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Film Room: Preseason darling QB Aidan O'Connell awaits


FRISCO, Texas — The preseason slate for the Dallas Cowboys wraps up on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium with the Las Vegas Raiders coming to town to give the Cowboys depth units one final challenge before cut day on Tuesday.

The Raiders are 2-0 through two games in the preseason with dominant wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams.

Here are notes and nuggets from the Raiders' preseason slate to this point and how it could affect Saturday night's contest in Arlington.

  • Raiders rookie QB Aidan O'Connell has been one of the bigger standouts of the preseason league-wide as he has turned in two efficient outings so far behind elite play action quick passes as well as being kept mostly clean by an improving offensive line. Veteran Keelan Cole has been a favorite target for each QB that has rotated in for the Raiders, but O'Connell specifically has found success with the eighth-year Kentucky Wesleyan product downfield. That could prove to be a formidable challenge for the young defensive back corps that will take the field for Dallas on Saturday night. In total, O'Connell has gone 26-for-36 for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the preseason.
  • If you're looking for some other intriguing rookies for Las Vegas, second-round pick TE Michael Mayer has seen limited action in the first quarter and may be looking to get more active after registering just one reception for three yards. On the defensive side, rookie LB Amari Burney has excelled in his first training camp out of Florida. The sixth-round pick has been active flying downhill into the backfield and almost had an interception that went right through his hands in coverage against San Francisco. The second level has been pretty strong through two games for the Raiders with Burney being a big reason why.
  • The defensive tackle position has had a huge spotlight for the Raiders this preseason as a heated battle is ongoing between a handful of guys with Neil Farrell Jr., Adam Butler, Matthew Butler and Jerry Tillery all making their case for starting or rotational roles. Farrell and A. Butler have seen some preseason success, but each member of that group has been playing with a high motor that has disrupted the backfield. The group was a big reason why the Raiders defense made a pair of 4th & 1 stops against the 49ers in the first preseason contest.
  • Speaking of disrupting the backfield, keep a close eye on defensive lineman Isaac Rochell on Saturday night. The Notre Dame product lines up in various spots on the defensive line, and he's shown mass improvements both in pass rush and in the run game so far in the preseason. In addition to two sacks on Trey Lance, Rochell has been active in beating his guy off the line. He could present a challenge for the depth offensive line unit looking to make an impact just 72 hours before cut day.
  • As for opportunities for success, the second-team tackle group for the Raiders has seen some struggle as an opportunity for guys like Sam Williams, Viliami Fehoko and Isaiah Land will be prevalent in the middle portion of the game. Backup QB Brian Hoyer hasn't helped out that group either, as his poor decision-making has led to some unwarranted sacks as well as a deep conversation about if O'Connell could pass him up on cut day.
  • An intriguing battle as the lead kick/punt returner will have its final chapter on Saturday night as DeAndre Carter and Ameer Abdullah will take one final swing at earning the job. Each have had big returns in the preseason and each have found a little bit of a role on offense as well. One big return from either could cement the job on Saturday night.

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