Oakland’s offense didn’t win the first half, even though they did.
The Raiders led 15-3 at halftime, but they had their outstanding defense — not dynamic quarterback play or a churning ground game — to thank in their 30-23 preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Quarterback Derek Carr was off his mark for the better part of the night, and his final play was a puke-on-your-shoes pick six, taken 81 yards by Cariel Brooks.
It was unclear whether Carr was attempting to throw the ball away or target a receiver, which is the worst kind of throw. Carr confirmed after the game he was just trying to keep the play alive — and that he knows better.
Latavius Murray carried the ball seven times and gained only one yard.
And while not all were catchable, receiver Amari Cooper was targeted nine times and ended the night with four catches.
The Raiders won the first half, but you wouldn’t have known by watching. Trent Richardson accumulated the best stats of the night against the second team defense, gaining 19 yards on five carries.
To be completely fair, the Cardinals defense is no joke. They were fifth in the league during the 2014 season in points allowed, though they were also near the bottom in total yards.
Blame the latter on the fact they were starting their third string quarterbacks after injuries riddled their roster like the plague. They’re a good team.
Oakland’s defense looked a lot better than theirs, though, as defensive lineman Khalil Mack wreaked havoc in the backfield, and he brought some friends with him.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
Denico Autry and rookie Mario Edwards Jr. spent their evening mauling the heck out of left tackle Jared Veldheer, who departed the Raiders after the 2013 season.
Veldheer was considered a franchise left tackle then, and he still is. But the Raiders defensive line made him look like an overmatched rookie who will be happy with a case of amnesia.
Nate Allen, the safety Oakland plucked from the Eagles this offseason, had an excellent night. Two interceptions, both on overthrows, helped him gather a serious ovation from fans in attendance.
Edwards, though, was really something special Sunday night. The Florida State product, whose father played defensive back in the NFL, recorded multiple sacks and camped out around the quarterback.
If the performance is any indication, and Edwards had a similar game at Minnesota one week prior, the Raiders have much better pass rush than the national media gave them credit for.
Projected right tackle Menelik Watson ruptured his Achilles during the first quarter and will miss the entire regular season. Watson was having a solid training camp, and had looked dominant in Oakland’s first two preseason games.
Now, the Raiders face a conundrum.
J’Marcus Webb, who has been performing well at right guard, is an option to slide outside. He has played tackle for the bulk of his professional and college career, and is a natural fit there.
The same could be said for Austin Howard, who played guard for Oakland last season after playing tackle during his previous four seasons with the Jets.
If Webb got the look outside, rookie Jon Feliciano could start at right guard, and Khalif Barnes would be an option as well. No change would be necessary if Howard got the starting nod.
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.