Breaking down the game notes before the Oakland Raiders take on the Green Bay Packers in Preseason Week 2 action at Lambeau Field.
The Raiders have wrapped up training camp in the Napa Valley, and after an intense few weeks culminating in a victory over the Arizona Cardinals in their first preseason game last Friday, they’re ready for some more real football tonight in Green Bay against the Packers.
Starters typically don’t play much in the first or second preseason games, and that mostly held true last week as it was the Raider reserves that powered the way to a 31-10 victory in Arizona.
Expect much of the same tonight, with Carr and company getting a few early reps in for polish and the Mack Pack whetting their whistles for a snap or three – but again, it’ll be the reserves and depth players seeing the most minutes tonight.
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The preseason brings intense pressure for some of them, as they vie to make the roster, win a larger role or hold onto their starting spot.
With that in mind, I give you my first pressures, hurries, and knockdowns column of the Raiders 2016 season. Although it’s preseason, things are starting to get real with first roster cuts looming August 30.
Jalen Richard & Taiwan Jones
The play of George Atkinson III last week, with his lightning-quick cuts and blazing speed on route to two TD’s of 53 and 35 yards and 97 total rushing yards has made the running back competition a lot tighter.
An injury has placed Richard here through no fault of his own, as the electric back was sidelined for the Arizona game and the rest of training camp with what is being called a “minor knee injury.”
After turning heads in camp with impressive decision making and decisive, hard running, many wanted to see what Richard had to offer in preseason action. They’ll still have to wait, as he’s likely to miss tonight’s game and is falling further behind the rest of the backs. DeAndre Washington has impressed thus far and looks to have the No. 2 role sewed up at this point.
Jones is a long-time Raider who’s career odyssey is interesting, but he’s made his bones more as a special teams gunner and kick returner than a running back in the last couple years. After posting a donut on the stat sheet last Friday, and with Johnny Holton looking good returning kicks and Atkinson dynamic in the backfield, Jones is in danger of missing the cut if he doesn’t step up his game.
KJ Brent, Jaydon Mickens, Max McCaffrey, Joe Hansley, Nathan Palmer, Marvin Hall
That’s quite a squad under pressure, but Johnny Holton has put it squarely on them. All are battling Holton to be the fifth Raiders receiver – unless the team keeps six, which is highly unlikely – and all have had their moments.
However, Holton stole the show in the waning days of training camp, and followed that up with an impressive performance on special teams against the Cardinals, returning a kickoff 43 yards and recovering a fumble on a defensive kickoff. He was Johnny on the spot as he’s been all offseason, and his ridiculous 19.5 ypc average in his senior college season at Cincinnati shows that he’s a major playmaker.
Meanwhile, of the rest of the group, Hall was most impressive on Friday, pulling in three catches for 37 yards against mostly scrubs. Palmer had two catches, and the rest – nothing.
Mickens had a solid punt return of 15 yards but did nothing else, Brent failed to corral any of his three targets, Hansley fumbled his only punt return and McCaffrey was basically invisible. They all have to step up their game if they want to catch Holton, who looks to be squarely in the lead at this point.
While Mario Edwards Jr’s hip injury is said to be minor, it’s still of concern to a team who is counting on winning battles in the trenches as part of their success this season.
Fortunately, the Raiders have quite a bit of depth along the defensive line, with more emerging in the preseason thus far with James Cowser and Drew Iddings showing some impressive stuff.
It’s Autry, though, that will need to step in and fill Edwards’ shoes, much as he did last season when the talented big man went down with a neck injury late in the season. Autry started eight games last year and had three sacks, three passes defensed and a solid 20 tackles. After missing much of the offseason with a hand injury, this is his opportunity to regain snaps with the first team and show he’s still a viable part of the defense.
- Nice to see Ben Heeney tweet out that he’s okay after practice the other day. After Edwards’ injury, adding Heeney to the list shortly after looked like a bad sign. Fortunately, Heeney is okay and practiced in the last session before camp wrapped.
- A Heeney injury wouldn’t have been as catastrophic as once thought after watching Cory James against Arizona. The kid was everywhere, blanketing tight ends in coverage, filling his run fits, and storming into the backfield for a nice run stop for a loss. Heeney is the defensive play caller but James was recently named his backup and seems to have taken to the role with gusto.
- It looks like the Raiders are mostly healthy again going into tonight, the aforementioned Richard and Edwards, and tight end Gabe Holmes being the only injuries reported as of now.
- Michael Crabtree looked in mid-season form during camp, and nothing changed against Arizona. He ran crisp routes, caught the ball with authority and showed excellent quickness. Potential big season coming up.
- DeAndre Washington’s speed and elusiveness were almost enough to induce giddiness last week, and I for one am excited to keep watching what he can do as he learns the NFL game. His slant out of the backfield and immediate burst upfield was a sight to behold.
Raiders are More Disciplined
From poor offensive execution to missed tackles to the 11 penalties committed, the Raiders were not a disciplined group, despite all the offseason preaching of coach Jack Del Rio. The sloppiness, even for a preseason game with inexperienced players, was a lot.
Penalties have been a staple of the Oakland Raiders since their inception – for many years, they had good enough teams to overcome those penalties and strike a little intimidation into opponents.
Recent years have seen those penalty woes contribute heavily to a lack of success and an undisciplined culture. Coach Jack Del Rio preaches discipline and accountability, and won’t tolerate poor execution or mental lapses, even in preseason.
Expect the Raiders to clean things up tonight, or else I wouldn’t want to be around JDR afterwards.
Carr and Cooper Ready to Set The World On Fire
While I still believe they will, it just didn’t happen again last Friday, despite Carr’s best efforts to get Cooper the ball early and often. Cooper dropped yet another pass, and Carr simply missed a couple of throws. Perhaps, as JBB’s own Tyler Randolph suggests, they were just a little overexcited and thus over aggressive, but it’s enough of a trend to keep watch on.
It’s likely a matter of time before they put it together on the field in meaningful action – and it’s not like they didn’t do that often enough last season – but Friday was more of the same old same old tantalizing but unrealized potential. After all the work they put in on and off the field together this offseason, I wouldn’t expect that to continue into tonight’s game.