It’s crazy to think that it’s already here: the 2018 NFL season officially starts on Friday. Of course, the NFL season has already started for a couple teams, but for the Raiders, the start of the season comes Friday night when the Detroit Lions come to town.
With that in mind, here are five things to watch on Friday night:
1) Kolton Miller
With Donald Penn still not ready to go full-speed, the Raiders first round draft pick should get a long look at left tackle on Friday night. For Miller, that could mean a long look at Ezekiel Ansah, who is coming off his best season as a pro with 12 sacks in 2017. While Penn is expected back by the time the season starts, it’s moments like this that Raiders fans are looking forward to as we get our first look at Miller against NFL-level talent.
2) Wide Receivers
With Derek Carr’s new toy Jordy Nelson now in town, this group has quickly become one of the team’s biggest strengths. Alongside Nelson will be Amari Cooper — who is desperately in need of the breakout many have been hoping for — and then a number of question marks. Martavis Bryant is expected to be the No. 3 receiver, but Jon Gruden’s latest comments about him aren’t exactly encouraging. Beyond Bryant is an intriguing group of receivers led by Ryan Switzer (who came over in a trade with the Cowboys), Marcell Ateman (the team’s seventh round draft pick) and Seth Roberts. A month from now, I could see this group going any number of directions, so Friday night will be important for everyone.
3) New defense
Of all the additions Oakland has made this season — including that of Jon Gruden — I’m not sure any was more important or will have a bigger impact than that of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. It’s the first time in a long time that the Raiders have had a proven defensive coordinator, and it will be interesting to see how much of Guenther’s changes come through on Friday night.
4) The new Janikowski?
While many expected there to be a kicker battle throughout the preseason, the Raiders cut Giorgio Tavecchio last week — making Eddy Pineiro the new guy. Pineiro is an undrafted free agent from Florida and all signs indicate that the Raiders are hoping he’s around for a while. While not quite a first round pick (ala Janikowski), he did attend school in the same state.
5) Jon Gruden
It’s amazing it took this long to really key in on Gruden, isn’t it? Will the energy we’ve all heard about translate? Will we get a scowl? Regardless, count me among those who can’t wait to see Gruden run out of a tunnel in the silver and black.
The Raiders play the Lions on Friday night at 7:30 PM PST.