Aug 8, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (31) rushes into Oakland Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie (38) in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
The Matt Schaub, Derek Carr, Khalil Mack (and several other Raiders offseason add-ons) era went officially/unofficially/kind of/sort of underway on Friday night in Minnesota as the Oakland Raiders visited the Minnesota Vikings who were seeing first round pick Teddy Bridgewater debut as a start of a new era for themselves at quarterback in a game that was highly anticipated.
Fans were hoping to see glimpses of a promising future after playoff exits, instead fans were treated to what amounted as a slow pace scrimmage with little execution on display for either the Raiders or the Vikings for the majority of their preseason debuts. With little players making much impact on a consistent basis during any of the four quarters on Friday night.
In fact penalties were the story of the game as the Raiders felt the wrath of the officials on multiple occasions in untimely scenarios, giving up several third down conversions on defense in addition to the usual untimely offensive line penalties that stalled drives from Matt Schaub, Derek Carr, and Matt McGloin throughout a game that saw little offensive fireworks.
In the end it would be two opening drives from the Vikings quarterbacks that made the difference as a touchdown drive from former Kansas City Chiefs starter Matt Cassel and a field goal drive from the rookie Bridgewater after a near turnover put up the 10 early points that made the difference in their preseason opening victory over Oakland.
Matt Schaub debut fails to impress
Matt Schaub didn’t have the worst case scenario on Friday during his opening drives with the Raiders first team offense, but he also didn’t do much to prove his critics wrong in the preseason opener with drives that ultimately never crossed into plus territory during the worst stretch of play on offense.
Schaub was held back due to a false start on the first drive by Menelik Watson as well as by an offensive facemask by Brian Leonhardt, but the lack of ground covered on his drives despite the penalties is what most will remember from the average debut from the former Texans starter.
At the end of his debut Schaub had completed just three of seven passes for 21 yards in the air, a drop from Mychal Rivera over the middle preventing any highlight plays of note during the high pressure preseason start for the beleaguered veteran who is coming off the nightmare 2013 season with the Texans.
It is a worn out narrative, but until Schaub shows that he can move an offense down the field and score points skeptics are going to continue to wait and see before it is confirmed that 2013 was just a cold streak. No turnovers was a start, but next week Schaub is going to have to move the ball downfield to get some forward momentum going into Week One against the Jets.
Carr shows potential
While playing against Vikings second string units, rookie Derek Carr came in for the second quarter as well as parts of the third quarter and moved the chains better than the veteran Schaub despite throwing and interception in addition to having a tipped catch attempt from Jamize Olawale turn into his first professional interception in what was a brewing drive through Vikings territory.
Carr threw nine more passes than Schaub as the Raiders staff gave their second round pick some needed development and evalutation time during the preseason before it is expected that he holds the clipboard behind Schaub to start Week One. There is speculation that Carr could play his way into the stater’s rolie, but showing flashes and throwing an INT is not going to win him the starting job quite yet.
That doesn’t mean that Carr’s debut wasn’t a success, after all he completed 10/16 passes and drove the Raiders offense well with a combination of screen passes to his backs as well as to Denarius Moore who showed a new wrinkle of his receiving game with Carr under center as the rookie brought what made him a standout at Fresno State to his preseason performance.
Raiders fans will hope that Carr can continue to grow throughout August, and his debut showed that there is already glimpses of a quarterback who can drive an offense and look like a professional in the pocket. If Carr can build on a debut that was above average but not close to spectacular his 2014 preseason should be a success.
Hayden’s absence causes struggle for first team corners
The first string offense struggles were more than matched by the first team defense, who couldn’t stop the journeyman Matt Cassel and the highly touted rookie Teddy Bridgewater during their snaps in the first quarter as third down pass coverage caused defensive coordinator Jason Tarver early headaches.
Tarell Brown looked a step slow against Cordarrelle Patterson before committing a penalty to negate a stop on third down during his Raiders debut after leaving San Francisco during the offseason. His teammate from the Niners Carlos Rogers, didn’t look much better as both veterans gave plenty of fodder for outside critics of the veteran cornerbacks who came to Oakland on prove it deals to replace Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, a problem that Tarver will have to figure out before the season.
Expecting DJ Hayden to cover outside receivers, the Raiders are learning the risk of depending on the young Hayden before the season even begins. Lacking a true top cornerback on the roster, both Brown and Rogers are going to have to at the very least emulate the play of Jenkins and Porter for the Raiders to prevent getting picked apart by quarterbacks.
Running back, fullback depth on display in tight roster battles
Darren McFadden may have had the best performance of the night with just one play, a 23 yard rush that was the second best run of the night behind Matt McGloin’s fourth quarter scramble, but the story of the night was four Raiders running backs helping to move the chains capably.
After having to rely solely on Rashad Jennings in 2013 when McFadden was hurt, the Raiders brought in Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets and proven franchise running back Maurice Jones-Drew from the Jaguars along with the return of 2013 draft pick Latavius Murray to bolster their depth with a talented platoon. A depth that was on display during all four quarters against the Vikes.
Murray was the star of the show, getting a first down on 4th and 1 and rushing for 28 yards on seven carries while MJD picked up just ten on two carriers while also receiving for 14 yards. Kory Sheets rushed for 18 yards on five carries getting first downs in his return to the NFL while George Atkinson III was the lone running back to not crack at least 10 yards with a rush for negative yardage.
Throw in yardage for Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale in the increased screen passing game from last season and the Raiders went six deep at the backfield position on Friday. Something that bolds well for August entertainment, but makes for tough cuts for Dennis Allen when it comes to deciding his 53 man roster.
Sheets may be the odd man out of the equation, but do not be shocked if he stays around in a four man platoon with MJD, DMC, and Murray. After all with the injury histories of the projected running back trio, a little depth couldn’t hurt.
Moore + Moore prove worth as Sio and Denarius step up to prove depth chart status
Preseason Game One entered with wide receiver Denarius Moore and linebacker Sio Moore both having their depth chart status from 2013 up in the air with the two big play Raiders hovering around the second units on the pregame depth chart, but both made sure that their presences were felt.
Sio had a sack for the second straight season in the first preseason game, adding two tackles as part of an impressive debut during his roster fight with Miles Burris for the majority of snaps at outside linebacker along with rookie Khalil Mack. Needing to prove his big play ability to keep his snaps at his rookie levels during his impressive year out of UCONN, Sio is on the right path as one of the best performing linebackers against Minnesota.
Meanwhile Denarius showed a willingness to fight for yardage on screen passes during his reps, catching three passes for 28 yards and most importantly keeping drops to a minimum as the Raiders third highest receiver between second half performers Brice Butler and Greg Jenkins. Something that should have been expected with Rod Streater recovering from a training camp concussion.
Some have doubted Denarius’ future in Oakland, but for 2014 he will still be a needed target for the Raiders passers. Too talented to part ways with until free agency, don’t expect Denarius Moore’s stock to drop as much as some have predicted leading up to the season.
- Chimdi Chekwa and TJ Carrie were the Raiders best cornerbacks, making tackles as well as deflecting Bridgewater passes during their 2014 debuts. Chekwa could be a potential starter if Hayden doesn’t return in time for the season while the rookie Carrie will hopefully provide much needed depth.
- Tight end play was woeful on Friday, with Rivera and rookie Jake Murphy both dropping potential big play passes. Most egregious was a Murphy drop on a potential TD connection with McGloin in the fourth quarter that could have put the Raiders in position to win the game late.
- Execution was a big problem as expected with penalties and failed drives in plus territory, including a missed FG and INT from Carr prevented the Raiders from coming out with the win. Expect that to be a big practice talking point from Allen.
- Pass rush was a highlight for the Raiders as they racked up six sacks on the day, all from different Raiders players.
- Oakland’s next preseason game will be on Friday, August 15 when they host the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum