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NAPA — The Raiders are playing a football game on Friday night. Not a 11-on-11 “team” period during training camp. Not a joint practice against the Detroit Lions, like the ones that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. But an honest-to-goodness meaningless game played in an actual stadium.

We are all very excited for it.

An NFL preseason contest may be nothing more than a glorified exhibition, but this one will be the first game coached by Jon Gruden since Dec. 28, 2008, when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the (checks media guide) Oakland Raiders. Gruden’s hiring was one of the biggest coups of the 2018 offseason, and it has added some serious spice to the Raiders’ summer preparations.

But there are plenty of questions about this team on the eve of Preseason Game 1. Of course there are.

Can Martavis Bryant be a major contributor?

Bryant looked like a bargain when the Raiders acquired him from Pittsburgh for a third-round draft pick on April 26. Oakland would have a jet-fast wide receiver to take the top off of defenses and create space for Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson.

Sure, Bryant brought along some baggage, including poor relations with former teammates and a drug suspension that wiped out his 2016 season. But who better than the charismatic Gruden to mold a talented but moody athlete?

The bloom is leaving the rose, though. Over the weekend, Gruden acknowledged to reporters that he wasn’t 100 percent satisfied with Bryant’s performance in camp. “He’s got to get out here and play better,” the coach said. “… He’s in a competitive situation, and right now, a lot of other receivers have had a nice camp. He’s just got to learn the offense.”

This week, former NFL wide receiver James Jones, now an NFL Network correspondent, doubled down. Jones said he had spoken to Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson, and that, “They said he’s not picking up the playbook, and that’s the reason of a little frustration right now because they want to get him on the field but he’s not able to grasp the playbook yet.”

Ouch. On the other hand, Bryant made a couple of big plays against the Lions during Wednesday’s practice. On one route, he stayed with a ball that was tipped by Detroit cornerback Darius Slay, caught it in stride and took off untouched. He also hauled in a long completion on the field opposite me; I didn’t have a great angle on the play, but the crowd loved it.

Bryant is 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and can run and leap like Baryshnikov. Gruden’s comments were meant to shake him out of his complacency, but you can bet the Raiders aren’t ready to give up on him.

Is Kolton Miller ready to start at left tackle?

The Raiders’ playoff hopes rest on quarterback Derek Carr, and Carr’s health rests, in large part, on his left tackle — especially in a division that includes edge rushers like Denver’s Von Miller, the Chargers’ Joey Bosa and Kansas City’s Justin Houston.

As of now, that left tackle appears to be Miller, the rookie from UCLA. The incumbent at that position, Donald Penn, is out with a foot injury, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday that the Raiders will ask the veteran to take a pay cut. If he refuses, and perhaps even if he doesn’t, the starting job will fall to Miller.

I’d be nervous if I were Carr. Miller has looked like a typical rookie lineman during camp. He holds his own on one play, then gets beat around the corner on the next. He’s an immense human, but not exactly a hard body. I haven’t seen much to convince me that Miller is ready to face the Rams’ potent D-line in the regular-season opener.

Who will be Carr’s backup quarterback?

Last year it was E.J. Manuel, but the Raiders keep waiting for Connor Cook, now in his third season, to move up a rung. “He’s made great strides,” Gruden said Wednesday. “Since he stepped foot here in Napa, he hasn’t turned the ball over. He’s made good decisions. He audibled two or three times today to big plays. He’s throwing the ball short, medium and deep accurately and he’s showed really good command, and this will be a really good test for him Friday night.”

Manuel reportedly threw three interceptions against the Lions on Tuesday, and Cook was listed at No. 2 on the Raiders’ first released depth chart of 2018. Still, the smart money says Manuel will be Carr’s insurance policy again this year. Cook just doesn’t play with urgency or fluidity.

Are the Raiders OK without Khalil Mack?

No. No, they’re not.

Mack is holding out. He’s arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, and he wants a long-term deal to match that worth. It’s not uncommon for big-name players to stay away from training camp in pursuit of contract leverage. They almost always sign before the regular season begins. Mack is likely to do just that.

The Raiders shouldn’t let it get to nervous time. Their defense could be a disaster without this guy. Pay Mack his millions and get to work.

Can Conley and Melifonwu turn a corner?

The Raiders got almost no value from their top two picks of 2017. Cornerback Gareon Conley played in just two games, safety Obi Melifonwu in five. They had one combined start (by Melifonwu). The Raiders secondary is a work in progress, and it would be a huge boost to new coordinator Paul Guenther to get these two integrated into the defense.

The issue for Conley is that he can’t stay on the field. He is currently out with a hip strain. Melifonwu has a different problem: He might not be very good. He is tall and athletic and intelligent. But he rarely makes standout plays in practice. At 24, Melifonwu has a lot of room for growth. But the Raiders will not be infinitely patient with his development.

Look for Conley to move into a starting role, probably opposite Rashaan Melvin, as soon as he is healthy. Look for Melifonwu to learn behind Guenther’s veteran safeties this year.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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