The preseason is down to its last week. Just one week from today, the NFL will kickoff its 2011 regular season with the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers squaring off. What that means for the Raiders is that players on the bubble have one more chance to prove they have what it takes to be part of the final 53-man roster. Coach Hue Jackson insists that he is going to make this team into a bully in spite of their 0-3 start in the preseason. He still believes, in the face of skeptics, that his team has a legit shot at winning a championship this season. Now let’s look at some of the storylines surrounding this final preseason contest.
I’m not talking about fumbles – I’m talking about players who have one more chance to prove that they are worthy. Of course it is already set in stone that some players are on that final roster regardless of what happens in preseason, but for others, this game lies between them and a paycheck in the future. The final preseason game is always the most entertaining one because guys are leaving it all on the field and really that is what football is all about.
Some of these youngsters are going to make this team based on their performance in this game. Some who don’t make the team will be re-signed to the practice squad based on this performance. Some may move up or down the depth chart based on this performance. But every single one of them will go balls out in this performance.
Playing with attitude
Earlier this week in a media session, Head Coach Hue Jackson said that he believes his players are finding their attitude. What he means is they are starting to understand their identity and play up to the standards they hold each other to. One of the things that has yet to be shown on the field this year is the right attitude. There have been guys going out there and trying to learn this technique or that technique. Some have been just struggling to learn the terminology. The rookies are out there trying to acclimate to the speed of the pro game. But there has been very little attitude out on the field for the Raiders.
The Raiders have yet to walk onto that grass and say this game belongs to us and there is nothing you can do about it. Throw the 0-3 start out the window because this game is a chance for the Raiders to go out of the preseason and out of training camp on a high note by showing some folks in Seattle that they are the best team on the field Friday.
The cellophane is on
Don’t expect to see much of Jacoby Ford or Darren McFadden, if any at all. Coach Jackson has made it clear that he wants them ready for the opening game at Denver on Monday Night Football. He made the decision to hold them out against the Saints last week and all indications are they won’t play this week either.
Also, don’t be surprised if you don’t see Chris Johnson or Chaz Schilens suited up for this contest. Both returned to practice this week, but both are as meaningful to this team as McFadden and Ford are. Johnson has been sorely missed in the Raiders’ secondary while he was out getting his oil changed. Schilens provides perhaps the best hands on this team and is a veteran leader for the wide receiver group. Another player who may be ready but won’t play is safety Mike Mitchell. Jackson beat around the bush, but gave a strong indication that Mitchell will be ready for the opener.
Now that Sheppard has had time to get accustomed to the defensive system in Oakland, look for him to get extensive playing time as the coaches attempt to see exactly what they have with him. Again, when CJ was out of action, the Raiders’ secondary was hurting for help. When Sheppard signed with the team, the hope was that he would provide not only a veteran presence for young developing players, but also that he could be used as a crutch in the event of injury to one of the starting cornerbacks.
Sheppard had many good years with the Philadelphia Eagles and while trading him for Nnamdi Asomugha may not be a fair value trade, Sheppard still has some gas left in the tank and one more opportunity to prove it. His play in this contest will directly affect not only his future, but the future of young players like Walter McFadden, Chimdi Chekwa, and Jeremy Ware as they attempt to surpass the veteran for a spot in that all important final 53.
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