Heading into the start of the Las Vegas Raiders first preseason game of the 2023 summer, it appeared that Brian Hoyer would be the starting quarterback. However, when it came time for the first offense to trot out onto the field, it was rookie Aidan O'Connell who would make his first NFL start.
What ensued was a near-perfect effort from O'Connell, one of the team's fourth-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. Not the highest-rated quarterback coming out this year, O'Connell looked like the best quarterback of the class on Sunday, dominating the San Francisco 49ers defense time and time again.
O'Connell led the Raiders on a scoring drive on their first possession, capped off by a touchdown run from Zamir White. O'Connell was excellent on that first drive, and White carried the load on the ground, as the Raiders put together a ten-play, 68-yard trek to the end zone.
That would be the start of an excellent first half for the Purdue product, as he put an exclamation point on his first two quarters of his NFL career by hitting Keelan Cole Sr. on a strike for his first touchdown of the preseason. All told, it was a perfect start for O'Connell, who has had a solid camp, and Sunday proved he can do it under the bright lights of Allegiant Stadium.
Raiders defense steals the show on Sunday
While O'Connell is certain to get most of the headlines, it was the Raiders defense that stole the show against the 49ers. The Raiders have struggled mightily on that side of the ball for years now, but they got after Trey Lance early and often to start the game, and had it not been for a lucky touchdown off a Duke Shelley missed INT, they would have shut San Francisco out in the first half.
The Raiders got pressure up the middle all game long, and despite not playing their star players on that side of the ball, got stop after stop. It was a perfect start for Patrick Graham's unit in his second season as defensive coordinator, and hopefully, they can build off what was a convincing win inside Allegiant Stadium.
The win moves the Raiders to 5-0 in the preseason under McDaniels.