The third preseason game is generally the most important one as the starters play an extended amount of time so we are able to get a good feeling of where the team stands heading into the regular season. The Raiders host the Chicago Bears tonight in what should serve as a very good barometer for the Raiders this season.
Most notable for the Raiders will be the debut of rookie first round pick D.J. Hayden. Hayden has missed the first two games of the preseason and he is chomping at the bit to get out on the field. Making a debut against Bears star WR Brandon Marshall is as stern a test as you could ask for so it will be interesting to see how the rookie responds.
The Raiders will also be able to look at recently acquired linebacker Chase Thomas. Thomas has a good chance to make an impact immediately for the Raiders and guys like Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett will test the Raiders linebackers.
The defensive line must get pressure on Jay Cutler if the defense is to look better than they did against the Saints last week. Offensive line is not the Bears’ strong suit so the battle in the trenches will be one to watch.
The same can be said on the offensive side as the Bears front seven lead by Julius Peppers is one of the best in the league. We will get a look at newly signed tackle Tony Hills and get to see how much Alex Barron has progressed in the last week. Barron has been criticized by some as not caring about football so the Raiders will be looking to see what he can bring.
Speaking of criticism, both Darren McFadden and Denarius Moore have been the subject of some unkind words. Shaun King accused McFadden of only wanting a check while Moore has been said to have character issues. Both get a chance to prove their doubters wrong tonight against a top flight Bears defense that led the NFL in takeaways last season.
Terrelle Pryor will also get a chance to improve on his 1-for-5 showing last week. Pryor still is in the developmental stage, but needs to start showing some signs of improvement if he plans on surpassing Matt Flynn for the starting quarterback position. Maybe his jersey switch will help instill a little more confidence in the young QB.
Dealing with Devin Hester will also be a challenge for punters Chris Kluwe and Marquette King. Directional punting will be key against the most prolific return man in NFL history and if King can show consistency there, he may move ahead of Kluwe on the depth chart.