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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
Derek Carr never got anywhere near the field in the preseason. Head coach Jon Gruden has prioritized health. Unlike some other veteran quarterbacks who have lobbied to get some preseason snaps, Carr has been happy to wait until the regular season. “As you get older you realize how long the season really is, you realize how much football there is still left to be played, and we only have one bye week with an extra game," Carr said. Raiders beat writers seem skeptical that it will ever come to fruition, but there has been enough talk from Gruden of using Marcus Mariota situationally (think Taysom Hill behind Drew Brees) running the zone-read that we should at least be open to the possibility.
Josh Jacobs has racked up 2,619 total yards and 19 touchdowns in just 28 career games. He should be in the same workhorse role in 2021. Tashan Reed and Vic Tafur, who cover the Raiders for The Athletic, note, “Jacobs looks great and should reward all fantasy owners who saw past the Gruden bells and whistles.“ Their view is that the Kenyan Drake signing and Gruden’s talk of the creative ways he wants to use him does not mean that Jacobs’ role will be diminished. With the Raiders prioritizing health over preparation and not playing starters in the preseason, Jacobs has been out of sight and out of mind. No. 3 tailback Jalen Richard may start the season on the injured reserve, which would open a roster spot for Trey Ragas.
A competition for the starting spots never really developed in camp. From day one, Henry Ruggs III has been the starter at the “Z” position, Bryan Edwards at the “X”, and Hunter Renfrow in the slot. Not only did John Brown never seriously challenge for a starting job, he didn’t even make the final roster. Zay Jones and Willie Snead IV are the backups, and their roles seem secure given the coaches’ decision to rest them in the preseason finale. Rookie slot receiver and returner Dillon Stoner has been impressive and may draw interest from around the league if the Raiders try to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Just as concern was starting to build over Darren Waller’s extended absence with a toe injury, he returned and instantly looked like a superstar. If healthy, he’ll be Derek Carr’s primary target. Compared to other top tight ends like Travis Kelce and George Kittle, Waller has less competition for targets. Foster Moreau has proven to be an above-average backup. Derek Carrier is a valuable blocker and a competent pass catcher.
With linebacker Nicholas Morrow headed to short-term Injured Reserve with a foot injury, Nick Kwiatkoski will return to the starting lineup alongside Cory Littleton and Tanner Muse. That is until newly-acquired Denzel Perryman acclimates. Perryman played well under Gus Bradley when they were both Chargers and should have a significant role quickly. The coaching staff is excited about the defensive end group. Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby are big-time pass rushers off the edge, while Clelin Ferrell and Carl Nassib are stout against the run.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Derek Carr performed well in joint practices against the Rams. He showed an especially strong rapport with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Many teams limit the preseason snaps of key starters, but Jon Gruden takes it to extremes. He's chosen to rest starters and key backups in many cases. For example, Marcus Mariota was also held out against the Rams, even though he's recovered from his quadriceps strain. Third-stringer Nathan Peterman played the entire game and committed four turnovers, which doesn't bode well for his chances of sticking on the 53-man roster as the QB3.
Josh Jacobs delivered a devastating stiff arm to a Rams defender and let the opposing sideline know about it to kick off a feisty two-day session of joint practices. His physicality and toughness set the tone for the offense, and he is locked into the lead role. He is excited about partnering up with Kenyan Drake. "The sky's the limit, honestly," Jacobs enthused. "You see a lot of guys creating a lot of plays, and you see Kenyan catching a lot of balls out of the backfield, making some good runs and things like that. If we stay healthy, it's going to be a special year for both of us." Drake took a swing pass for a long touchdown against the Rams in the team scrimmage. "Nah, we won't be doing much of that at all this year," Gruden deadpanned when asked about throwing to Drake. Everyone seems to understand their roles. "Catch the ball out of the backfield, spell Josh when I need to, and, also, continue to get the yards that are there and not try to force anything," said Drake of what he will be asked to do. Jacobs opined that Drake has "X-factor type of explosiveness" and noted that he has regularly lined as "a wide receiver spot in the slot."