Although it was just the fourth preseason game, and none of the regular starters got any playing time, some players were fighting for a roster spot. Here are the three biggest takeaways from tonight’s action.
The fourth and final game of the NFL preseason is not about the regulars. Instead it is about the fringe players vying to make the final 53-man roster. For the most part, they players looking to lock up roster spots are special teams players or defensive depth players. These players include Breon Borders, Shalom Luani, Tyrell Adams, and LaTroy Lewis who are all hoping to make the final cut.
Another storyline from tonight’s game was the quarterback competition, to decide who is the primary back up for Derek Carr this season. Both E.J. Manuel and Connor Cook have shown glimpses of hope as well as dismay thus far, but only one can come out ahead on the depth chart. Both made cases for themselves tonight, but it was Manuel who seemed to make the most of his opportunity.
The last point of interest going in was which receiver was going to wrap up the fifth spot. The first four are essentially locked with Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Multiple players are fighting for that last place, including K.J. Brent, Johnny Holton, and Jaydon Mickens. Mickens didn’t play, which could mean he is likely already relegated to the practice squad. Or maybe he actually has that final spot locked up. Only the future will tell.
Shalom Luani deserves a spot on the final 53-man roster. Of all the defensive prospects that we saw this preseason (excluding Conley and Melifonwu who we haven’t seen much of), Luani has arguably been the brightest. He impressed through the first three games, and was terrific again tonight with an interception to his name.
Where he has arguably made his biggest impact is on special teams. With many departures from the special teams unit that was impressive last season, the Raiders needed players to step up. Luani, along with a couple of others, have really filled that void and been quite impressive.
With Obi Melifonwu now in the fold, as well as Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson as starting safeties, Luani will obviously make most of his impact on special teams. He will provide valuable depth on the defense however should any of the aforementioned get injured.
Regardless, Luani looks like a steal and should make the roster to continue to grow. He has the instincts and the ability to break on the ball that you look for in a starting safety, given the opportunity, Luani could really carve out a role for himself in the regular season.
LaTroy Lewis put on a show and deserves a chance at showing what he can do in meaningful games during the regular season. Lewis came into camp as a tryout and impressed heavily during rookie mini camp. The undrafted product out of the University of Tennessee has been instrumental on the defensive line during the preseason.
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Tonight he was involved in nine total tackles, five of which were solo. In addition, he recorded a sack and a tackle for a loss. He really created a lot of pressure and found his way through the Seahawks offensive line with relatively ease.
If he continues to show that type of production, he will be invaluable to the rotation this season. He, along with rookie Eddie Vanderdoes will join Mario Edwards Jr. in attempting to correct the woes that plagued the Raiders pass rush last season.
Lewis has been very effective this preseason, and was huge in keeping the Seahawks to 10 points for a majority of the game. Hopefully Ken Norton Jr. can get the most out of Lewis this season and really unlock his potential.
EJ Manuel should have the backup quarterback position locked up. Manuel looked better than Cook tonight and should win the job. Cook, especially in the final minute of the game, looked overwhelmed in the pocket.
Manuel finished the night nine of 14 throwing, with a touchdown and 85 yards to his name. He looked the better, more composed quarterback tonight and overall throughout the preseason. Cook on the other hand, finished the night eight of 19 with 88 yards and an interception.
Manuel also was more mobile out of the pocket, avoiding sacks and earning eight rushing yards. Cook, while promising, seems to just be lost on the field. He struggled with connecting with his receivers and made a lot of bad throws.
If Manuel doesn’t win the back up position, it won’t be because of his performances. Neither one of them are good, believe me, if something happens to Carr the Raiders are hopeless. But for semantics sake, Manuel should have the backup job under wraps.