After only three days of rest since their 2012 debut against Dallas, the Oakland Raiders are ready to step onto the field again tomorrow at 7 P.M. (PDT) to face the Cardinals in Arizona. Even though it is still pre-season, it will be a very valuable game for several players who are looking to get the attention of the coaching staff and improve their chances of making the final 53 man roster. Let’s take a closer look into five points of interest for tomorrow night’s contest.
Can Terrelle Pryor step his game up?
It was a much anticipated debut for the former Ohio State Buckeye superstar, as Terrelle Pryor took the field for the first time as the Raiders quarterback. Although he had some nice moments, like his 15 yard strike to Brandon Carswell on a 3rd & 14 with 2:09 left in the last quarter, his performance as a whole was not satisfying. Even if we consider that he is practically a rookie with a long road full of hard work to live up to his potential, Pryor missed a few throws that an NFL caliber player should make. But the good part is that he acknowledges it: “I don’t think I played well.”, Pryor said after the game, “I just think I played like dog crap. So I’m mad about that, about how I played today. So I’m angry and I’m going to come back stronger next week.” We shall see if he can turn his words into actions and play with a little more consistency tomorrow night.
Mike Goodson’s debut as a Raider
When running back Mike Goodson stayed still on the ground after taking a hit from linebacker Philip Wheeler in practice and later being taken to the hospital on a stretcher, we all held our breath. But in an extremely fortunate turn of events, Goodson didn’t suffer any serious injuries and had only a sore neck from the hard tackle. But it was too early for him to play on monday night, delaying his raider debut. Goodson is already back to practice and should be good to go tomorrow night. It will be very interesting to see how he does in his first game of 2012. The former Carolina Panther has shown very good skills and a nice understanding of the zone-blocking scheme in Training Camp, and is battling hard with Taiwan Jones for the primary backup spot behind Darren McFadden. Jones, on the other hand, is still out with a sore hamstring and won’t play tomorrow. Therefore, this could be a good chance for Goodson to take a head start.
Juron Criner and Rod Streater
Since the OTA’s, these 2 rookie wideouts have caught the eye of anybody who is watching the Raider practices closely. After getting to the team with low profiles, as Criner was a 5th round pick and Streater wasn’t even drafted, these youngsters have made enough plays to prove that they were way underrated in the 2012 Draft. In the OTAs, it was almost all about Criner, as Streater’s nice plays were overshadowed by Criner’s extremely productive practices. In Training Camp, Rod Streater turned it up a notch and has been more consistent than Juron Criner, who still has his good moments. At the end of the day, both players have shown enough in practice that they have very intriguing potential and are well on their way to making the final roster. On Monday Night, Streater had probably the most impressive performance of the game, with 6 catches for 66 yards. Criner, on other hand, had only 1 catch for 5 yards (and an ugly drop that cost him a nice chunk of yards). It will be interesting to see if Streater can keep impressing the coaching staff, and if Criner can play as well as he has practiced all off-season.
Dominique Hamilton and Chad Kilgore
On the defensive side of the ball, there are also two rookies who certainly caught the coaching staff’s attention on Monday night. Defensive Tackle Dominique Hamilton made some nice plays up the middle, including a sack with 6 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, to force a 3rd & 14 situation for Dallas. He is currently the heaviest defensive lineman on the roster after the departure of Travis Ivey, listed at 313 pounds to go along with his 6’5 frame. Linebacker Chad Kilgore was added later to camp than other undrafted rookies, which could have made his chances of surviving the final roster cut even harder, but after Monday night’s game, he is surely in the mix for the last LB spot, alongside players like Nathan Stupar and Carl Ihenacho. Kilgore showed good instincts, quickly attacking the gaps on running plays more often than other teammates and making his presence felt also pressuring the quarterback. There’s certainly a long way to go for the former Northwest Missouri State product, but he is off to a nice start. The same applies to Hamilton. Tomorrow’s game is another chance to get themselves noticed.
Demarcus Van Dyke needs to play like he has been practicing
Van Dyke is perhaps the most improved Raider since last year when compared to this year’s Training Camp. “DVD” has looked very sharp in practice, showcasing better instincts and vision to go along with his excellent athletic abilities. He was holding his own against the team’s best receivers, which included some very nice battles with Darrius Heyward-Bey as he was practicing with the first team defense in the absence of Ron Bartell, who was recovering from a sore hamstring. After consistently making nice plays, Van Dyke was making a strong push towards being a starter sooner than expected, putting one of the two recently acquired veterans, Bartell or Shawntae Spencer, as the nickel corner. But then came the preseason debut, and Van Dyke didn’t play as well as he was practicing all Training Camp. “DVD” showed the same instincts issues that he had as a rookie, being late on coverages and not turning his head towards the ball in time. Hopefully, Van Dyke can hit the field tomorrow ready to perform the way he’s been doing in Training Camp and prove his reported progress is no fluke.