ALAMEDA – The Raiders have less manpower for Thursday’s preseason game against Seattle, the exhibition of least consequence. NFL rosters were trimmed to 75 players on Tuesday, but far fewer will be available to play the Seahawks.
Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t want to expose top players to injury, meaning most top players won’t play even a little in that game.
Derek Carr isn’t expected to play Thursday, meaning it should be the Matt McGloin and Connor Cook show at quarterback, and it’s hard to imagine star defensive players like Khalil Mack taking snaps either.
Some starters will play a little and then give way to backups who need to be evaluated further. Others won't see the playing field.
“It’s a delicate balancing act,” Del Rio said. “We’ll have a plan. We’ll meet on it, determine relative health and discuss exactly how we want to go through that. We need to finish our evaluation. We have a lot of guys that are in competitive situations, whether it’s a role on the team or whether it’s a spot on the team. We need those competitions to play out and some of those evaluations will go into this last game.”
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Some players expected to feature on the 53-man roster as key reserves will play an extended stretch, possibly the longest of the preseason.
Cook should play most of Thursday’s game and could be the last time he plays a game snap this season. Others expected to be role players, like edge rushers Shilique Calhoun and James Cowser, could be given extended time.
“I’m excited to watch the younger guys and see them take advantage of this opportunity,” Mack said. “These chances don’t come often, to see guys like Shilique be aggressive and play for a long period of time is exciting to see. I can’t wait to watch those guys go out and make plays.”
James earning bigger role: Middle linebacker Cory James played some first-unit snaps on Saturday over starter Ben Heeney, as he has done in recent practices. The sixth-round pick from Colorado State has come on strong during camp and could play a role during the regular season.
“We’ll see how that plays out. I felt like we’re developing a good young player there in Cory,” Del Rio said. “You saw Ben last year come on and play well as the year went on and he got opportunities. I think both guys are guys we’ll count on to play a good amount for us this year.”
NOTES: Del Rio wouldn’t declare a victor at right tackle, though Menelik Watson seems to have that job virtually secured. Both he and Austin Howard have played well lately. …Left guard Kelechi Osemele did not participate in individual drills during the open portion of practice. Linebacker Neiron Ball remains sidelined as well.