This game actually left me feeling a little bit satisfied despite the loss and the bad rush defense by the Oakland Raiders because offensively there were plenty of things to cheer for. Right now it looks like the Raiders have an incredibly difficult decision to make with their running backs, Derek Carr looks regular season ready, and best of all the starting offensive line finally looked like they are expected to.
The defense on the other hand still looks lost out there though, specifically against the run. The run defense being this bad is scary, but it is important to note that the Titans might have the best running back duo in the NFL. DeMarco Murray is looking like the Cowboys version instead of the Eagles flameout and Derrick Henry is a straight up beast. Doing badly against those two running backs is something that is going to happen to a lot of teams this year.
That's not to completely let them off the hook though, they need to get better in a hurry if the Raiders are going to meet their suddenly elevated expectations for this year. They have been consistently out of place, eaten up by blockers, and failing to win the one on one matches when they get opportunities. It's been ugly, no doubt about it. Too ugly to fix by Week 1 most likely, even though we don't want to hear that, but not lost for the season all together hopefully.
Just as Bruce Irvin pointed out in Levi Damien's article about the run defense, it takes these guys lining up correctly and trusting each other to hold their responsibilities. That discipline is lacking right now, but that doesn't mean that it can't be fixed eventually. Last year the Raiders defense started out very poorly too but by the midway point of the year they had really hit their rhythm. The trick this year is to make sure to find that rhythm much earlier though, and sadly they haven't given much reason to believe they will as of yet.
Enough negative though, let's talk about that offensive line! They finally looked really good while giving Derek Carr plenty of time to throw and making big holes to help DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard both have outstanding games in their battle to make the roster. The Titans got 1 sack on Derek Carr but other than that he was rarely hit and had a stellar performance thanks to that.
The Raiders second touchdown of the game on the deep ball to Amari Cooper was the play that really got me excited for the offensive line though. The Titans were blitzing pretty hard on that play yet the entire wave of defenders all got blocked and Carr was able to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a perfect pass to Cooper. I have to admit I don't think it should have been a catch for Cooper with the bobble after he hit the ground but the rest of the play was executed perfectly and it was a great effort by Amari whether he truly made the catch or not.
As for those running backs, it is awfully hard not to be really excited about the depth at the position this year. DeAndre Washington has had one hell of a preseason for a 5th round rookie and he continued that success in this one with his most extensive playing time with the first team offense yet. He once again ran a perfect route in the redzone for his touchdown reception, he shows a great power and speed combination as a 5'8 bowling ball, and he might just be a bigger part of the offense this year than anybody expected when he was drafted.
Jalen Richard's debut didn't disappoint either, and his style was remarkably similar to Washington to the point where it was difficult to tell at times which back was toting the rock. The part that really surprised me about Richard though was his special teams return game prowess, he really looked good returning kickoffs when given the opportunity. That is incredibly important when battling for the last running back spot with George Atkinson III who also looked good this preseason.
Will the Raiders keep 4 running backs though? I'd have to say no, because they also have to have space for Jamize Olawale and Marcel Reece. That means out of DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, and George Atkinson III that one of them is going to miss the final cut. The last preseason game next week against the Seahawks is beyond huge for these three battling it out for their roster spots, and with the starters unlikely to play they provide the number 1 interest for Raiders fans in the Week 4 of the preseason matchup.
How great did Derek Carr look though? His passes were superb, consistently placing them exactly where he needed to. If he had finished the half by hitting the wide open Clive Walford it really would have been exciting and it could have changed the outcome of the game, though that doesn't really matter anyway in the preseason. Those of you upset about him throwing the ball away all together on the 4th down play at the end of the half, he did that because he knew it wasn't worth getting one of his receivers jacked up on a low percentage play in a meaningless game.
This was a game that makes me really excited to get to see this matchup live in person Week 3 in Tennessee. The Raiders need to get their running defense in check by then because the Titans will be one of the best rushing teams this year, but it should be a good game in the regular season. If this game is any indication it could be a shoot out between them which would be really fun to watch live.