Takeways from Raiders final preseason game

The Raiders 31-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks wasn’t competitive.

Oakland didn’t play any member of the projected first string save for right tackle Austin Howard, an interesting thing since Howard isn’t a lock to start.

Seattle played their first team offense and defense for a few drives, and luckily for Oakland, it appears the Raiders came away healthy.

Head coach Jack Del Rio said earlier in the week that he was using the game as an opportunity to get some close looks at players who haven’t faced much first team competition.

Quarterback Christian Ponder opened the night, completing seven of 10 attempts for 99 yards, no touchdowns and a 101.7 passer rating.

Rod Streater and Brice Butler started at wide receiver, Roy Helu Jr. at running back, and linebacker Sio Moore barely saw the field.

Butler saw the second most targets of any receiver, seven, and hauled in four receptions for 62 yards. Streater caught three of five looks for 37 yards, while Helu Jr. gained zero yards on seven carries, though the second string offensive line did little to help against Seattle’s fierce starting defense.

Wide receiver Seth Roberts, who was initially a long-shot to make the Raiders roster, showed up once again and caught seven of eight targets, the only miss being a bobbled end zone attempt he nearly had.

Roberts posted 110 yards and a touchdown. And now seems like a legitimate option to survive final cuts.

Another longshot in a similar position is running back Michael Dyer. He carried 12 times for 17 yards and a touchdown. Dyer had been outperformed statistically by Trent Richardson over the first three weeks, but Richardson was cut on Tuesday.

The night wasn’t pretty, not at all, though it’s hard to expect anything different based on what Seattle was doing versus the Raiders backups.

HEENEY IS NASTY

It’s something that’s been acknowledged at least a few times, but inside linebacker Ben Heeney is a real-deal football player. He’s a tackling machine, and showed it once again.

What hasn’t been projected much is the possibility that Heeney starts over free agent acquisition Curtis Lofton. It’s still not expected, but certainly possible.

Heeney made 11 tackles Thursday night, and was around a number of others. He can shed blocks well, run fast, and plays with a level of intensity that makes defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. smile.

CASE FOR ROBERTS

When it was time to punch the clock, fourth quarter and a little over two minutes remaining, Roberts broke a few tackles and gained 39 yards — over 20 yards after the catch.

The Raiders would love for Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to play outside, and are lacking a true slot receiver. Butler makes sense there, as does Streater, but Roberts has set himself apart.

He may have the most total potential of the group, and has plenty of room for growth despite already polishing his skills pretty well.

There’s an interesting predicament the Raiders have at receiver when final cuts are due.

They have eight receivers currently: Cooper, Crabtree, Streater, Butler, Roberts, Andre Holmes (injured), Devon Wylie and Kris Durham.

Excluding Holmes, who should open the season on the short-term injured reserve list, gives the Raiders seven receivers, and the team may only cut one. Wylie seems the logical choice, leaving Durham as the sixth receiver.

There’s no betting, though, that the Raiders will use their only short-term injured reserve slot on Holmes, who was retained as a restricted free agent and given the lowest round tender.

In short, any other team had the option to sign Holmes without ceding a draft pick, but none exercised that option. It’s entirely possible that the Raiders can release Holmes and win a bet that he won’t be signed by another team.

Holmes has been used a deep threat and has been unable to track short and intermediate targets, making him relatively useless in the red zone and in short yardage situations.

The Raiders have some depth at wide receiver, and even some supreme talent. That hasn’t happened since the team came back to Oakland.

LESS IS MOORE

Linebacker Sio Moore came into the game late in the fourth quarter for his first defensive reps of the preseason. A staple of the Raiders ineffective defense over the last two years, and a fan favorite, Moore is in Del Rio’s doghouse.

He had major offseason hip surgery, and returned to the team one day into training camp.

It’s unclear what Moore did exactly to earn a spot in purgatory, but was cited by some scouts as having maturity issues during his college days.

It’s also possible that Del Rio is executing a bait and switch for the season opener, trying to gain a slight advantage in scheming. Moore is very talented, and certainly a better player than Ray-Ray Armstrong, who is supposedly starting in Moore’s place.

If Moore is not starting week one, it may serve the Raiders well to trade him. They could probably get better than the third round pick used to select him in 2013, and can also stand to upgrade at right tackle and running back.

Moore would fit very well in a 34 defense, though he played just fine in Oakland’s 43 scheme.

STILL NO RUNNING BACK STANDOUT

While Dyer can certainly make Oakland’s roster as it stands today, there’s no bet he makes it after other teams trim down to 53 players.

Dyer has his usage, and has worked hard in camp. But he also has his limitations. The Raiders could use him on their practice squad, and that seems like the right spot for him.

Eagles rookie running back Raheem Mostert has looked good in preseason play, but seems a likely casualty of depth in Philadelphia. The college track star has exceptional burst, and his top end speed was the best of any draft eligible running back.

Fred Jackson, who the Bills cut this week, is another possibility who could help the Raiders win.

George Atkinson III doesn’t seem to have much staying power as a running back, and has not overcome his ball security issues, which are his biggest defect as a football player. He doesn’t have a solid case to make the final roster except for as a special teams gunner, which he’s played very well this preseason.

Latavius Murray and Helu are locks to make final cuts. But Murray has to work on a few things before he can truly be a premier back, and Helu has never been a primary tailback.

Final cuts are due by Saturday at 1 p.m.


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.