The first football game of the season is set for Thursday night, when the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars will compete in the 2022 NFL Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, officially kicking off the preseason.
There is going to be expectations in this game, especially with fans wanting new to see the new players like Raiders wider receiver Davante Adams and the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft in outside linebacker Travion Walker.
The Jaguars have already confirmed that their starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence and starting running back Travis Etienne will not play in this game. Their starting jobs are not in danger of being lost, as the preseason is a set of games for rookies and young and mid-level players to compete for roster spots. While Lawrence and Etienne sit out, wide receiver Davante Adams could get his first catch as a Raider from his former Fresno State teammate, quarterback Derrick Carr. Outside of the first drive, if they play on Thursday night, there shouldn't be too high expectations from the star players due to potential injury risk.
This game will be a chance for the Raiders to develop some solid depth, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, the Raiders finished 26th in the league in points allowed per game (25.8). Thursday's game will open up opportunities for veteran high-caliber backups to try and push to become starters again.
Defensive end Clelin Ferrell is a player that needs a bump after his recent trip down the depth chart. Ferrell was the former fourth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and has not lived up to the expectations the Raiders had for him. Last season was Ferrell's least productive in his three years in the league. During the off-season, the Raiders did not pick up the fifth-year option on his contract, making him a free agent after the 2022 season. This game will give Farrell a chance to show his relevance in the NFL and prove he can be a star player in the future as opposed to a potential bust.
While Lawrence and Etienne are going to be out for the Jaguars, their receiving core, which was loaded up during the off-season, will get a chance to become accustomed to game settings.
One of the biggest additions for Jacksonville this off-season has been Christian Kirk, who was signed to a four-year, $72 million deal. The Jaguars have the chance to improve their receiving corps even more by developing other potential high-caliber players including former first rounder Laquon Treadwell, who is listed as a backup. This game will open up an opportunity for Treadwell to become a potential starter in a loaded roster for the Jaguars.
The matchup on Thursday night will be the first time that two new head coaches will make their debut with their new teams. Jacksonville is on its third head coach in three years with Doug Pederson, the former Super Bowl winning coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Pederson was hired to help stabilize the team and create efficiency on the offensive side of the ball following a season under Urban Meyer.
The Raiders are led by former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. They also had a series of distractions off the field last season, starting with head coach Jon Gruden's firing and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III getting released.
Like Pederson, McDaniels was hired to help stabilize the team and create some high effect high power efficiency on the offensive side of the ball. He will get that chance with the new quarterback-receiver duo in Carr and Adams, but he will have to wait to do so until the regular season to avoid injuries.
One thing is certain ahead of Thursday's game: NFL football is back.