I can't believe it's already here - the final preseason Ballers & Busters of 2014. It seems like just the other day I was putting the first one of the preseason up. Cherish these moments, people (sniff). They go by so fast and next thing you know (sniff), they're gone. Aaaanyway...
The Raiders took on the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in this game. Well, at least for one drive they did. In that one drive, the Seahawks offense did just what every first team offense has done against the Raiders this preseason. They walked through them with little resistance to score on their opening possession.
The Raiders then did the same to them and their vaunted defense. The difference in this one was the Seahawks started nearly all of their regular starters, while the Raiders had 18 players sitting out the game, including 16 starters on offense and defense, and Sebastian Janikowski.
While from that may not be ideal from a fan viewing experience perspective, it offers one of the best looks at a number of players we wouldn't otherwise get to see. Some of these guys could be starters someday, many of them are an injury away from starting. Others may have done a lot to prove maybe they should be starting.
So, let's get to it.
He put on a showcase in this game. It was a statement that at very least told his coaches that he could start if needed. And at most that perhaps he should be the starter right now. He led the Raiders offense against a nearly full strength first team Seahawks defense on an opening drive for a touchdown. There was only one really impressive pass on the drive - a 13-yard strike to Brice Butler on third and ten -- but with a nice mix of runs, and swing passes, the Raiders methodically marched through their top rated defense.
The second ‘drive' lasted just one play. After a fumbled return on the kickoff that gave the Raiders the ball at the Seahawks' 36-yard line, Denarius Moore got behind his man and Carr put it perfectly in his waiting arms, in the endzone for the touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
The next ‘drive' again last just one play. After a big kick return by T.J. Carrie, the Raiders got the ball at the 20-yard line and Carr aired it out again, this time over the middle to Mychal Rivera. The ball was tipped by a defender near the goal line but Rivera made the adjustment for the touchdown. Then just like that, it was 21-7, Raiders, with Carr having thrown two TD's on his last two passes.
He wasn't done, though. The next time the Raiders got the ball, he showed he could lead a long drive on his arm. On third and two he went for Rivera again, this time for 27 yards. Then after a few short runs and passes, he threw a masterful pass to the left side of the endzone where only Denarius Moore could get it for the touchdown. That's four possessions, four touchdowns. And so, just over a minute into the second quarter, Carr's day was done. He finished going 11 for 13 (TWO incompletions) for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had a near perfect passer rating of 152.1. Ridiculous.
Raiders fans got a brief glimpse of him in last year's preseason and it led to salivating over the kind of talent the Raiders may have uncovered in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. But that was just a flash. He showed up Thursday and looked every bit what fans and coaches had hoped. He was a big part of that opening drive against the Seahawks starting defense. He had a 14-yard run, following by a 7-yard run that featured a vicious stiff arm to keep the pesky Earl Thomas. He then finished off the drive with a 5-yard run for the touchdown.
Due to the two possessions that were simply touchdown passes, he would have to wait a bit before he got the rock again. He would get one more drive to churn out some yard. He started that drive with a 5-yard run and had a total of five runs for 19 yards and a first down. Overall he had 8 carries for 41 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown.
The best play on the Raiders opening drive was a fantastic catch by Moore. He was lined up against Richard Sherman. Carr threw it with the intention of Moore shielding off Sherman, but the ball was behind Moore. It looked like it could have resulted in an interception but for Moore reaching back and making a really nice grab. It went for 11 yards and set the Raiders up at the five-yard line. They would score the touchdown two plays later.
The next time the Raiders got the ball, they were already in scoring position at the 36-yard line. Moore put an exclamation point on that when he got behind his man and was wide open, giving Derek Carr a no-doubter touchdown pass.
By the time the fourth drive came around, Carr knew where to get his big catches. With the Raiders in third and six at the 11-yard line, Carr threw a pass to the left pylon where only Denarius could get it. Moore perfectly positioned himself and showed once again he has the best receiving skills on this team, making a tough catch, look effortless with a textbook grab and two-foot down on the sideline. And he ended an overall fantastic preseason as we have suddenly come to expect.
Screen passes have been a big problem for the Raiders defense that past couple years. That may just end with Mack's addition. He excels in defending the screen. He had an interception last week on a screen and early in this one, was right with the running back to force an incompletion on third down. It was a three and out in which two plays earlier, he bulled into the backfield to string a run out left, leading to a run stuff. He ended the following drive when he found a gap and rushed the quarterback and got his hands up to bat the pass down. Yeah, the Raiders got a good one.
It was a welcome performance by McGill in this game after having been overshadowed by fellow drafted rookie corner, TJ Carrie. His first big play came on special teams when he chased down the return man to punch the ball out to give the Raiders the ball at the Seahawks 36-yard line and set up their second touchdown. In the second quarter, he came up to stop the receiver for a seven-yard gain on third and ten to force a three and out on Terrelle Pryor's first series. Then on the Seahawks first possession of the third quarter, he had a pass defended on third down to force a punt. He later had tight coverage on an incompletion. He gave up just one catch in the game in zone that went for 11-yards.
The catch he made for the touchdown took incredible concentration. He was in position to make the catch but then a Seahawks defender got in front of him to get a hand on it. In an instant, Rivera adjusted for the tipped ball and caught it anyway, even with another defender right on his back. On the following drive, he caught another tough ball in traffic for a 27-yard gain. It was the longest play of the drive that resulted in a fourth touchdown to start the game. His day was done after that.
He made the first catch of the day for the Raiders when he took a swing pass from Derek Carr for 12 yards. Two plays later, he too on for another six yards. Then he finished off the drive with a nice block to help Latavius Murray get into the endzone for the Raiders' first touchdown. He had another good block for a 5-yard run later on as well as another screen that went for five yards.
He showed the kind of blocking skills from the tight end position that earned him a job on this team. The first big run by Latavius Murray, which was his longest of the day, Leonhardt led the charge to push his man back and open the hole. He finished that same drive by again being the block that sprung Murray through the line for the touchdown. He added another good block on a 5-yard Murray run on the Raiders final touchdown drive. He is the perfect complement to the pass catching tight ends on this team. And in case you were wondering, he can also do a decent bit of receiving if needed as well.
Things got started as poorly as they could have for Carrie. On the very first play, he gave up a 44-yard catch which set up a touchdown on the Seahawks first drive. But after that, he was on point. He would take those yards back later in the first quarter when he returned a punt 45 yards to set up the Raiders third touchdown. Then in the second quarter, on Terrelle Pryor's first play of the game, he shot in on a corner blitz and stayed with Pryor to force an incompletion. He also laid a key block on GAIII's 45-yard kick return. That first pass given up has to be seen as an afterthought when considering the rest of his day.
George Atkinson III
It seemed every time he touched the ball he was breaking off a huge gain. He took over kick return duties in the second quarter and immediately broke one for 45 yards to set up the Raiders with great field position on their fifth touchdown drive of the day. GAIII took over the running back duties late in the third quarter and on his second play, he broke one for a 26-yard scamper to set up a field goal. His one mistake was a fumble (recovered by the Raiders), showing one of his major weaknesses. He came back and made up for it with a 20-yard run on the next drive. He finished with 63 yards on just 8 carries for an astounding 7.9 yards per carry. He also had three kick returns for 89 yards (29.7 yards average). He already looked headed for the Raiders practice squad. He strengthened that likelihood Thursday.
The Raiders brought him here to stop the run. And he looked every bit the run stopper in this one. He had a run stuff for no gain early in the second quarter to help force a three and out. He showed a bit of pass rush as well when he pressured Terrelle Pryor into an incompletion in the third quarter. Then on the drive to begin the fourth quarter He broke into the backfield for a tackle for loss and on the next play held containment to allow for a sack to force a field goal. He didn't allow a decent run through his position and was tied for fourth on the team with four combined tackles.
Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Stefen Wisniewski, Austin Howard, Khalif Barnes
This was the first team offensive line. They gave Derek Carr plenty of time to throw while also opening up several good sized holes for Latavius Murray to run through.
Brice Butler -- Made two key plays in this game. He caught a 13-yard pass on third and ten on the Raiders first drive to keep it going (resulting in a touchdown), and later caught a touchdown from Matt McGloin.
After lighting it up the past couple weeks, he had an up and down day in this one. With Derek Carr's early success, McGloin entered the game earlier than expected. He came in the game early in the second quarter and played the remainder of the game. His first pass sailed wide an out of bounds. Then after Jeremy Stewart gave up a sack on him, he couldn't pick up the third and 22, opting for a screen pass that went 6 yards.
His first pass of the next drive looked to be picked off but Seattle was called for illegal hands to the face and he would get another shot. He looked to be making the most of it, when he escaped pressure to hit Andre Holmes for a 17-yard connection. But on the next play, he actually did throw an interception and this one was returned for a touchdown.
He showed his short memory when he got things moving on the next drive connecting again with Andre Holmes, this time for 26-yards. He finished off the drive when he rolled right, directed traffic, and nailed Brice Butler in the back of the endzone from 15 yards out for the score and a 35-14 Raiders lead. He loved him som Brice Butler, I tell you what. That makes four touchdown connections between these two this preseason. He would lead the Raiders to two scoring drives in the second half, both field goals to finish out the 41-31 victory.
He had two good plays to start out the Seahawks final drive of the first half to put them in third and long. He came up to stop Pryor for a 2-yard scramble, then on the next play stopped the back on a screen play for one yard. Early in the fourth quarter he came up again to stop Pryor, this time for a sack at the line. Once Pryor left and BJ Daniels came in, things went sour for Ross. He didn't keep containment on a Daniels scramble left and allowed him to cut back for a 28-yard gain. Later in the same drive he gave up a 22-yard catch. Then to finish out that same drive, he gave a laughable tackle attempt to allow a 7-yard touchdown. So, it seems it was Terrelle Pryor who was the cure for what typically ails Brandian Ross.