are in, this book should be far from closed.

As a team looking for any talent they can find, many are watching projected backup Terrelle Pryor in the event Flynn can’t perform. Pryor is a much better athlete who has the arm strength and size to develop into a special player.

Watch these two over the course of the preseason. Don’t be surprised if Pryor ends up getting reps in the regular season, possibly even getting the starting nod at some point.

 

Defensive Chemistry

Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Tyvon Branch will be the lone returning starter for the Raiders defense tonight.

Oakland has one returning defensive starter tonight. One.

It’s probably for the better as they had a putrid defense, giving up the fourth-most points in the NFL. With a bevy of mid-level talent coming in, the new lineup may not be eye-popping, but it has the potential to be respectable. It will be a challenge, however, as there are no standout pass-rushers on the defensive line. 

If the defense meshes well in the preseason, the unit could be a decent foundation to build upon, especially if the Raiders end up in a position to draft Jadeveon Clowney next year.

 

Draft Pick Progress

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Sio Moore earned the starting strong linebacker spot for today's game.

D.J. Hayden won’t be playing today and may not even see the field for a few more weeks as he recovers from offseason surgery. Linebacker Sio Moore, on the other hand, has won the starting strong linebacker spot according to the Raiders website.

Tracking Hayden’s progress and Moore’s performance will be crucial, as they will be looked to as the building blocks of the defensive improvement the Raiders so desperately need.

Two others to watch are Menelik Watson and David Bass. Watson has been missing practices with an injured calf, but once he returns should make an immediate impact on the offensive line. While he has technique issues to get over, the size and athleticism he has for the position is outstanding. Bass' pass-rushing ability is something the Raiders sorely need, and he will have plenty of opportunities to contribute.

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