The Oakland Raiders will play their biggest game of the preseason on Saturday night in Jerryworld versus the Dallas Cowboys. Kickoff from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas will be at 5:00 p.m. ET. The NFL Network will have the national broadcast. This game will not only feature two of the NFL’s biggest brands, but two playoff-caliber teams that will meet again later this season.
Oakland looked significantly better on offense from preseason Week 1 to preseason Week 2. The passing game was more refined with Derek Carr and Connor Cook under center. EJ Manuel, not so much, but new offensive coordinator Todd Downing has this offense excited about all that could be in store for it this year.
Defensively, this team needs a massive overhaul. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. keeps preaching that all levels are making progress, but it’s not translating on the gridiron. While head coach Jack Del Rio thinks his defensive line is the best part of the defense, it gets progressively worse the future you move away from the line of scrimmage.
Oakland will have to contend with one of the best offenses in football on Saturday versus Dallas. Like Oakland, the Cowboys are sub-par defensively. It could be a thrilling shootout at AT&T Stadium on national television on Saturday night. Here are the five Raiders you’ll need to play close attention to in this third preseason game of the 2017 season.
Downing has mentioned that he plans to draw up more plays for his tight ends in the passing game going forward. Last week, blocking tight end Lee Smith had a pair of nice grabs, one on a beautiful touchdown strike from Derek Carr. Newcomer Jared Cook is still trying to learn the offense. Besides, he’s not the type of player that Downing will want to showcase all of his tricks in the preseason anyway.
That’s where Oakland’s other tight end Clive Walford comes into play in this third preseason game. Walford had that incredible reception from Manuel in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Besides that one-yard goal-line scamper from running back John Crockett for six, that pass from Manuel to Walford was the highlight from the Raiders’ first preseason game offensively.
Walford doesn’t have the foot speed of Cook, nor is he reserved to be a blocking tight end like Smith normally is. He is somewhere in between and will be used accordingly in Downing’s passing game. Look for Walford to get a few passes thrown his way, whether that’s from Carr, Cook or Manuel.
Oakland will end up keeping all three of these tight ends on their 53-man roster. While the play design of Downing’s won’t be overly complex, look for him to run a few two-tight end sets to see how that tandem can accentuate the passing game. With the way Dallas struggles defensively, this could be a game where Walford could pick up a few key first downs, maybe even a touchdown in the red zone.