Tomorrow the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks will meet in the final preseason game, renewing an old AFC West rivalry, reuniting a couple former coaches with their previous employers and giving 22 players their last chance to make the roster.
Once the game concludes, the business at had will be to drop the total of 75 players down to the opening day total of 53.
While the game is primarily about the players trying to avoid being dropped, the subplot revolves around John Marshall and Greg Knapp. Marshall’s defense will be pitted against Knapp’s offense in a battle between two coordinators who swapped places in the off-season.
Knapp was relieved of his play calling duties a year ago in Oakland when Tom Cable inherited the title of interim head coach and eventually took over the offense. Marshall coordinated a disappointing Seahawk defense in 2008 and was let go at season’s end to make way for a new coaching regime.
While there is little at stake between the two men – aside from pride – the marginal players are the ones who know this could be their last chance to make an NFL roster in 2009.
Here is a look at a few players who have a roster spot on the line Thursday evening.
Gary Russell – He seems a safe bet to get a spot in the crowded Oakland backfield. Russell has been explosive at times in the preseason and has plenty of NFL experience as a member of the 2008 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. His size and speed make him ideal for the power running game Coach Cable employs. About the only thing standing in Russell’s way is a horrendous showing or the numbers games. Otherwise, expect him to be part of the final 53.
Nick Miller – The speedy UFA wide receiver from Southern Utah has the look of a guy who could find himself played by Mark Whalberg on the big screen one day. He’s had his ups and downs but has impressed along the way. Jonathan Holland is his main rival to getting a coveted spot in the Raider receiving core. However, it would appear that the practice squad is calling for Miller.
Jerome Boyd – Jerome has been an experiment. The former Oregon Duck was a pass rushing linebacker in college but has been spending his time as a safety during the preseason. Due to injuries, he has seen extended game time with the second team defense. There is a real dog fight in the Oakland secondary and Boyd is in the trenches with former number one pick Michael Huff. With Rashad Baker recently brought back into the fold, there is reason to suspect both Huff and Boyd could be on the outs. Of course, Boyd still might get an invite to the practice squad.
Charlie Frye – Unless the Raiders decide to carry four quarterbacks into the regular season, it would seem that Frye is all but guaranteed to be on the waiver wire after Thursday. Bruce Gradkowski has looked sharp when he’s taken control of the offense in the preseason. Frye has had his moments, but overall just hasn’t been as crisp.
Terdell Sands – Sands wasn’t even listed on the team’s depth chart. He saw no playing time in the 38-point loss to the Saints last week. Desmond Bryant, a UFA from Harvard, has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s had on the field and is a virtual lock to make the roster. Tom Cable has downplayed Sands’ lack of playing time but the facts scream out that his disappointing tenure in Oakland is all but over. If Sands makes the roster it will be only because he has blackmailed Al Davis.
The most important aspect to look for is the overall effort of the Raiders after the demoralizing loss to the Saints over the weekend. Not many of the starters will play but there is still a chance to show some heart and get a little momentum for the Monday Night opener against the Chargers.
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Topics: Al Davis, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Desmond Bryant, Gary Russell, Greg Knapp, Jermoe Boyd, John Marshall, Jonathan Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Huff, Nick Miller, Rashad Baker, Terdell Sands, Tom Cable