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The Oakland Raiders kick off their 2019 NFL pre-season by welcoming the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night. After months of entertainment off the field, it’s time for some action between the white lines. We’ve had the excitement of the NFL Draft for the Silver and Black. The anticipation of the organization’s participation on Hard Knocks has brightened the dark, football-less days. Now, it’s time for football.

What should you be watching out for on Saturday night? The first week of pre-season action rarely lends itself to much first-team participation. You can expect little playing time for the likes of Derek Carr but don’t be put off by this. A lot can be learned in this first week. Don’t forget, 90 men fighting for just 53 jobs and that starts now. Below are some key things to watch out for on Saturday night.

Backup quarterback battle

As I stated in my introduction, don’t expect to see much of Carr on Saturday night. It’s likely QB1 will see one series, two at the most. Behind him is a compelling battle for the right to hold his clipboard in 2019.

Compelling isn’t a word that I would have ever expected to use to describe a battle between Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman. Yet, here we are.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Glennon would be the de facto QB2. Since his 13 starts in 2013 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he’s made a career out of being a backup. His 6-16 record as a starter has ruled him out of a genuine starting role. However, when called upon, he has been a serviceable backup. He most recently demonstrated this in Arizona where he had a career-high 71.4% completion percentage, albeit in just two games.

The job seems to be Glennon’s to lose, especially when you consider the opposition is the much-maligned Peterman. With a 3:12 touchdown to interception ratio in his young career, Peterman has had a tough start. He will forever be remembered for his five interceptions in the first half of his first NFL start against the Los Angeles Chargers. Many questioned whether he would see an NFL field again.

However, Peterman has found a friend in Oakland. The Raiders head coach, Jon Gruden, has been a fan of the former Pitt quarterback since he came out of college. Before the 2017 NFL Draft, Gruden (then a TV analyst) described Peterman as the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2017 class. Peterman did not do much to support Gruden’s bold claim during his two years with the Bills.

Gruden has continued his effusive praise for Peterman. After only a few days of training camp, Gruden sent the internet into a frenzy with his comments on Peterman:

“This Nate Peterman is growing on me…I know he’s got some nightmare performances in the NFL, but when you watch the film you see why: it’s not his fault”

He went on to elaborate as to what he’s seen out of the third-year QB so far in camp:

“He’s done a good job. He’s been consistent and I think he’s starting to get his confidence back. We all need that”

A good performance on Saturday night will go even further towards getting his confidence back. Expect to see plenty of both Glennon and Peterman trying to stake their claim.

Pre-season protection problems?

After a season that saw Carr on his back more than in the end zone, the focus will be on the remodeling of the offensive line. There have been plenty of changes in the off-season. One of the constants amongst all the change is Gabe Jackson. I should say, Jackson was a constant.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, Jackson went down in training camp on Thursday with a leg injury. The Raiders staff and players were immediately concerned with good justification. Jackson suffered an MCL injury in his left knee and is set to miss eight weeks.

With Jackson out, attention will shift to back up Denver Kirkland. He isn’t going to earn himself a starting job over Jackson. However, how he performs on Saturday night could be critical for the Raiders success. It will also determine whether they need to bring in another guard to evaluate before the season kicks off.

Kirkland has just four starts over a four-year career. All of those came in his rookie year, 2016. He was an undrafted free agent for the Raiders, and it’s fitting that he will get his opportunity to prove himself amongst the 2019 draft class and the UDFAs.

Raiders receivers battle for roster spots

When Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys last season, the Raiders struggled offensively. There was no doubt that the receiver position would need to be addressed during the off-season. With the acquisition of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, they now boast a dangerous receiving dual threat. Brown’s bizarre frostbite injury will ensure he doesn’t see the field on Saturday night.

Behind Brown and Williams, there is a fascinating battle. The receiver group is DEEP! In previous years the Raiders have gone with either 5 or 6 receivers on the 53 man opening roster. They are currently carrying 12 receivers on the 90 man roster. Half of those will find themselves looking for new employment by the end of the month.

After an impressive training camp, Hunter Renfrow looks to have penciled his name into the WR3 spot. A strong performance on Saturday night could ink his name on to the roster.

Another rookie to keep an eye on during the game with the Rams is Keelan Doss. The UDFA has been turning heads in camp and has impressed Gruden and Carr with his work ethic. The former UC Davis could force his way on to the 53 man roster with a strong showing.

It isn’t just Doss who has been earning praise for his training camp performance. Gruden had this to say about J.J. Nelson on Thursday:

“Every day, if you look at the film, Nelson is making big plays deep. And Derek likes him and I think that’s something we’re going to continue to probe.”

If Gruden’s comments are taken to mean Nelson’s spot is secure, that leaves Dwayne Harris, De’Mornay Pierson-El, Keon Hatcher, Ryan Grant, Rico Gafford and Jordan Lasley battling for potentially one spot. All have had sparkling moments in camp, Lasley aside as he only arrived in the last week, so the game will be their time to earn a job.

Unfortunately for most of them, that won’t be in Oakland.

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