The Oakland Raiders finally look like a competitive football team again. That should be the biggest takeaway from their preseason rout of the St. Louis Rams.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the offense looked significantly improved from a year ago, thanks in large part to some of the studs listed below.
The starting defense was still a little shaky, but there were still a few bright spots. Overall, the Raiders can feel good about their first live action of the year, especially since there appeared to be no significant injuries to come out of it.
Of all general manager Reggie McKenzie’s offseason acquisitions, he committed the most money to center Rodney Hudson. Offensive linemen rarely get the praise they deserve, but a great offensive line as anchored in the middle can be huge for an offense.
Hudson was very solid in his debut against a very good defensive front. If Hudson and the offensive line can consistently protect Carr and get push in the run game, Oakland’s offense will be vastly improved in 2015.2
Perhaps one of the more underrated additions the Raiders made in the offseason may pay off in a big way. Crabtree has mostly been a No. 2 wide receiver in his career, but he’s shown flashes he can be more.
Crabtree really appears to have a chemistry with Carr, as has been reported during training camp and was evident against the Rams. It doesn’t hurt that Crabtree is playing for a big contract and will have rookie Amari Cooper to draw attention away from him.
It would be easy to just put him on this list after every game. In this case, Mack dominated Greg Robinson and created opportunities for his teammates.
It will be on Mack and the defensive front to protect the secondary and linebackers all season like they did Friday night. Mack is the lynchpin that this defense simply can’t do without.
For all the hubbub about how great Jackson looked in training camp, his first preseason performance wasn’t very good. Jackson struggled to contain Aaron Donald and missed a key block.
Specifically, Jackson whiffed on a block at the goal line in which running back Trent Richardson took the blame for the result. The internet blames Richardson for not cutting back, when in fact there was no lane and he made the right decision following his pulling guard. Jackson also really struggled to keep Donald from creating penetration with his speed off the line.
There was a miscommunication on the first drive that resulted in a big gain on a pass to tight end Lance Kendricks. It’s impossible to know if Hayden was responsible for the coverage, but even not counting it against him, he had a subpar performance.
At least two seperate times Hayden followed the wrong man and had to make a recovery. He was lucky to not have allowed more catches.
McGill is Hayden’s main competition at the cornerback spot, but he didn’t play particularly well against backups either. Although his feet seem to be improved, he struggled to stick with speedier defenders and his stiff hips were apparent when he couldn’t get his hands on his him.
McGill must use his length to his advantage or he’ll struggle, but it was a good sign to see his improved footwork. The poor showing from Hayden and McGill got Neiko Thorpe first-team practice reps on Sunday per Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Other notable performers include Seth Roberts, Benson Mayowa and Matt McGloin. Cooper made a mistake on Carr’s interception, but nothing to worry too much about. Ray Ray Armstrong, Curtis Lofton and Charles Woodson all took poor angles and over pursued on Tavon Austin’s big catch and run.