The first preseason game could answer questions or it could create new ones and complicate old ones.
There is no way to know what will happen Thursday night in Dallas. More than anything, the coaches want to make it through the preseason without significant injuries.
There are plenty of questions that need to be answered and the coaches will start to answer them Thursday in Dallas.
Who will win the third running back job: Michael Bennett or Rock Cartwright?
Each back has a different style despite similarly small statures. Cartwright being the better special teams player and much more physical. Bennett is a quicker, faster and can get to the edge. This will be a tough call the coaches will have to make. Cartwright is a little more useful as long as McFadden and Bush are carrying the load, but should the third back be pushed into starter duty as it was multiple times last year, Bennett would probably be the back you’d want to have.
Will the return game improve?
The coaches would probably like to get Jacoby Ford, Yamon Figurs, Johnnie Lee Higgins and Cartwright a chance to return one in a game situation. Ford’s a bit banged up and may not play Thursday, leaving the others to have the first opportunity to wow the coaching staff.
What are the Raiders doing with Desmond Bryant and Thomas Howard?
The two ended last season as starters, but have been pushed down the depth chart. At first glance Bryant was pushed aside by Richard Seymour. While Seymour did move inside, he will play the three technique tackle position. This means Tommy Kelly is taking snaps with the first team at Bryant’s position.
Howard was moved from weak-side linebacker to strong-side linebacker last season, with Trevor Scott taking over on the weak side. In the offseason, the Raiders brought in Quentin Groves to play the weak side and Kamerion Wimbley to play the strong side.
Howard’s projected role shifted to nickel linebacker, but during camp that role has been filed by Mike Mitchell relegating Howard to third string duties. Adding insult to injury, Cable has repeatedly put down the work the linebackers did in 2009. Howard is the only current player that started the majority of the games at linebacker last season.
Rumors have been circulating that Howard could be released. It one possibility. It could also be that the Raiders knows exactly the type of player Howard is and are intent on getting Scott, Wimbley, Groves and Mitchell extra work.
Will the offensive line block better?
Robert Gallery is healthy, Samson Satele and Mario Henderson have another year in the system, and Langston Walker appears to have latched on at starting right tackle. Will these men, along with Cooper Carlisle be able to protect Jason Campbell? Can this line get a Raiders running back to 1000 yards?
Watch DeMarcus Ware Thursday night versus Mario Henderson. One of the best players in the NFL could wreck havoc versus a base offense.