Raiders preseason loss is still a win

The Raiders might have lost Saturday night, but their first team won without question.

Which is the biggest element at the end of the day, not to mention the impact wide receiver Amari Cooper is having on the offense.

Oakland took the loss, technically 20-12 in a lightning filled evening, weather halting play for just over an hour in Minnesota.

But the Vikings’ first team was overpowered, overmatched and outmatched by the Raiders.

A few plays that stand out include Latavius Murray‘s short run into the end zone, which showed right tackle Menelik Watson bulldozing defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who the Vikings drafted in the first round of 2012.

Floyd is one of the better players at his position, and Watson owned him in a goal line situation where it was almost certain the Raiders would run the ball.

Cooper, who made an outstanding grab on the right sideline to get Oakland in that position a few plays earlier, only made that one play.

It was for 40 yards, and over defensive back Terrance Newman, who sports 147 career passes defensed and 37 picks.

Newman is older now, but veteran savvy usually goes a long way in the NFL.

The reason this is most important is that Newman mimics a lot of the defensive backs in the AFC West. He’s similar to Denver’s Aqib Talib or San Diego’s Brandon Flowers.

Carr, too, looked a little better than he did in week one, and while the box score doesn’t reflect all of it, his 9.8 yards per attempt tell a solid story that Raiders fans can boast about.

The third and final positive takeaway is, again, Brice Butler.

Butler caught all three passes sent his way, and was able to have his way with the Vikings defense. The 25-year-old Georgia native is an interesting player.

He’s been inconsistent in practice, though his route running is much better this year than last, but has always played extremely well in games.

With a receiving corps that will exclude some names from 2014, Butler is a guy who could make the team and even start in three wide receiver sets.

He’s got the measureables, but has to show coaches that he has it. He’s doing that.

Three negatives were also easy to spot.

Beyond Latavius Murray, and presumably Roy Helu, who has yet to play a preseason snap, the running back chart is muddled at best.

Michael Dyer has shown out in camp, though it’s hard to discern his total upside during game action. He’s a solid bet to make the team, though that doesn’t mean he’s the best option once other teams are forced to trim their rosters.

Trent Richardson five yards on five carries, and isn’t making a strong case to stay with any team at this point.

Helu hasn’t proven he can be a lead dog in the backfield, so if Murray goes down — he was injured for the better part of the last seven games in 2014 — there’s no clear starter.

The Raiders secondary was beat numerous times Saturday night, and while Minnesota has some exceptional speed at receiver, there’s no getting around the vivid question marks at cornerback.

Oakland had no better options in free agency, and while the first half of the season could be just fine, the second half might be incredibly tough.

Of the final eight games, the only team without a threatening receiver group are the Titans. And as injuries mount, which they surely will to some degree, Oakland will need to get better quickly.

Not having linebacker Sio Moore take the field doesn’t help. There’s some reason to believe coaches just want him healthy when games start to really count.

He’s earned solid grades from Pro Football Focus in each of his first two seasons, and figures to get a shot at the starting weakside linebacker job even with Ray Ray Armstrong officially listed as the starter.

Frankly, Jack Del Rio had to be pleased with what he saw during his time as Broncos defensive coordinator. But that’s nothing the Raiders head honcho has said in sessions with the media since training camp.

Until he’s ready to appear in game action, there’s little certainty regarding where he stands in the minds of coaches. One thing is, though, he’s come on as a different individual this year.

He deleted his social media accounts after mandatory minicamp, cut his braids off, and held a different candor in a group interview after returning to camp in Napa.

The Raiders hope he’s a different player — one who’s grown into an even better version of what he showed since being drafted.

There’s just no way of knowing that is going to happen yet.


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.