Derek Carr shines as Raiders running game sputters
Preseason isn’t meaningless, but all the same, it’s certainly not meaningful.
There are still notable details that will emerge, and here are some from the Raiders’ third week of the preseason, a 27-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Derek Carr is incredible. In tight coverage, on fade routes well downfield, Carr dropped dimes into the waiting hands of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper for touchdowns in the first quarter and the second.
If some Greek god were to be the overlord of fantastic passes, his son would probably be Derek Carr. This man looks ready for MVP contention.
“It was nice to go out there and score some points. It was nice to move the ball.”
Oakland ran a lot of vanilla plays, as is customary for the preseason, but run the ball they did not. Even if they tried.
This is important because they play Tennessee on the road during Week 3, and they’ll have to orchestrate some miracles to win if the Titans manage to keep things close.
Oakland trotted out their starting offensive line for the entire first half, and their longest gain of the first quarter — four attempts over two drives — was two yards.
Rookie DeAndre Washington broke off a 31-yard run, slashing to the left hash and across midfield, but the big play was one of a kind. He finished with 55 yards on eight attempts, many of the runs coming against backup defense.
Latavius Murray had a mere two carries, totaling zero yards, and Jalen Richard toted the rock seven times, gaining 35 yards. George Atkinson III also gained 35 yards, on four attempts.
The Raiders will likely be scanning the waiver wire with ferocity, or whatever kind of intense scanning they do, because their rushing attack is more cute and cuddly than dangerous.
The coaches also might want to figure out a way to make the most of that Oakland Coliseum infield they’ll have for the first two or three home games. They’re gonna need it.
Carr, and the rest of the group, though, continue to lobby for Murray. Del Rio appears to see Washington as a compliment to the incumbent and 2015 pro bowler, despite his past inefficiencies.
Murray appeared to wear down late in games, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave would opt to throw a lot more than run during the second half of games last season, regardless of game situation, which may have cost Oakland a win here and there.
It’s preseason, and Smith is acclimating to a new team, a new city, and most importantly, a new playbook. Some adjustment period is usually necessary.
Amerson, though, looked every bit the All-Pro that the Raiders hope he becomes. Being in position to make plays, then making plays, are two different things. Amerson did them both Saturday evening.
He missed a few tackles as well, but that’s something the Raiders will live with as long as he keeps his coverage game up — which is nearing elite status.
Tackling was a problem in general for the Raiders, again, and that needs to change for them to become truly legitimate.
Oakland’s starting unit also failed to record a sack — Khalil Mack was continuously held — which should be a tough pill to swallow for a unit that is expected to bring the noise this year.
Linebacker Bruce Irvin said:
“It was just guys out of their gaps. Tennessee made a statement that they were gonna come out there and run the ball, and they did. You got to play good gap sound defense, or you know, you’re gonna see what happens. And we didn’t tonight.”
A potential concern is run defense: the Raiders allowed 132 yards on 32 carries, a 4.1 yard per carry clip. Not good. Del Rio said:
“We wanted to stop the run. And we really haven’t stopped the run the way we expect to this year. Misfits continue to cause problems, and we have to get that cleaned up as the season approaches. Obviously that’s a critical area that must be addressed, and will continue to be addressed.”
Del Rio added that he takes poor tackling personally, and that the issues are not for lack of desire, adding:
“I don’t have a good alibi for it. You can’t be a great defense doing that. We have intentions. We’ve said our intentions. I’m not shying away from that, we’re not backing down from that, but it’s got to be a whole hell of a lot better than that.”
The one unit that had no problem standing up ball carriers was on special teams, where the opposition was crushed in the return game.
Oakland did not kick a field goal Saturday night, but punter Marquette King certainly got his work in. King boomed punts downfield, and may prove to be the mostly valuable punter in the game if things keep up.
Oakland ends the preseason at home next
Friday Thursday*, hosting the Seattle Seahawks at 7 p.m.
*An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that the Raiders final preseason game is Friday, September 2nd. It is, in fact, Thursday September 1st.
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 Raiders football.