O.CO COLISEUM — The Raiders beat the Detroit Lions in their home preseason opener by a final score of 26-20.
The win had its moments — Oakland’s offense clicking at times, a wide receiver battle becoming more clear and a rookie class that looks pretty good — though the game also had plenty of imperfection.
Oakland’s secondary was torched, and rookie quarterback Derek Carr was injured late in the game.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was optimistic — and frustrated — by the showing:
“I’m not discouraged about where we’re at defensively, I think we’re going to be just fine. That’s really not a concern of mine.”
The offense was what ended up being the deciding factor for the Raiders, who tallied 98 yards rushing and another 306 through the air.
The box score may be relatively meaningless, though there were still some big takeaways from the game.
Matt Schaub remained cool under pressure
Schaub was pressured early as the Raiders used a rotation along the offensive line. The line — which Oakland tackled early on in free agency with several signings — didn’t hold up as well as fans might have hoped, though Schaub didn’t budge.
“I felt comfortable and really got into a bit of a rhythm offensively with the guys, and getting in and out of the huddle and executing with some things. It just felt good.”
After two run plays for four yards, Schaub found James Jones 13 yards downfield for a completion. Then, Rod Streater was the recipient of another Schaub pass for six yards. Two plays later, tight end Mychal Rivera caught a pass for another 18 yards.
Schaub’s next pass was intercepted, but bounced off the hands of Jones, who had a good shot at catching the pass.
Schaub, still not rattled, came out for another drive, though Oakland wouldn’t score.
On Schaub’s play, Allen said:
“I thought he held up fine. The first drive of the game, we’re on schedule and doing good things moving the football. Unfortunately, the ball pops up in a kind of bad luck interception. … That was kind of a bad luck play, but I though overall, he did well.”
Janikowski’s issues may be a thing of the past
Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed his fair share of field goals during the 2013 season. Nine, to be exact.
That inconsistency appears to be a thing of the past, something Allen touched on during the early stages of training camp.
Four of Janikowski’s misses came from beyond 50 yards, and another three from between 40 and 49 yards out.
The team maintained that Janikowski and holder Marquette King hadn’t quite gotten into a rhythm during the first half of last season.
During Oakland’s first home preseason game of 2014, Janikowski officially nailed one, though another strike was negated by a Detroit penalty.
Both kicks were through the middle of the uprights, and the line held up just fine. And with three games decided by four points last season, that’s a good sign.
During the Raiders season opener at Indianapolis, Janikowski missed one from 48 yards out during the closing seconds of the first half.
The Raiders were in field goal range to finish off the game, and needed a touchdown to win instead of a field goal.
During a final-second heartbreaker against Tennessee, Janikowski missed two field goals. Had Janikowski made the two, Oakland would have tacked on six points and won.
The complications may have even forced the Raiders’ coaching staff to alter their plans, which is never good when you’ve just signed your kicker to a $19 million extension over four years.
Run defense a strength, pass defense, not so much
Friday night was rough for the Raiders’ starting secondary. The Lions racked up 150 yards through the air during the first quarter, and that includes five attempts from Detroit’s backup, Dan Orlovsky.
Charles Woodson, who considered retirement during the offseason after receiving only a call from the Raiders, couldn’t even help.
At one point late in the first quarter, anytime the Lions put four or five receivers out on the field, it seemed like an easy first down. And, more often than not, was.
Eight players on Detroit’s offense caught passes, wide receiver Golden Tate catching three balls, one of them for an easy touchdown.
Rookie defenders step up
Keith McGill, T.J. Carrie and Jonathan Dowling each made some plays Friday. McGill, while it won’t show in the box score, wasn’t targeted a single time in coverage.
Asked about first round rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, Allen said:
“The only way to get better is to get some experience.”
The question and response was regarding Mack, though the same could be true for all of the youth on Oakland”s roster.
McGill, the fourth-round pick out of Utah, was tasked with covering Corey Fuller, who ran a 4.43 40-yard-dash at the 2013 combine.
Once Fuller switched to the right side away from McGill, he made catching deep balls look easy.
T.J. Carrie got most of his reps in during the third quarter, but shined on a punt return which he nearly took the distance.
Carrie, after tracking the punt on a few bounces, waited for his blocking to set up. It looked bad until he took it back 50 yards, to the Lions 22-yard line.
Dowling, too, had his moments. While nearly intercepting a pass, Dowling recorded a breakup during the third quarter outside the left hash, with the Detroit drive eventually turning into zilch.
Wide receiver battle becoming clearer
Butler, who the Raiders drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 draft, may be moving up a few notches on the depth chart.
Butler recorded four catches during the second half, albeit against the Lions’ second and third string defense, for 74 yards.
Standing at six-foot-three, Butler has a size and speed combination that left the Raiders intrigued.
“I think we have some depth at the wide receiver position, I think we’ve got to look at some things and see how that’s going to shake out.”
He didn’t play in six games last year, sitting inactive since only 46 players can be on the roster for gameday, but made the 53-man roster out of camp.
And while Oakland had high hopes for Andre Holmes, a 6-foot-5 wide out in his fourth NFL season, he dropped one easy catch and didn’t do much else.
On seven targets, Holmes caught two passes for 42 yards, leaving a suspicion that the 26-year-old could have trouble making the final roster.
After the game, Allen told reporters that the plan was to work up different lineups and get a good look at receivers Denarius Moore and Jones.
Greg Little caught one pass for 38 yards and made the one play he had to make.
Another surprise, Moore hasn’t looked like the same player many projected to be a starter. He’s had several drops in practice, and was only targeted once Friday — and gained eight yards on the reception.
Carr, Simonson injured
Quarterback Derek Carr and tight end Scott Simonson suffered injuries in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game. Carr, after tackle Jack Cornell let Detroit defensive end Larry Webster around Carr’s blindside, was rocked hard.
He went down, all of Webster’s weight planted on Carr, and the rookie quarterback got up and pointed to his ribs.
Allen says Carr suffered a concussion, and alluded to some sore ribs.
Second-year quarterback Matt McGloin came in to replace Carr.
Simonson, fighting hard just to make the first round of cuts, got rocked in the middle of the field, by a Detroit defender.
Simonson’s helmet flew off, and he dropped the ball while stumbling forward into the end zone. Had Simonson held onto the ball, Oakland would be in great shape to score. Instead, the play was ruled a fumble recovered by Detroit.
Simonson was removed from the game in accordance with the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Tackle Matt McCants also sustained a concussion.
Allen, after the game, also said that running back Maurice Jones-Drew injured his finger but doesn’t expect it to be a big deal.