After six long months without football, the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars kick off the 2022 NFL preseason in Canton, Ohio with the Hall of Fame game, which takes place this Thursday, August 4th. The Raiders are honoring legends Cliff Branch and Richard Seymour, and the Jaguars have their first-ever Hall of Fame inductee in Tony Boselli.
Both teams had big offseason changes. The Jaguars are now led by former Super Bowl champion head coach Doug Pederson. The Raiders have new head coach Josh McDaniels who was under Bill Belichick as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator.
As expected, both teams will likely hold out their starters, but this gives the young players a chance to stand out and prove why they deserve a roster spot.
“It’s going to be exciting just to get the team on the field against another opponent obviously,” said Pederson. “And then for the first time for all of us with the coaches and new players and really the whole team. So, we’re looking forward to that.”
Both teams have rookies and empty roster spots that we will be keeping eye on.
Let’s first dive into a few players to watch in the 2022 preseason opener!
Jaguars: Travon Walker, outside linebacker
Even though the Jaguars are holding out several starters this Thursday, there is a chance that Travon Walker could see the field. This might be the most anticipated yet unproven first overall pick that we have seen in a while.
Despite only registering six sacks his final year at Georgia, the expectations are still high for the rookie. So far in camp Walker has shown control with his incredible speed and length against rookies and veterans.
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) August 1, 2022
So far in camp, Walker has been nothing short of impressive. As the Jaguars are running a 3-4 defensive scheme, Walker will be standing up on the edge on the other side of Josh Allen. Here is what defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi told Jaguars reporter Demetrius Harvey on Saturday:
“Sponge. He’s soaking everything up. He’s working his tail off. He’s, asking the questions [of] the older guys,” he said. “And as long as he keeps that mindset, he’s going to be around for a while. As long as he continues to apply himself, which I feel he’s going to do. But he’s a sponge. He’s learning as much as he [can], and he’s applying it.”
It would be ideal for him to show his dominance early on against NFL talent in this first preseason game. If Walker gets any snaps on Thursday, be sure not to blink, because Pederson won’t want to keep him out there for very long.
Jaguars: Montaric Brown, cornerback
Jaguars seventh-round pick Montaric Brown has impressed early in camp. In addition to shutting down undrafted free agent Kevin Austin Jr., he’s also had a pass breakup against last year’s starter Laquon Treadwell.
#Jaguars Rookie CB Montaric Brown has impressed the lash two days. Just had really tight coverage and erased Kevin Austin JR
— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) July 28, 2022
Brown was a three-year starter at Arkansas and put himself in all-SEC first team in 2021 with his five interceptions and five pass breakups.
The Jaguars have their three starting cornerbacks, in Tyson Campbell, Darious Williams and Shaquill Griffin, but keeping in mind injuries, the Jaguars want to see who will step up during preseason. With Brown has been lining up on the right side with Chris Claybrooks and the second team, he will have a chance to shine this Thursday against NFL competition.
Jaguars: Ryan Santoso and Elliot Fry, starting kicker
Kicking continues to be a problem for the Jaguars.
Jaguars have kicking issues. Warming up they hit Dave Campo in the head, nearly wiped out Ashlyn Sullivan and sent another group scattering. None of them was even standing close to the goal posts
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) July 28, 2022
Last year, the Jaguars started the season 0-for-4 in field goal attempts through the first five games of the season. They went through two different kickers in 2021 and ranked 28th in the league in made field goals.
After working out four kickers so far in camp, the Jaguars have signed Elliot Fry to compete with Ryan Santoso for the starting job. Both kickers have bounced around the NFL. Fry has appeared in three NFL games with the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears, and Santoso with the Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers and Detriot Lions.
In the first pre-season game, expect Fry and Santoso to alternate as they compete for the starting job.
Jaguars: Snoop Conner, running back
With injuries to both Jaguars’ running backs, Travis Etienne and James Robinson, Snoop Connor should make his start this Thursday.
This fifth-round pick from Ole Miss had a great week so far and continues to take first-team reps. On Monday he had two impressive runs, one was a long run up the sideline and the other being a touchdown from within the red zone.
#Jaguars go to team drills; Snoop Conner gets the first reps at RB.
— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) August 2, 2022
Conner scored 26 touchdowns in his three years at Ole Miss. He picked up 1,580 rushing yards on 304 attempts, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. At Ole Miss, Conner showed incredible contact balance that was majority used in short yardage situations.
Even though Etienne has fully recovered from lisfranc surgery, he’s being held out from this week’s matchup due to sickness. With that, Conner could get a decent number of carries as the season approaches and it’s likely that he’ll will be involved in more than just short yardage situations and red zone offense throughout preseason.
Raiders: Thayer Munford Jr., offensive tackle
With Alex Leatherwood not playing up to expectations, the Raiders will be watching rookie Thayer Munford Jr. as he competes for the backup role behind Brandon Parker.
Leatherwood getting third team reps is a situation to watch for. If he’s not showing enough improvement at tackle and Munford looks like a capable backup, might be best to move back to guard with Good retiring.
Still early though. https://t.co/zpyW74zFq3
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) July 30, 2022
“It’s too early to sit here and try to say where it’s at. But there are multiple guys in there that are competing,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “They know that; they all know it.”
Munford is a six-foot-6, 328-pound offensive lineman who was a four-year starter at Ohio State. As a fifth-year senior in 2021, he started all 12 games and was names first-team all-American and first-team All-Big Ten for the second consecutive season.
Although this seventh rounder was a guard his senior season, Pro Football Focus graded him as the fourth highest tackle (91.8) in 2020. Because Munford can play multiple roles, expect these next few preseason games to critical in where he ends up for this upcoming season.
Raiders: Neil Farrell Jr., defensive tackle
With Johnathan Hankins and Bilal Nichols still on the PUP list, fourth-round pick Neil Farrell Jr. will have his chance to show his worth this Thursday, as he should get the start at defensive tackle.
“They’re competing,” McDaniels said when asked about the defensive tackle group. “We’re asking them to play a few different roles inside. … They’re working on their pad level and their technique and those types of things. It’s a grind for those guys, too, playing the run, playing double teams, pass rushing, and they’re trying to get back into form relative to using their techniques, playing with their hands, getting off blockers, those kinds of things. It’s a process on both sides of the line.”
Farrell finished the 2021 season starting all 12 regular-season games and registering 45 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a whopping 29 QB hurries and an 89.9 run-defense grade, per PFF.
With the Jaguars possibly starting a rookie at center, Luke Fortner, the door is open for Farrell to show his dominance early-on. With a total of three veterans hurt and Farrell spent his collegiate career as a rotational player, he will get a chance to show his production from different spots from inside defensive line: 0-tech to 3-tech.
Outside the obvious starters, Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, the Raiders are still looking for their third starting wide receiver. So far in camp, Mack Hollins seems to be one of the front runners.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) August 1, 2022
After spending three years with the Philadelphia Eagles and then two with the Miami Dolphins, Hollins may have finally found a permanent home with the Raiders even if he doesn’t win the starting outside spot.
Despite his recent buzz, Keelan Cole, and Tyron Johnson have also been competing for snaps. Even though Cole may be the most proven receiver with 2,699 career yards from scrimmage; Johnson is continuing to impress with his speed.
Solid redzone period for the #Raiders offense
Aside from the obvious of Renfrow and Davante standing out Tyron Johnson continued to shine too
— Jesse Merrick (@JesseNews3LV) July 31, 2022
All three receivers should see a good amount of playing time this Thursday and who ever stands out, should have the upper hand as the regular season quickly approaches.
Raiders: Darien Butler, inside linebacker
With linebacker Micah Kiser sustaining a season-ending knee injury, undrafted free agent inside Darien Butler has a chance to bump himself up the linebacker depth chart this Thursday.
Even before the injury to the linebacker corps, he began to shine in camp early on.
Also: @Raiders rookie LB Darien Butler definitely flashing. Interesting young player
— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) July 27, 2022
Butler finished his 2021 season with an 87.7 coverage grade by PFF which was first among all Pac-12 linebackers. To prove that grade, he ended up grabbing the first interception of Raiders camp.
First interception of Raiders Training Camp belongs to my UDFA sleeper Darien Butler from @ASUFootball
— Levi Edwards (@theleviedwards) July 23, 2022
Although he may be in a crowded linebacker room behind Divine Deablo and Jayon Brown. Butler is certainly a guy to watch this week as he works his way up the depth chart. Depending on how he plays during preseason will determine if he makes the 52-man roster.