NFL 2016 Preseason Week 1 Raiders Recap
After 6 long months, the NFL is finally back. As much as we leatherheads love football, we hate preseason. It tells us nothing. We watch it because the olympics and baseball are mind-numbingly boring. The Oakland Raiders kicked off the 2016 preseason against the Arizona Cardinals.
With pre-season games, the final score is unimportant. The goal is to evaluate players, see if you have depth, and get everybody out of their healthy. The Cardinals are a Super Bowl contender. The Raiders are an improved team, but most likely still a year away from being elite. However, it seems the years of frustration are in the past. This team has potential. This game was a measuring stick on what the Raiders could be and what they are.
Starting from their own 26 after a 31 yard kickoff return, Derek Carr immediately threw a 16 yard completion to Michael Crabtree. However, the drive stalled along with 2 dumb penalties. Keliche Osemele committed a false start and Carr took a delay of game. Carr and Jack Del Rio said they wanted crisp and clean football. This was not it.
The Cardinals soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 20. Carson Palmer then brought the reality check. An 11 yard completion to JJ Nelson was followed by a 30 yard completion to Michael Floyd. Dave Johnson had runs of 8 and 23 yards. The Cardinals reached the Oakland 4 yard line before the defense finally stiffened. Chandler Catanzaro hit a 25 yard field goal. The Cardinals led 3-0.
So early indications were not positive. The Arizona first stringers won on both sides of the ball. Palmer was done for the night.
Carr played one more series. A 22 yard completion to Crabtree moved the ball to the Arizona 36, where the drive immediately died. However, Sebastian Janikowski drilled a 53 yard field goal that would have been good from 63. In his 17th season, seeing Seabass hit the long ones is still cause for optimism in close games. With the game tied 3-3, Carr was done for the night.
Carr was only 3 of 7 for 44 yards, but a gorgeous deep ball to Amari Cooper was incomplete only because Cooper did not get his feet inbounds. Carr has had his shackles removed. He is not drinking and dunking. He throws it down the field.
Now it was time for the backups. Drew Stanton and Matt McGloin both saw their teams go 3 and out on their first series. Then came the turnovers. Nelson fumbled a punt and the Raiders recovered at the Arizona 19. Jack Del Rio decided to be aggressive. McGloin quickly fired to Clive Walford in the end zone for the touchdown and the 10-3 Raiders lead. One play later from the Arizona 12, Stanton threw deep middle and was intercepted by Nate Allen. Allen returned it 27 yards to the Arizona 12. One play after that, McGloin threw the touchdown to Andre Holmes. The Raiders had a 17-3 lead after the first quarter.
McGloin plays very well in preseason against backups, but has struggled in regular season games as a starter. While both his touchdown throws were solid, the Raiders began both drives in the red zone. McGloin was not able to lead a scoring drive when the Raiders had more realistic field position. He completed 3 of his other 9 throws for a total of 10 yards.
In the second quarter the Cardinals finally got going with help from a 35 yard run by Andre Ellington. Ellington’s 5 yard touchdown run had the Cardinals within 17-10. Stanton was done for the night, finishing 2 of 6 for 42 yards. McGloin played the rest of the half, but both teams gave away scoring opportunities as Matt Barkley took over for the Cardinals. He would play for much of the game.
After an exchange of punts, a 25 yard run had the Raiders at the Arizona 35. A West Coast Offense dink and dunk pass lost 3 yards and then saw Holmes fumble the ball away. The Cardinals moved to the Oakland 23 but Catanzaro missed a 41 yard field goal. Oakland then faced 3rd and 3 at their own 38. McGloin completed a short pass for the first down, but illegal use of hands on the offense meant 3rd and 13 followed by an incompletion and a punt. The Raiders led 17-10 at halftime.
In the third quarter Barkley moved the Cardinals all the way from the Arizona 22 to the Oakland 15. However, Barkley was then intercepted by Nikeo Thorpe. Thorpe would bail the Raiders out later on by recovering a fumble of his teammate to prevent a turnover.
Although Arizona did not score on their next drive, Raider fans should still be concerned. On 3rd and 7 from the Arizona 34, Barkley threw incomplete but roughing the passer kept the drive going. From the Oakland 45, Barkley was intercepted but defensive pass interference gave Arizona another chance from the Oakland 39. Give the defense credit. They stopped the drive and forced a punt.
The rest of the scoring belonged to running back George Atkinson III, son of the legendary hard hitting Raiders secondary star of the 1970s. Atkinson is not succeeding on nepotism. He can play. Yes, he was playing against backups, but he still played well. Atkinson ran for touchdown runs of 53 yards in the third quarter and 35 yards late in the game to complete the scoring.
Barkley finished a terrible 8 of 24 for 121 yards and an interception. With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, rookie 4th round draft pick Conor Cook came in for the Raiders. Given that Carr is firmly entrenched as the starter, the drafting of Cook made little sense. However, now it was time to see what he could do. He finished 7 of 11 for 71 yards.
Cook began his first drive at the Oakland 9 yard line. On 3rd and 4, a short pass to Washington went for a 32 yard gain. The next play saw Atkinson do the rest. So a 4 play, 91 yard touchdown drive is a nice welcome to the NFL for Cook. On the next 2 drives Cook faced critical 3rd and 3. The first time Cook could not convert, but the second time he did. On the next drive Cook threw a 33 yard completion to the Arizona 28, but offensive pass interference ruined that moment.
With 10 minutes left, Arizona’s fourth string quarterback Coker came in. With 3 1/2 minutes left and the Cardinals down by 21, Bruce Arians reminded the football world that preseason is about staying healthy. He called 6 straight runs up the middle and ran out the clock.
The Raiders did some things right. In a regular season game, beating Arizona by 21 in Arizona would be miraculous. This is preseason, so the celebration should be significantly tempered.
The Raiders rushed for 166 yards, which is good. However, they gave up 172 rushing yards, which is not good. The Raiders were outgunned in total yards 383 to 322. They were only 3 for 12 on third down. They lost the time of possession battle badly 35 1/2 minutes to 24 1/2 minutes. The number of penalties was totally unacceptable, 11 for 86 yards lost. Arizona only had 3 penalties for 20 yards.
A positive note was the offense not giving up a sack or an interception. They turned the ball over once while taking it away from Arizona three times. They had 69 return yards to only 23 for Arizona, a big field position special teams differential. The Raiders scored touchdowns in the red zone rather than field goals. Staying aggressive worked for Del Rio.
Overall it is hard to find fault with a 21 point win, even in preseason. However, the penalties must be reduced. For the very first game, it was a good start to the season. 31-10 Raiders