Raiders proving their worth early
These aren’t your Raiders of 2013 even if Matt McGloin led a scoring drive.
It’s evident by the dominance their offensive line showed. The passing game with above average weapons and what appears to be adequate depth. And an attitude that screams “winner.”
Oakland’s 18-3 preseason win over St. Louis is a game with no standing implications, where reserves played more than starters and didn’t result in much more than some experience.
That doesn’t mean that the game was without implications altogether.
It showed how much the Raiders have changed over a relatively short span of time. The roster exudes confidence, has veteran leadership as well as youthful impact players, and a nucleus with the potential to go a long way.
Before we heap praise onto a team for looking good before the regular season, let us go over some of the bad:
- Keith McGill, second year corner fighting for the third cornerback spot, got burnt on a myriad of plays and hasn’t shown the burst and agility that was expected of him out of the combine.
He’s got plenty talent, that much has been made clear, but he could be better served at safety rather than corner.
More importantly for the immediate future, he did nothing to cement himself in the role Oakland’s coaching staff hoped he’d fill. In the mix are rookies Dexter McDonald and SaQuan Edwards, along with Nieko Thorpe and Ras-I Dowling.
It’s a battle that will likely continue into the final moments of training camp.
- Oakland might still have some issues containing the run, though it’s a clear improvement from 2014. St. Louis has a valiant rushing attack, so perhaps it was the opponent early on.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie devoted the bulk of his free agency to improving the run game on both sides. The defense still has a way to go before they can prove to be a dominant unit. Even if the roster says they will.
- The screen game continues to look like something the Raiders can’t contain. It’s been a primary area of weakness over the last few seasons, and though it’s certainly gotten better, it’s not where it needs to be.
Without some stops there, the Raiders will beat themselves more than the opponent can hope for.
- Derek Carr was baited into a goal line interception on an inside slant to rookie receiver Amari Cooper. He telegraphed it all the way, and Cooper didn’t do enough to ensure inside leverage.
Carr’s pass also lacked zip, through that will come with extra reps. Call it an early season learning experience.
Imagine the Raiders getting to the postseason. Now imagine the Raiders getting to the postseason without being able to contain screen passes. The latter is pure fiction.
The good, though, is aplenty. Oakland’s secondary is clearly improved despite the thin layer between starter and reserve. The offensive line looks dominant.
And the offensive unit as a whole could be very good. Maybe top eight, which is a lot coming from being arguably the worst in the league last year.
It’s easy to improve from second to last in points scored, dead last in total yardage, last in points allowed, and last in point differential. How much Oakland has improved is still difficult to discern.
Cooper caught three passes on four targets, the fourth being the interception, for 22 yards. Tight end Clive Walford caught the pair of passes in his direction for 28 yards, and Michael Crabtree caught two of three targets for 15 yards.
Crabtree also showed the burst he had pre-achilles injury, which is a pretty big deal.
Kris Durham, who played for Tennessee two seasons ago and Detroit in 2014, looked better than advertised, and though he hasn’t been a focal point in camp, had an excellent run after the catch for 20 yards.
Carr’s first quarter, three drives in total, was less than stellar but it’s nothing worth worrying about since the play calls were meant to get guys reps and nothing more.
The win is without meaning in regard to what situations prevail in December and January.
But the showing on Friday painted a picture where 9-7 is more than reasonable. And a playoff berth not out of the question.
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.