The numbers are in and this week's Ballers & Busters have been named. I found it quite difficult to even get a good idea of who might be on this list watching this game live. But, as is often the case, upon getting a closer look, it became more clear.
After this fifth overall pick received heavy criticism through the first two games for not bursting onto the scene immediately, he had his coming out party in this game. After the Packers scored on their opening drive, the Raiders defense stiffened up and Mack was a big reason why. He had a run stuff on their next drive which ended a few plays later. The following drive was a three and out, with Mack being a big part of that. He had another run stuff on second down. Then came charging around the right tackle to put pressure on Rodgers which closed the pocket. Lamarr Woodley saw this and took the inside on his man and sacked Rodgers to end the series. A couple drives later, after he gave up a big catch, Mack did everything in his power to make up for it. He broke into the backfield on a pitch to stuff the back for a loss. Then after what should have been a stopped drive if not for a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Antonio Smith, Mack followed it up with another tackle for loss. He then capped off his day by plucking a screen pass from Matt Flynn for an interception. It was reminiscent of the interception he had against Ohio State his senior season. Intercepting a screen pass is not easy, but Mack has that skill down to an art form.
MJD earned a spot on this list in one run. It was the only touchdown the first team offense scored. Most times, you can also credit good blocking for a long run, but this one was all MJD. Vintage MJD. His gap closed and the back door was covered by four Packers' defenders. But instead of trying to run around them, he saw his opening and ran right through them, breaking one tackle and shooting 40-yards to the house. That kind of vision has been missing in Oakland for a while. Speaking of which, MJD was replaced by Darren McFadden after that.
You can see why the Raiders' coaching staff is high on Thorpe. The former Chiefs undrafted free agent and CFL standout showed up big time in this game. He had a couple penalties but those are not a big concern. He entered the game on defense in the second quarter and had tight coverage on two Aaron Rodgers incompletions. He added a pass defended as well as some solid tackles, including assisting on a tackle for loss on a run play. He didn't give up a catch in the game despite playing the second most snaps of any Raiders defender in this game.
King punted seven times in this game and finished averaging 45.6 yards per punt. That doesn't tell the story though. What does is his four punts inside the 20-yard line. He had one touchback but it was only because the coverage team couldn't manage to knock it down as it bounced toward the endzone. His longest punt of the day traveled 62 yards and he also had one for 57 yards. It was his punts of 33, 35, and 38 that lowered his average and all of those landed inside the 20. His 38-yard punt was high and hard to handle, causing the return man to muff it and scramble to recover it at the 18-yard line.
Much like Mack, Woodley had yet to break out as a Raider this preseason. And he did. He ended the Packers third drive with a sack on Aaron Rodgers. He ended their next drive by getting pressure on Rodgers once again, which force Packers' tackle David Bakhtiari to hold him to keep him off his quarterback. He also held his own in the run game, giving up no big plays to his side of the line.
As he tends to do, he came in late and earned his keep. He entered the game early in the fourth quarter. On his first drive, he shed his blocker and strung out a run to the left sideline that resulted in a tackle for a loss. On the next play he pressure the quarterback to force an incompletion on a screen pass. On the following drive, he had a tackle for a short gain on a run. Then with the Raiders needing a stop so the offense could get one more chance, he shot into the backfield to pressure the quarterback, resulting in a sack.
Matt McGloin, Brice Butler
These two have been quite the lethal combination late in games this preseason. After McGloin's first three drives stalled, marred by a fumble, a sack, and two drops, things picked up when these two began connecting. With 4:29 left in the game and the Packers up 31-7, McGloin started his march. He hit Butler for 12-yards, then Scott Simonson for 21 yards. The drive finished off with a 19-yard strike to Butler for the touchdown. Then after the Raiders defense stopped the Packers for a three-and-out, McGloin would get the ball back once again with exactly one minute on the clock. He started with a connection with Juron Criner for 14 yards, then Andre Holmes managed to hold onto one for 23 yards, and the dynamic duo of McGloin and Butler once again finished it off with a 28-yard touchdown. They converted the two points to make the final score of 31-21 look a little more respectable.
Antonio Smith - He put a stop to the Packers' second drive when he pushed into the backfield causing Packers offensive lineman, JC Tretter to hold him. The Packers were in fourth and one and going for it. After the holding penalty, they opted to punt instead. He got pressure on Aaron Rodgers on the first play of the next drive too, forcing and incompletion. His one blemish was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in which he had every right to be angry. He was grabbed by the back of his pads and thrown to the ground after the play was over and yet no unnecessary roughness penalty was called on the Packers' offensive lineman who did it. Smith showed the kind of passion Raiders need from him and the rest of the team when he got in his face and jawed at him until he was told to leave the field.
He came out on fire in this game. Had a run stuff on the second play. But then he missed a tackle on a 13-yard run and was blocked on the next play for a 17-yard gain to the 4-yard line. The Packers would score the touchdown a few plays later. On the following drive he had another run stuff and added a pressure for an incompletion in which he ate up the tight ends to push him into the backfield and into Aaron Rodgers' lap. A couple drives later, he was called for unnecessary roughness. On the following drive he missed a tackle to give up an 18-yard run. He got literally earholed on the next play and left the game with a neck strain.
He replaced Moore in this game and had a similar up and down performance. On the first play after Moore was carted off the field, Burris had a run stuff at the line. It was a good start but the drive ended with him giving up a 6-yard touchdown catch to the tight end. Midway through the third quarter, he got into the backfield only to miss the tackle and give up what ended up being a 4-yard run. On the following drive he gave up a 9-yard catch. Then on the next drive he teamed up with Kaluka Maiava for a run stuff only to have it negated by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Kaelin Burnett. He began the following drive with another run stuff. He played more snaps in this game (57) than any other Raiders defender.