The Raiders started the season on fire with a record of 5-2, but that changed quickly as they went on to drop three straight before finally bouncing back against a really good Cowboys squad.
The Raiders currently sit at 6-5 facing what most would consider the biggest game of the season for the Silver and Black as they get ready to take on a 5-6 Washington Football Team. Washington is coming off a very impressive 17-15 victory on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks.
In order to beat the Washington Football Team, the Raiders will need some key contributors to step up on both sides of the ball, and not just from their starting-caliber players, but the rotational players that will come in and play a significant amount of snaps. With that said, here are three players to keep a close eye on as the game begins.
EDGE Malcolm Koonce
The Raiders’ pass rush has been top tier and is the main reason why this team has played as well as they have on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not only top pass rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue who have made plays, but when those two guys get tired and need a breather, it’s Clelin Ferrell and Carl Nassib who rotate in for them and are asked to play at a high level.
But interim head coach Rich Bisaccia gave an update on Nassib’s injury status. He said Nassib is week to week with an undisclosed knee injury that knocked him out of the Cowboys game. If Nassib isn’t able to play, the Raiders will rely on rookie edge rusher Malcolm Koonce, who was hand-picked by defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to play the LEO position.
Koonce has not played any snaps this year and there is no film of him against starting-caliber players. No one really knows what he can or can’t do. However, as a third-round pick, expectations are high for him to see the field.
DE Chauncey Gholston was picked five picks after Koonce and has played 281 snaps this year for the Dallas Cowboys, and he looks very promising. Center Kendrick Green was taken eight picks after the Raiders’ edge defender and he has started every game for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“You’re going to see more of Malcolm Koonce coming up,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said to the media. However, we have yet to see that. But with Nassib potentially being out, look for Koonce to rotate in with Ferrell when Ngakoue and Crosby come out. Koonce’s rare ability to bend the edge will be on display for the Raiders against Washington’s rookie RT Samuel Cosmi if Nassib is indeed out.
CB Desmond Trufant
CB Brandon Facyson jumped into the starting role after replacing Amik Robertson mid-game, and the Raiders never looked back. Facyson came in and did a superior job opposite Casey Hayward. However, an injury to the young corner allowed Desmond Trufant to see the field, and boy did he deliver against the Cowboys.
Trufant was targeted three times on 22 snaps, and he broke up two of the passes forcing incompletions, while the third was over the receiver’s head and was uncatchable. To put it short, the veteran cornerback looked really stout against the Cowboys and we see why Gus Bradley wanted the veteran corner. PFF ranked him as the 13th best corner in Week 12 (out of 93).
We don’t know if Facyson is going to pass the concussion protocol and be ready for the WFT, however, we do know that with the way Trufant played on Thanksgiving, he deserves more reps this week. Look for the veteran corner to come in and have an immediate impact for the Raiders.
WR DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson came into week three of his career with the Raiders and he delivered big time. Jackson had three catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. But what the stats don’t show you is Jackson also drew multiple penalties which led to first downs. Including one that came in the end zone that gave the Raiders the ball at the one yard line.
When the Raiders lost Henry Ruggs, the offense took a noticeable step backward. The receivers weren’t gaining separation, the offensive line wasn’t blocking long enough, and Derek Carr looked lost.
However, when Jackson got an extended amount of playing time on the field this past week, the explosive plays came back for the Raiders. After scoring 14.3 points per game over the past three games (ranked last in the NFL), they came back and dropped 36 against a Dallas Cowboys defense that ranked 8th best in the league prior to Week 12.
Expect a big game for Jackson who is finally grasping the new system, audibles, and getting the timing right with his quarterback.
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