The Raiders wrapped up their preseason road schedule last week in Green Bay, falling to the Packers at Lambeau Field, 12- 20. For the second straight week, a Raiders punt team came up with a big play, as S Brynden Trawick blocked a punt in the fourth quarter that was recovered by S Nate Allen for a touchdown. The defense limited the Packers’ offense to just 257 total net yards in the game and only 112 passing yards. The unit also posted three sacks on the night, with DE Khalil Mack recording his first of the preseason. LB Neiron Ball contributed to the sack tally and LB Shilique Calhoun added the first of his NFL career.
At the time, the injury was thought to be relatively minor in nature, but after six weeks of being inactive on the active roster, Ball was placed on injured reserve, prematurely ending what had been a promising rookie campaign. “It’s like you’re at an ultimate high, and then you go to an ultimate low, but it was something that I had to deal with,” said Ball. “It was hard because you want to impress your teammates and your coaches, and once you do that and you get knocked down, it’s kind of hard to put it all into perspective. Like I said, there’s nothing I can do about it, just keep fighting.”
Heeney described Ball as a playmaker who can “play really any position” and the hope would be that infusing a player like him back into the defensive rotation would prove valuable not just from a depth standpoint, but from a production standpoint as well. Regardless of what the coaching staff asks Ball to do in 2016, he’ll be ready to go out and cheap Oakland Raiders jerseys produce, picking up where he left off with his rookie season.
However, even with all the additions that the team has made, one player and his return to the field has been flying under the radar – linebacker Neiron Ball.
This athletic linebacker was drafted by the Raiders last year, and in the two games he started he showcased much of what he’s capable of. He provided nine tackles and one sack in those games, and his presence on the field superseded than what is reflected in the stat sheet. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to an untimely injury that occurred week 7 against the San Diego Chargers, right as he was starting to get comfortable on the field. Coming off the injury, Ball hopes to pick up where he left off, and will hopefully provide some depth for the Raiders’ linebacking corps.
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After coming out of the locker room and warming up, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. did not participate in the team portion of Tuesday’s practice. Linebacker Neiron Ball and safety Jimmy Hall were also held out of the afternoon session, although after missing the past few days of practice, defensive tackle Leon Orr returned and was a full participant Tuesday.
Rapoport praised the job McKenzie has done rebuilding the roster, saying “this is a place that has probably rebuilt in a way that everybody would like to rebuild,” and was also quick to note the importance of securing a franchise quarterback, which the Raiders have in Derek Carr. Carr has been impressive in his first two seasons in Silver and Black, and now heading into his third year, Rapoport expects No. 4 to be even better.
After winning their preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals, the Silver and Black fell Friday night 20-12 to the Packers. Now a loss in the preseason, while not ideal, isn’t cause for concern, as the main purpose of the preseason is to get warmed up and sufficiently prepared for the when the regular season kicks off.
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Time and time again the phrase, “build through the draft and supplement through free agency,” has been repeated by General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Jack Del Rio. Currently, a majority of the team’s roster has been constructed through the draft process.
After back-to-back road games to start their preseason slate, the Raiders return home next Saturday to host the Tennessee Titans, but before our focus shifts entirely to that game, let’s look back at the playtime percentages from Thursday’s contest with the Packers, and see what we can learn from taking a closer look at the numbers.
The longest tenured Raider on the team is kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who was drafted by the Silver and Black back in 2000. The team has added quality talent through the draft in recent memory with the additions of defensive end Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr, and wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Along with linebacker Neiron Ball, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., and tight end Gabe Holmes, Nelson was one of the four players to not suit up for the Raiders Saturday night in their bout with the Tennessee Titans. Although the veteran safety didn’t play, his absence isn’t all that surprising, considering he was a limited participant in practice leading up the game, and then didn’t practice Thursday afternoon.