The Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams have struggled more than just about any team in the NFL over the last decade, both failing to make even one playoff appearance during that time. After making a few key additions in the offseason, there are at least a few reasons for each team to be optimistic heading into their first preseason game on Friday night.
St. Louis will visit Oakland on the second day of Week 1 in the 2015 NFL preseason. Having finished in last place in 2014, the Rams and Raiders were each able to draft one of college football’s best players. St. Louis’ first-round pick won’t play because of an injury, but Oakland’s top selection is set to make his debut.
Amari Cooper, who led the NCAA with 124 receptions in 2014, will take the field for the Raiders after being selected with the No.4 overall pick. He potentially gives quarterback Derek Carr a legitimate No.1 receiver, following a year that saw the Raiders rank last in total offense.
Cooper isn’t the only addition that will look to bolster the team’s offense. Michael Crabtree will make his Oakland debut after spending the first six years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. The wide out totaled less than 700 yards last year, though he did grab 85 passes for 1,105 yards a few seasons ago.
On defense, the Raiders gave safety Nate Allen a $23-million contract in the offseason. Not only is he hoping to impress his new team with a strong individual performance, but the former Philadelphia Eagle has placed emphasis on winning games this preseason.
“It’s important,” Allen said via The San Francisco Chronicle. “It shows how far you have come at training camp. This first one is big. As a defense, it sets the tone for what type of defense you’re going to be — whether we play a snap, a series or the first quarter.”
The Rams took the first running back in the draft, but he won’t even be ready for the start of the regular season. Todd Gurley is still recovering from the torn ACL that cut short his final college football season. St. Louis hopes he’ll significantly improve their running game, which ranked 20th in the NFL last year.
St. Louis’ No.2 and No.3 draft picks will be on the field, starting on the offensive line. Right tackle Rob Havenstein and right guard Jamon Brown have been tasked with protecting the team’s new starting quarterback.
Nick Foles will make his debut under center for St. Louis, having been traded from the Eagles for Sam Bradford in the offseason. Foles probably won’t see too much time on the field since the Rams want to make sure he stays healthy. Bradford battled injuries for much of his time with St. Louis, missing nine games in 2013 and all of 2014.
“We want to protect [Foles],” head coach Jeff Fisher said via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We don’t want to get him hit. Get rid of the ball. Coach (Jack) Del Rio is a good football coach, a defensive guy. And he’s going to have them rolling off (the line). So we just have to be smart offensively.”
Start Time: 10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: KTVU FOX 2 (Oakland) and KTVI FOX 2 (St. Louis)
Betting Line: St. Louis-1