Crisp Raiders win preseason opener

There’s one word head coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback Derek Carr used to describe the night.

Crisp.

They were talking about every facet of the 18-3 victory, pass protection, rushing attack, and the overall defensive performance. Del Rio summed up the night:

“We knew coming in that it was just a start. We knew there would be things to correct. But I’m really proud of the crisp play. I thought we were physical in the trenches. And those are good things for a football team. We weren’t penalized a lot. We didn’t do things to beat ourselves. And overall, I’m proud of the effort.”

Oakland scored nine first half points to St. Louis’ three, with the ones in the ballgame for at least a large percentage of the half.

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Derek Carr threw an interception in a red zone attempt to connect with rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper, a play that looked like an inside slant, though Carr declined to elaborate beyond calling it a miscommunication.

Carr was hardly under pressure, as was the case for backups Matt McGloin and Christian Ponder. That’s a stark contrast from the 52-0 whooping Oakland took at the hands of the Rams during week 13 of last season.

Carr said:

“I didn’t get touched. I thought (the offensive line) did a great job. Every NFL game the quarterback is going to get hit around.”

Not Carr this week. The offensive line held up against a Rams defensive front that has arguably the most talent in the league, and while it was for a short period facing the starters, Carr has plenty to smile about.

Like the variety of offensive weapons he has at his disposal. Carr said:

“I was excited to get out there and run (the offense) today. … It’s about guys making plays. Coaches are going to put us in perfect positions to make plays. And now we just have to go make the plays.”

Latavius Murray, who rushed six times for 35 yards, said:

“The offense was able to put together two drives there, the first team offense. It felt good. It felt good to go against another squad and I’m really looking forward to this.”

Murray is the incumbent starter on a roster still running a true competition in the backfield, though he’s got nobody currently challenging him until Roy Helu returns from an undisclosed injury.

Helu was added this offseason, and was one of six players who didn’t suit up due to some nicks and bruises. The other five are tight end Lee Smith, safety Brandian Ross, fullback Jamize Olawale, linebacker Sio Moore, and receiver Rod Streater.

Two players who are fighting for a final roster spot, receivers Brice Butler and Andre Holmes, made their mark on the night.

Andre Holmes caught a second quarter touchdown pass from backup Ponder, and Brice Butler caught six of seven passes for 57 yards, earning praise from Del Rio.

Butler led the team in receptions, targets and yardage, though he didn’t line up with the starters.

Rookie tight end Clive Walford, who previously was unsure whether he’d play after returning to practice Tuesday, also made the most of his snaps by catching both targets and accumulating 28 receiving yards.

Running back Trent Richardson, who is trying to recover from his Heisman finalist collegiate career, rushed five times for 18 yards.

Rookie defenders Neiron Ball and Ben Heeney recorded a sack of backup quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter which forced the Rams reserve to attempt a hurdle over his own bench.

An attempt that ended with Keenum laying face first in the warning track of the coliseum’s outfield, though fresh sod was planted a few days earlier and saved the quarterback from a seriously awful case of road rash.

Heeney, known as a high motor tackler in the middle of a defense, tallied eight tackles, one sack and one quarterback hit, earning some regard from Del Rio:

“The fundamentals of blocking and shedding blocks, are at the forefront of the offense and defense. He’s a guy that likes to stick it in there. We’ve worked hard with him. We’ll continue to work with him, he’s still got work to do. But the more he can utilize his hands and separate so he can use his speed. He’s got terrific speed.”

The Raiders will take a day off to rest before starting up training camp Sunday morning, where they can try and savor the win as they clean up some of the things they didn’t do well enough.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.