Preseason Week 3 continues with the Oakland Raiders at the Dallas Cowboys. The third week of the preseason is generally considered a “dress rehearsal” for the NFL season, and starting positions and important roles can be won and lost this week. PFF’s analysts have all the important position battles and players to watch for each team below:
Coverage by: Mike Guerrelli
Position Battle: DeAndre Washington/Jalen Richard, backup RB
- These two second-year running backs will battle for touches behind Marshawn Lynch. It could end up being an even split as it was last year when Washington played 256 snaps and Richard got 250. Richard ranked 19th of 61 qualifying running backs in 2016 with a PFF grade of 77.2, and Washington was 35th with a 72.3 grade.
- Both backs were explosive as rookies, as they both ranked in the top five of all running backs with 100 or more touches in yards after contact per attempt. Richard forced 28 missed tackles in 117 touches and was second in yards after contact per attempt at 3.59. Washington forced 10 missed tackles in 108 touches and his 3.26 yards after contact per attempt ranked fifth.
Players to Watch:
- Donald Penn, LT – The veteran left tackle ended his holdout this week and should see some action against Dallas. Penn allowed only one sack and 28 total pressures in 621 pass block snaps in 2016, and his 96.6 PFF pass-blocking efficiency (pressure allowed per snap with weighting toward sacks) ranked fifth among all tackles.
- Obi Melifonwu, S – The Raiders second-round pick has returned to practice from an undisclosed injury and could play this week. Melifonwu should get some snaps at linebacker on passing downs as he has the size to play inside and the speed to matchup against tight ends. Last year, 119 safeties in FBS played 200 or more snaps against the run within eight yards of the line scrimmage, and he ranked fifth among those in run stop percentage at 7.7 percent (stops are plays made graded as a “loss” for the offense).
- Jelani Jenkins, LB – After an injury-plagued 2016 season, Jenkins signed with Oakland looking to win the weakside linebacker job. He has played 49 snaps this preseason and has made five stops in 21 snaps against the run. Jenkins leads all inside linebackers with 20 or more run snaps in run stop percentage at 23.8 percent.
Coverage by: Ryan A. Smith
Position Battle: Jonathan Cooper/Byron Bell/Chaz Green, LG
- Cooper played 57 snaps last time out, with 49 coming at left guard, and played well. On 34 pass-blocking snaps he did not surrender a pressure and earned an 81.4 run block grade culminating in a PFF team of the week selection.
- Bell saw 30 snaps last week and looks to be the one who can challenge Cooper for the starting spot. His 68.8 overall grade through three weeks (111 snaps) ranks 48th among 128 guards. He is certainly a better pass protector (72.4 pass block grade) than run blocker (31.5 run block grade).
- Although Green didn’t allow a pressure, he struggled in pass protection (44.5 pass block grade). The former third-round pick also had two penalties on just 27 snaps.
Players to Watch:
- Jaylon Smith, LB – In his first snaps (12) on an NFL field, Smith registered a stop and tackle. In eight coverage snaps, he saw two targets, allowing just nine yards total. Look for a bigger workload this week.
- La’el Collins, RT – Collins looks much better suited at tackle than he ever did at guard. His 73.0 grade through 61 snaps ranks 22nd among 131 tackles at this point in the preseason. The former LSU Tiger has only allowed one hurry on 35 pass blocking attempts.
- Rod Smith, RB – While brother and teammate Jaylon may be getting recognition, Rod should be getting just as much. Last week he forced seven missed tackles (most among all running backs) and gained 44 of 53 yards after contact on the ground.