Oakland Raiders Vs Dallas Cowboys: Rookies to Watch
John Doublin – Aug 9, 2012
On Monday August 13th, the Oakland Raiders will kick off their 2012 NFL Preseason against the Dallas Cowboys. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time.
Preseason is a time for players, young and old, to show their ability, prove themselves to fans, coaches and teammates and to get some "good tape" recorded for the coaches.
In some cases, there is no shot for a particular player to make the 53-roster they're on now, but rather they are simply auditioning for other teams. This is where the "Good tape" comes into play.
Obviously, the players with the most to prove are rookies. They've never played a down in the NFL and most of them are surrounded by doubt. Doubt that they can remember their assignments; doubt they can perform when the pressure is on; doubt that they're ready for the big lights of the NFL.
A Primetime game in National television just adds to the pressure.
With all that said, who are the Raiders' rookies in a position to shine? Who are the rookies with the most pressure on them? Who are the ones that need to perform well to remain on the roster?
In short: Who are the Raiders' rookies to watch?
Juron Criner-WR: Criner is the new Denarius Moore; the player that was virtually unheard-of before he started making plays in minicamp and training camp. Criner will likely see a lot of action early in the game due to Moore and Jacoby Ford nursing injuries.
This game will provide Criner plenty of chances to prove that he was worth general manager Reggie McKenzie taking a chance on him in the draft, as well as to prove to his teammates that he's worth the headache caused by his $14,000 mini-holdout!
Criner is a good route-runner with great hands and mid-air body control. The question is whether or not he can read a defense and make the necessary adjustments to his routes on the fly as required in the Greg Knapp led West Coast Offense.
Tony Bergstrom-LG: The Raiders' first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, (3rd Round) Bergstrom hasn't been overly impressive in camp. He's shown flashes, but has failed to really assert himself as a potential starter as yet.
Against the Cowboys, Bergstrom will have an opportunity to play against some really good competition, as the Cowboys are nearly as talented and deep along the defensive line as the Raiders are. This should be a good test for the young lineman from Utah.
Fans should watch Bergstrom when he's asked to pull and lead block. Bergstrom is a superior pass blocker with great instincts and the ability to finish his blocks, but hopefully he's made enough improvement in his pulling ability, to not only justify being a 3rd round pick, but to put the coaches' minds at ease about having him in there for Cooper Carlisle in the event of an emergency.
Miles Burris-OLB: There has been a lot of talk about Burris possibly being the steal of the draft. He's made some great plays in camp, but being good in camp is one thing—being good against players that don't have a gentleman's agreement to hold back a bit is another.
Coming from San Diego State, Burris didn't see truly elite competition until he arrived in Oakland and took the field against the Raiders offense. The Cowboys will provide a good measuring stick to see if Burris can handle the huge jump in competition.
According to the team's official depth chart, Burris is slated to start at Weak side linebacker in place of the ailing Aaron Curry, (knee). It will be interesting to see how he handles the bright lights of Monday Night Football.
Jack Crawford-DE: Crawford is another of those unheard of guys that has been quietly going about his business and impressing coaches and on-lookers alike. He's made some noise in camp recently, even getting some time with the first team.
Reports from camp are saying Crawford excels at rushing the passer, showing relentless effort and "motor," but often over-reacts to play-action and misdirection plays. This is something he'll need to improve upon.
Another area where Crawford needs to see some improvement, is at setting the edge against the run. This is a problem that has plagued the Raiders' run-defense over the last several years. Under new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, this is likely to be an area of emphasis. Hopefully Crawford can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
To close: At this moment, there are 21 rookies on the Raiders' roster. It's not likely fans will see all of them, or even most of them. Coaches will probably play only about half of the rookies in this game, to take a good, long look at each of them. Most of the others won't get their chance to shine until Week-2 of the preseason.
The four players mentioned above are some of the more high-profile guys that fans will be looking to get their first glimpse of, and coaches will be watching extremely closely to determine whether or not these young players can be counted on should the need arise.
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