OAKLAND – Playing an opponent in the preseason and again when it counts isn’t ideal, but the occurrence doesn’t have a major impact on either game. It's relatively rare but has happened regularly in the recent past. The Raiders played Seattle twice in 2014 and double-dipped against Minnesota last season.
It wasn’t a big deal in either situation, with a significant gap between contests. They played the Seahawks in Week 9 and the Vikings in Week 10 in respective seasons, with neither exhibition in the third exhibition slot.
That’s not the case this year. The Raiders play Tennessee on Saturday and again 29 days later in Nashville, Tenn.
That’s a quick turnaround, and may influence how the Raiders treat an exhibition commonly labeled a regular-season dress rehearsal.
“It’s unique, especially to play them so early,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “If we were playing them in November, December, we’d probably just brush it under the rug. The fact that it’s going to be so early in the season and then this game we really want to be our dress rehearsal and try to give our players a feel for what the regular season might be like. We just have to be smart in a lot of different areas.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio said the tight turnaround playing the Titans for real won’t impact playing time. The Raiders need to build toward the regular season, and can't take the game off. Starters will play the first half, possibly into the third quarter.
NFL teams rarely show important aspects of their scheme during the preseason, though the Raiders may hold back more than typical for a third exhibition.
“In terms of trying to let it all air out in Week 3, it’s not really a sound approach,” Del Rio said. “We’re prepared and looking forward to the competition.”
The Raiders wanted to show young players how they go through a typical game week and disseminate information, and that was accomplished. There's good work to be had in the game as well.
Del Rio was excited for his run defense to play against a Titans run game featuring DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and mobile quarterback Marcus Mariota. His offense will be challenged by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s scheme -- it should have odd looks even in an elementary form -- which should test that unit’s preparation and ability to make adjustments on the fly.
Quarterback Derek Carr has experimented on some things during the preseason and has made some nice plays, though a complete drive has been elusive thus far. The Raiders have had a productive preseason to this point, showing growth and depth in several areas. It doesn’t have to manifest in preseason results, but positive performances can’t hurt the team’s mindset heading to ward the regular season.
“You want to get something out of the preseason, but you also want to work on some technique to be ready for that opener, in our case, down there in New Orleans,” Musgrave said. “There’s a balance. There’s a fine line that, a chord that we’re trying to strike there for all positions, not just quarterback, where guys can work on their technique, work on their craft, but at the same time we want to have success out there and build some confidence.”