OAKLAND Study hall is over. It's time for the Raiders to put away the playbooks, get out their No. 2 pencils and see what they've learned.
The Dallas Cowboys visit O.co Coliseum tonight at 7 and coach Dennis Allen has made it clear that grades in the game carry a lot more weight than evaluations of the 11 practices that preceded it.
"It's no different than when you were in college and you had to take exams," Allen said. "There's a lot more weight put on exams, and this is one of four exams that we get a chance to take.
"So when the lights come on, and you're doing it for real, that's when the players have to show up. So there will be more emphasis put on performance in the preseason."
It is the first look at the Raiders since a massive overhaul after a 4-12 season. The offensive system was junked along with coordinator Greg Knapp, with new coordinator Greg Olson and line coach Tony Sparano retooling it to take advantage of the current roster, most notably running back Darren McFadden.
McFadden, back in the gap and power-blocking running game he prefers, will play only a quarter and take the rest of the night off, along with most first-team players, Allen said. The game will provide the first look at the Raiders with Matt Flynn as the starting quarterback.
While the new offense has familiar pieces in place, including McFadden, three returning offensive linemen and wide receivers Denarius Moore and Rod Streater, the defense has undergone a near total makeover in terms of personnel. With defensive end Lamarr Houston out because of an injury, the only returning starter will be strong safety Tyvon Branch.
"We've got a lot of change, a lot of turnover on this football team," Allen said. "We've never been to battle with a lot of these guys, so we want to put them in situations and see how they respond."
Some other questions to ponder in the preseason opener:
Will Flynn play well enough to stem a pro-Terrelle Pryor fan movement? Pryor has his supporters who see him as a Colin Kaepernick-like talent as a runner and passer. Flynn is more efficient than stunningly talented, and that's what Allen wants out of his quarterback.
There's another battle going on between undrafted free agent Matt McGloin and fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson to be the No. 3 quarterback.
Who will be the most reliable receivers? Other than Streater, no one has separated from the pack. Moore has been up and down, Jacoby Ford has missed practice because of injuries. Andre Holmes has had his moments but will miss the first four games on suspension should he make the roster.
Two rookies to watch seventh-round pick Brice Butler, who has come on of late, and sixth-round selection Mychal Rivera, the most consistent receiver among the tight ends.
Which players are capable of supplying a pass rush? With Houston out and veteran Andre Carter getting limited snaps, the Raiders can get a look at potential pass rushers. Strong side linebacker Sio Moore, the lone rookie starter, has been touted by Allen as a solid pass rusher.
Which back will emerge as the backup to McFadden? It's a crucial role given that McFadden has not played more than 13 games in a season. Veteran Rashad Jennings has shown he can push the pile, but rookie Latavius Murray, recently recovered from injury, is an intriguing option at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds.
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