It's that time again. For Ballers & Busters we detail the top performers and the ‘you'll-get-‘em-next-time-kid' performances. Though in the preseason, there aren't a lot of chances at a next time as many of these players are fighting for a roster spot. The score doesn't matter near as much as these games mean these players' NFL careers.
With that in mind, here are the Ballers and Busters from our first impression of the 2014 Raiders.
It's been a few years coming but this former fourth round pick looks like he's finally become the cornerback this coaching staff thought he could be. He was in the game early as the nickel cornerback and immediately began making plays around the ball. But first, he showed up where he has most of his career - special teams. Marquette King's first punt of the day saw Chekwa downfield to make the tackle on the return attempt. On the following possession, he had a pass defended that would have ended the drive if it weren't for a holding penalty on Tarell Brown. Then on the next Vikings' possession, Chekwa nearly single-handedly ended it with two-straight passes defended. After that, the coaches had seen all they needed to see from him and his day was done. He didn't give up a catch in 24 snaps.
This seventh round rookie got in the game with the second wave. The first team defense was not stopping anything so the second team was brought in with the Vikings in scoring position. And on Harris' second play in the game, he strip sacked Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings recovered but couldn't make up the lost yardage and settled for a field goal. Later in the second quarter, Harris held containment on a run play to allow Jack Crawford to get the tackle for loss. It was on third down to end the Vikings' final series of the first half. His final play was another pressure, this time on Christian Ponder in which he very nearly had another strip sack. He just barely missed Ponder's arm on the throw but the pressure caused it to fall incomplete on third down to force a three and out on the possession. That was his last play of the game.
Speaking of 7th round rookies, TJ Carrie showed up on game day just as he had in training camp practice. He too came in with the second team and made the stop on his very first play. The Vikings ran right and Carrie, being a very sure tackler, upended the runner for a short gain. Harris got the strip sack on the next play. Later in the second quarter he had another run stop, this time for a one-yard gain. He had tight coverage on an incompletion early in the third quarter. Then later in the quarter, he had another pass defended. So, he made the stop on his first play on the field, and the second to last. Harris made his sack on his second play, and his last. These two seventh round rookies looked good in practice last week and continued it on the field Friday.
Khalif Barnes, Stefen Wisniewski, Austin Howard, Gabe Jackson
The first three guys are the starting interior linemen for the Raiders and they were flawless in this game. No pressures given up and good sized holes opened up in the run game. Most notably, the gaping hole that allowed Darren McFadden to pick up 23 yards on his one and only carry of the game. When Latavius Murray came in, Gabe Jackson paved the way for him on a couple of nice runs of six and seven yards.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Latavius Murray
I gave the interior linemen credit for run blocking but these guys deserve some credit as well. MJD did most of his damage in the passing game. He caught a screen pass that went for six yards and a pass in the flat that went for ten yards. He also had a 7-yard run called back by a penalty. McFadden, of course, had that 23-yard run which was his only touch of the game and gave the Raiders their first first down with :30 second remaining in the first quarter. Murray looked very instinctive and polished. He followed his blocking well and made something happen a couple of times when there wasn't great blocking. He led the Raiders with 7 carries for 28 yards. The running game was the only real positive of the Raiders offense early in this game.
He was the only Raiders quarterback to drive them for a score. He very nearly did it twice but the touchdown pass he threw to Jake Murphy bounced right off his hands. On the scoring drive, McGloin completed several passes, going 6 of 8 for 51 yards and he finished it off with a ten-yard scramble for the touchdown. Sure, it was against third stringers but dude made it happen. It was the only score of the game and gave the Raiders a chance to pull it out late after almost no offense before that.
McGloin's favorite target on the day. It resulted in him catching four of four passes for 44 yards. He was called for a very questionable offensive pass interference penalty on another catch.
Prior to Butler coming into the game, Denarius was actually the most reliable hands on this team. He caught all three passes thrown to him from Derek Carr, two of which were tough catches that were slightly behind him. One of those catches, he fought through tacklers and pushed his way for a first down; something the slight framed receiver is not usually known for. He needed a performance like this to try and climb back up the depth chart.
No relation. He made two tackles in this game - a tackle for loss and a sack. The sack was Teddy Bridgewater escaping the pocket and trying to scramble but Sio was right there to contain him and push him out of bounds before the line of scrimmage. Then on the next series, he shot into the backfield to bring the running back down from behind for the loss.
He is trying to show why the Raiders keep him on this team even while signing and then cutting his brother. Little brother was flying all over the field in this game and led the team with six combined tackles (5 solo) and a sack. He remains a Raider for his special teams play but showed in this game he is no slouch as a linebacker either.
If he could only catch, he may have been top Baller. Watson made three nice plays on the ball in this game and twice was in perfect position to make the interception only to drop it. The second time would have been a pick six. Breaking into this cornerback group on this roster will be tough but this undrafted rookie is making his case.
Ryan Robinson - Got into the Vikings' backfield a few times, putting pressure on the quarterback, getting half a sack and assisting in a tackle for loss on a run. He did this last year in the preseason and earned a spot on the team.
Bojay Filimoeatu - Was very aggressive and stout against the run with three run stuffs and finishing tied for second on the team in combined tackles (5).
It was a bit of a rough beginning to Carr's Raider career but not terrible. His first pass went for 11 yards on a screen to fullback Jamize Olawale. His second pass was dropped by Greg Little. Then he threw slightly behind Denarius Moore, though Moore still pulled it in and picked up six yards. A couple plays later he threw low and incomplete for Nick Kasa. A 5-yard screen pass later, he threw too high (yes, too high) for Olawale who barely got a piece of it to tip it up where it was intercepted. Carr later threw for Juron Criner on a go route up the middle but Criner had to slow down for it and it was knocked down by the defender. Carr finished 10 for 16 for 74 yards and an interception. Of those ten completions four went to wide receivers - three to Denarius Moore and one to Juron Criner. He threw for three first downs. One of those was his longest completion to Moore for 16 yards. In four possessions with Carr at quarterback, the Raiders got into Minnesota territory twice, but never got closer than the 40-yard line.
Most of his kicks were very good. He had two punts that traveled 56 yards. The first one went to the 20-yard line and was returned to the 46-yard line. The second one was a nice coffin corner that went out at the 10-yard line and with a holding penalty tacked on, was pushed back to the 5-yard line. All told, he had three of his seven punts downed inside the 20-yard line (12, 10, 7). He also had a shank that traveled 30 yards and a couple other punts that didn't have quite enough air underneath them to get the coverage team in position to stop a decent return.