For many Raiders on the field Thursday night, it’s make-or-break time. The third exhibition of the summer – this one against the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg – is perhaps a final opportunity to impress the coaching staff and keep hopes alive of winning a roster spot.
Among them is rookie undrafted defensive tackle Anthony Rush.
As Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group wrote this week, Rush needs to have a strong game against the Packers. With defensive tackles Maurice Hurst, Justin Ellis, Johnathan Hankins, P.J. Hall and Ethan Westbrooks also in the mix, Rush is a long shot.
But Rush had a strong game last week against the Cardinals and has been impressive since Oakland signed up on Aug. 1, after his release by the Philadelphia Eagles. The 6-foot-5, 350-pounder was a standout at Alabama Birmingham, but went undrafted this spring.
So, with the team likely to keep only four defensive tackles, the numbers are stacked against Rush. But Thursday night, starters aren’t likely to play much, which will give Rush extended snaps and opportunity.
Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle has selected Rush as one of six Raiders players to watch Thursday night because this game will be so crucial to his chances. Kawahara says Rush “has forced the issue with his play in the first two preseason games.”
Rush told McDonald he knows he can’t relax. As a former junior college player who then went to under-the-radar UAB, Rush says he now is “on the same stage as everybody else and I can show what I can do.”
At UAB, Rush – deployed as a nose tackle – played 25 games and was in on 77 tackles with two sacks and an interception (for a touchdown). He had 11 tackles for loss as a senior and was selected to Conference USA’s second team.
Rush feels as if he belongs with the Raiders. He’s thriving. Against the Cardinals he had three tackles and at one point showed off his strength by fighting off a blocker with one arm and making a tackle with the other. But he knows it can end at any time.
“Being an undrafted guy, you can be here one day and be somewhere else the next,” he told McDonald. “I’ve learned that. But I really feel like it would be a good fit for me if everything works out here. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep pushing. But I feel like it will.”
The Raiders-Packers game is set for a 5 p.m. kickoff (Bay Area time).