Last night's game against the Arizona Cardinals was an interesting one to say the least. If the defense plays like they did last night then they are going to be one of the best defensive teams in the league, unfortunately the opposite is true for the offense. My theory is that the defense probably won't be as good as they were last night, but the offense definitely won't be as bad as they were.
Can you imagine if the defense plays like that all year though? Swarming tacklers, a crowded pocket for the QB, running backs being stopped consistently for little to no gain. The work of the first team defense last night can only be considered a masterpiece and Khalil Mack played like a defensive player of the year candidate. The man was just straight up unstoppable for the entirety of the first half.
The play of Khalil Mack was awesome to watch, but at this point it is expected from him that he will be dominant. The play of 2nd round rookie Mario Edwards Jr on the other hand, now that was something to be really excited about. Jack Del Rio wasted no time in calling out the rookie to play at a high level consistently and that is exactly what Edwards came out to do last night. By the end of the game it seemed unfair, and somewhat silly, to still have Edwards on the field because he was obviously the best player on the field at the end of the game.
One other defensive player who really stood out in a good way was Nate Allen with his 2 interceptions on starter Carson Palmer. Allen has been a solid player throughout this preseason for the Raiders and really played center field well in this one. He definitely appears to be a very good pick up in free agency by Reggie McKenzie. He only had 2 tackles in the game because there weren't many plays being made in the second level by the Cardinals but his two interceptions would have been game changing if the offense had played well afterwards.
However, the offense did not play well. Outside of Amari Cooper there wasn't very much good to be spoken of in this game offensively at all. Derek Carr did not play well, and his pick 6 thrown in the 3rd quarter was one of the ugliest, dumbest throws we hopefully will see all year from him. It was a miscommunication with Brice Butler who inexplicably turned it up field when he was suppose to be staying back on a screen play but Carr has no excuse for throwing that ball.
He was off-balance, confused, and it wasn't even a good pass had there been a receiver there to catch it. In the NFL you never toss a ball to the flat in such a lackadaisical fashion, and as if to illustrate why you don't do that it was returned for a game changing touchdown. That one throw revitalized the Cardinals and put them in striking distance of the lead despite being utterly dominated throughout the game up to that point.
Carr is the leader of the team and the starter, nobody is questioning any of that. However, he needs to play better in a big way. His preseason should have been over as a starter but with him not even throwing a single touchdown pass through 3 games he will need to play more in the 4th preseason game now. He has struggled mightily under pressure and it is imperative for him to figure out how to bring his calm and collective self to the field under those circumstances.
Amari Cooper on the other hand looks like everything he was projected and more. The way he was able to turn on a dime and immediately be full speed ahead along the sidelines was absolutely beautiful. He didn't have some nobody cornerback on him in this game either, he had one of the best covermen in the NFL covering him in Patrick Peterson. It didn't matter, he still had 4 catches for 64 yards and he even had a bad drop in there despite that.
I will say this about the receiving corp in general, I would not want to be the one who has to make the decisions there. The toughest cuts are going to be along the stellar defensive line, but the receivers are a close second. If left up to me Seth Roberts would make this team along with Brice Butler, but Kris Durham's big frame looks great in the red zone and might deserve a spot too.
Kenbrell Thompkins looks quick and effective on crossing routes but he hasn't done as much for the squad as Roberts and Butler have done and even Durham has stood out to me more than Thompkins. I don't know if Kenbrell has done enough to make the team really and he will need a huge performance next week if he wants a spot. Rod Streater didn't do himself any favors against the Cardinals either, he looked straight up awful but you have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just rusty after missing so much of training camp.
Something that really annoyed me in this game was Ray Ray Armstrong jumping like a wildman on top of tacklers. You don't see players jumping on piles like that for a reason, he was a straight up danger out there to his own teammates with the way he was jumping onto them. He is a very excitable fellow that has won over the coaching staff and had a good game, but he needs to stop jumping onto people like that and show more control in his tackling.
Another person whose tackling infuriated me was Taylor Mays. The only play he stood out to me on was a negative one, and it came on the Cardinals game winning drive. He collided into Cardinals TE Ifeanyi Momah from one side while a different Raider hit him from the other side, unfortunately neither one of them realized that they had arms and Momah just bounced off the hit and continued running.
I am singling out Mays on this play because he is a veteran that is known for trying to blow people up with shoulder hits and not wrapping up his man. At this point he is the new guy to the team and has a very short time to make an impression, that should mean extra precaution to play sound, fundamental football. Instead, he tries to lay out a guy that is absolutely huge at a key moment in the game and utterly fails. Not a good first impression at all from Mays.
There were a lot of positives in this game overall, even if the offense was deplorable through most of it. Matt McGloin outplayed Christian Ponder and has to have a leg up in the fight for the 2nd string QB gig, Mario Edwards Jr looks like a possible defensive rookie of the year candidate and Amari Cooper is just as good as we thought he was. The score might read as a loss, but it's hard not to feel overwhelmingly like the Raiders should feel better about this game than the Cardinals.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of negatives too. Derek Carr played badly, Latavius Murray and the running game played even worse, the defense didn't play as well in the 2nd half when they should have played better considering the Cardinals starters were taken out, and they lost starting RT Menelik Watson to a season ending injury. The offense was ugly, but it was still just the preseason and it seemed like a lot of the problems they had could still be ironed out before the regular season. At least we all hope so anyway.
The Raiders have one final preseason game coming up on Thursday the 3rd but before that they will need to make several cuts down to 75 on the roster for that game. There are only 13 days left until the regular season begins but there is still a ton left to figure out. It sure would be fun to be a fly on the wall of the coaches room while they figure out who makes this team and who doesn't though.