Raiders Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 9, 2021

Raiders Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders haven't played a game at Allegiant Stadium with fans in the stands. But that changes Saturday night.

    That's when the Raiders are set to host the Seattle Seahawks for their preseason opener, the first of a three-game slate. Las Vegas' final two preseason games are both on the road before it hosts the Baltimore Ravens for its regular-season opener Sept. 13.

    The Raiders still have a lot of decisions to make before looking that far ahead, though. Players are gearing up and preparing for the season, some of whom are battling for either starting jobs or spots on the roster. And preseason games will play a big factor in determining how Las Vegas will look Week 1.

    With the Raiders' preseason opener almost upon us, here are a few players to keep an eye on heading into the matchup against the Seahawks.

Kenyan Drake, RB

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The Raiders already had a strong running game with Josh Jacobs in their backfield, and in 2021 they will also have Kenyan Drake, who signed with the team during free agency. It should give Las Vegas a two-headed rushing attack that could be difficult for opposing teams to stop.

    However, it isn't clear how the Raiders will use Drake, who was the lead back for the Arizona Cardinals the past two seasons. While Drake may not play a ton in the preseason, Las Vegas could at least show the types of plays that he will line up for this year.

    Plus, it's always fun for a team's fans to see its new acquisitions suit up for the first time, albeit in a game wherein the result doesn't matter. It at least gives a glimpse into the potential for the upcoming regular season.

    Drake is coming off a season in which he set career highs in rushing yards (955) and rushing touchdowns (10). He may not reach those numbers while sharing duties with Jacobs, but he has the potential to be another strong playmaker on the Raiders offense.

Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, WRs

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    When Nelson Agholor signed with the New England Patriots early in free agency, the Raiders lost their top wide receiver from last season. And although they brought in veteran John Brown, their offense no longer has a clear secondary receiving option behind tight end Darren Waller.

    Las Vegas will likely need a receiver or two to step up in 2021, and Ruggs and Edwards are the likeliest to do that. Both were rookies who flashed their potential last year and could make huge strides during their second season in the NFL.

    Ruggs is a 2020 first-round pick who had 452 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 13 games. Edwards, a third-round pick, had 193 receiving yards and one touchdown in 12 games.

    Even though Ruggs and Edwards seem like the obvious candidates for larger roles in the offense, they will still have to prove themselves during camp and the preseason. Perhaps that will lead to some impressive showings, and it will be interesting to see which receivers Las Vegas utilizes on the first team.

Damon Arnette, CB

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    After starting seven games for the Raiders as a rookie last season, Damon Arnette may be further down the depth chart this term, at least early on. Las Vegas brought in veteran cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. this offseason, while Trayvon Mullen will also likely have a starting spot.

    Even though there are quite a few cornerbacks battling for jobs and roster spots, Arnette is excited about the possibility of earning his playing time for 2021.

    "That's when the best comes out of me, when I'm up against competition and when I'm not just given a spot," Arnette recently said, per W.G. Ramirez of the Associated Press. "It just means more, and people respect you more."

    Will Arnette take a big step forward in his second NFL season? It's possible, and he may prove it during preseason action. The 24-year-old should be looking to put in some strong performances, so it will be fascinating to see how he fares and what improvements he's made.