It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, or the most convincing of wins either, but it was a surprise win that showed that the Raiders might just not be the worst team in the NFL as most “experts” predicted heading into the preseason. At O.co Coliseum on Friday night the return of Charles Woodson and the debuts of rookie linebacker Sio Moore and undrafted free agent quarterback Matt McGloin highlighted a 19-17 Raiders win that saw many of the standouts at training camp in Napa have impressive preseason debuts.
The story of the first quarter for the Raiders was an expected strong showing from an Oakland defense and secondary that has wowed those around the team at practice. Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch were strong at safety and Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter looked good at cornerback.
Nick Roach looked great as a leader of the defense for the Raiders during the first quarter, a good sign as the former Chicago Bears linebacker has been brought in by Dennis Allen to be the centerpiece of the Oakland defense at middle linebacker. Rookie outside linebacker Sio Moore also got his first career sack in the first quarter, hauling down Tony Romo as the Raiders defense didn’t concede a touchdown with their starters on the field.
Darren McFadden rushed the ball just three times in a spot showing. Starter Matt Flynn was sacked for a fumble early on, but recovered to lead the Raiders down the field before Sebastian Janikowski launched a 51 yard field goal through the uprights to give Oakland their first points of the season.
Flynn’s competition at the quarterback spot, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, both had strong showings in the second and third quarters as the Raiders depth in the backup QB department was evident on Friday. Pryor led the Raiders down the field with an impressive mix of passing and scramble plays before getting a little bit too carried away and throwing a red zone INT.
The INT didn’t rattle Pryor however as he had an impressive showing as he went 6-for-10 for 88 yards in the air and added 31 yards on the ground via three rushing attempts. If Pryor can limit those errors he will have a chance to threaten Flynn late in the preseason as his blend of athleticism and playmaking instincts that correlate so well to the in vogue read option offense will temp coordinator Greg Olsen.
In the second half Matt McGloin earned the win for the Raiders in an impressive debut for the third string quarterback out of Penn State. McGloin scored 10 of the Raiders 19 points on his first two drives in the game, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Brice Butler that was the highlight of the night. He left the game with the Raiders up 16-10 and completed four passes for nearly 80 yards. Even against the Cowboys third team defense that performance was miles ahead of Tyler Wilson’s fourth quarter performance and heats up what is already a tight race for the third string quarterback spot between the undrafted free agent and the fourth round pick in Wilson.
Wilson struggled in the fourth quarter, failing to get much of anything going as the Raiders finished off the game in the fourth quarter in spite of some struggles from the former Razorback. Chance Casey made some huge tackles at linebacker in the fourth quarter and was the standout from the third and fourth string as the Oakland defense clung on in the late sequences of the fourth quarter.
The win showed a lot of what we already know about the Raiders from training camp. Players like Sio Moore who have stood out at training camp also stepped up and made plays in the first week of the preseason, an encouraging sign as an unproven Raiders team goes forward in a preseason where they have had to answer to a ton of critics.
August 16 will be the next test for Oakland as they travel to take on the New Orleans Saints. With reps for starters expected to stretch to the entire first half, it will be another test to see if the Raiders are actually better than advertised, or that their win tonight was the product of just having a deeper group of third string talent.