Aug 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio (right) and Sebastian Janikowski before the preseason NFL game against the St. Louis Rams at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1. Coaching makes a difference
The Raiders come into 2015 with an entirely new coaching staff under new head coach Jack Del Rio, who has nearly two decades of coaching experience including a long stint as a moderately successful head coach in Jacksonville. And while the Raiders franchise has become accustomed to coming into seasons with new head coaches and new coaching staffs, this year just feels different. That was borne out on the field on Friday night.
First games of preseason are known for being sloppy, penalty and mistake-filled affairs with lots of loose balls, lots of procedure and formation penalties, and often lousy clock management. This was not the case Friday night, when the Raiders were only tagged for two penalties – a defensive holding call and an offensive pass interference flag on rookie TE Clive Walford – and looked crisp getting into formations, getting lined up on defense, executing pre-snap movement and communication, and getting plays off on time. This is a direct result of superior coaching.
But the Raiders also came into the game with a new attitude, most notably on the defensive side of he ball, where defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has brought his signature enthusiasm and energy to his unit. The defense played aggressively for four quarters, regardless of who was in the game or how good their chances of making the 53-man roster. That energy contributed to the Rams, who started the game hot on offense, scoring only 3 points and averaging 4.7 yards per play.
Meanwhile, it was heartening to see how well the entire offensive depth chart seemed to have picked up on Bill Musgrave’s new offensive system. The Raiders ran a variety of offensive formations and operated at several points in a hurry-up mode, with all of the top three quarterbacks running the offense. Derek Carr and Christian Ponder both looked crisp but also threw a pick each. Matt McGloin, against the Rams’ #3’s, shined in the new offense, and made a strong case for himself as the Raiders’ #2 man – or at least for some other team’s #2 job by opening day. While rookie UDFA Cody Fajardo ran a clearly limited package that was heavy on the read-option plays, he also got the team to the line and running plays with crisp efficiency. Musgrave has done an outstanding job preparing his quarterbacks.
Next: What We Learned: Raiders Have Depth