It is often said in sports that the one thing that should never be lacking is your effort. If you watched the Raiders' preseason game in Green Bay Thursday night, you may have been wondering where that part of their game was.
It showed up on defense first, mainly because it was the Raiders' defense that took the field first. On that first drive the Packers ran the Raiders' defense over like grass. The Packers went 74 yards in 14 plays, converting five first downs on their way to a game opening score.
They did this without Aaron Rodgers, too. Brett Hundley led the Packers' offense going 3 of 5 for 29 yards on that drive. The real damage was done by Eddie Lacy and the Packers offensive line that mauled the Raiders defenders for 45 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
"We started off kinda slow," said cornerback Sean Smith. "Obviously we let them go down and score right [from] the get go. . . There's definitely some things we can improve on and learn from."
While the defense seemed to do a bit better after that, the issue of effort transferred to the offense. On paper, there's no reason the Packers offensive line and running attack should look better than the Raiders, but that's exactly what happened. Latavius Murray was going nowhere, averaging 2.0 yards per carry on 4 carries on the Raiders first drive.
"I just need to make more plays for the offense," said Murray. "I need to do more and make the extra plays. If I can do that I will be satisfied with the results I have on the field."
Sean Smith had a similar take on how the team played, though phrased more appropriately.
"One thing we definitely have to improve on is effort and enthusiasm, just going out there, flying around, things of that nature," Smith continued.
Enthusiasm is something Amari Cooper is rarely accused of possessing. But it hasn't typically been seen as having a major negative affect on his game performance. It's difficult to get around that criticism after the first two preseason games.
Last week he had two passes thrown to him downfield. The first one, he showed poor field awareness, not keeping his feet inbounds up the sideline. The second one, he shortarmed a lackluster catch attempt that was placed right where his hands should have been.
His lack of effort was a glaring issue against the Packers too, when Carr put a high arching pass up and Cooper made little to no effort to track it down and fight for it. He should have at very least turned defender and attempted to knock the ball down. Instead Packers cornerback Damarious Randall picked off the ball easily, with Cooper barely getting a hand on him on his way to the turf to prevent a big return.
It was a bad pass, don't get it twisted. There's plenty of time to analyze that poorly executed plays. Derek Carr talked about the play after the game.
"I had a one-on-one with Coop and had a guy coming to my right so I tried to just throw it up and give him a chance," said Carr. "This is the time to do it. I am risky, but it's time to be a little more risky, I guess. I just left it... I would have liked to have put it a foot more inside for him to have a better shot at it, but that was just a chance to let him go get it."
Well, Cooper didn't go get it. He didn't put his arms up and his feet never left the ground. Hard to reconcile that.
I have seen excuses for this lack of effort and others that it's the preseason and players are more concerned about preventing injury. Those excuses attempting to convince yourself that the lack of effort was somehow acceptable. It's not. Not even in the preseason.
Next up is the third preseason game in which the starters play as much as three quarters. Camp is over and this week the team will prepare for next week's preseason home opener just as they would a regular season game. There's no way they want to be accused of having a lack of effort in this one.
"The best thing we want to do is just go out there and compete," Sean Smith added. "We don't get a chance to go out there and ‘thud' our own team like that. When we're out here and it's live against somebody else, you just want to go out and compete and put forth a good showing and try to show who we are as a defense.