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Raiders preseason week four Ballers & Busters vs Seahawks

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The last preseason Ballers & Busters of 2016.

Sometimes final preseason games can be hard to watch. A bunch of players who will barely see the field along with players who won't be on the roster by later today. This one wasn't a feast for the senses either. It was scoreless at the end of the first quarter and a 2-0 pitchers dual at the half.

There is something to be said for defense, though. And for the first time this preseason, the Raiders' defense came to play. Sure, it wasn't the starters -€” with the exception of a couple rookies -€” but the reserves were out to prove there was some bite to the Raiders' defense; even if in the next-man-ups.

The final score was 23-21 in favor of the Seahawks, but wins and losses in the preseason are just about irrelevant. How the individuals perform is most important. So, let's get to those performers.

Ballers

Denico Autry

FIVE TACKLES FOR LOSS. That's balling. Autry was everywhere in this one. A starter much of last season, he has been working his way back to form after missing the offseason and part of camp with an injured wrist. This season, he is sitting behind Mario Edwards Jr on the depth chart at defensive end, after playing opposite him on the line last year. He made his case on Thursday to get that starting job back. And with Edwards expected to miss six game this season, that just might happen.

His first tackle for loss came on the first play of the game for the defense. Two plays later, he stuffed the run again for a short gain. This was against the Seahawks first team starters, mind you.

With the Seahawks second team entering the game after the first drive, they would go three-and-out. One again, Autry started the series with a tackle for loss. And to finish it off the series, it was Autry doing one of his signature batted balls at the line.

To begin the second quarter, Autry added a sack to his resume to lead off another three-and-out for the still scoreless Seahawks. The very next drive he had another tackle for loss. This one further backed the Seahawks up to their own goal line and the next play the Raiders scored a safety off an intentional grounding in the end zone.

Just for good measure, he another tackle for loss on the first play of the fourth quarter, and finish leading the team with six tackles -€” all solo -€” with five of them coming behind the line of scrimmage. Just an outstanding game by this former undrafted free agent.

Shilique Calhoun, Darius Latham

Before this game, Calhoun had been one of the more disappointing rookies on this team. The third round pick was getting pushed around every game, while not getting a lot of pressure either. The same could not be said for Latham who has been impressing the coaches all offseason and impressed everyone else in the preseason. Both were at the top of their games Thursday.

Autry may have had that tackle for loss on the opening drive, but he had help in smothering the quarterback form Calhoun and Latham. Autry's next tackle for loss also gets a shout out to Calhoun for sealing the edge to send the runner inside.

The third Seahawks series (all in the first quarter due in part to the Raiders defensive play) ended with Latham stuffing a run for a short gain on third and long. The following drive, just after Autry got his sack, Calhoun joined the party with a sack of his own. Latham also joined the action with a batted ball at the line late in the first half.

To begin the second half, Latham had a gorgeous run stuff where he shucked the blocker out of his way and blasted the runner for no gain. It was a clinic in shedding a block followed by an after school special on wrapping up and driving a ball carrier into the ground.

That hit must have had Latham as worked up as I was watching it, because later in the third quarter, he had two straight run stuffs in short yardage; stopping the runner for 2 yards in second and three and stuffing him for a loss on third and one to force a short field goal. Calhoun would add a pressure to force and incompletion on third down to force yet another punt.

If you needed any more reminder the Raiders defense was dominating, they held a 5-3 lead at the end of three quarters. Thanks in large part to  the above three guys. Latham finished this on the team with 5 tackles (4 solo) while Calhoun led the team with 2 hurries and a sack.

Marquette King

When the offense is struggling to move the ball the way the Raiders were, the punter is going to get a lot of work. King had eight punts in the game, including some good ones that really helped the Raiders win the field position battle.

His first punt traveled 56 yards and was fair caught at the Seattle 11-yard line. His second punt was fair caught at the 14-yard line. His third one he couldn't keep out of the end zone, for a net of 36 yards. The next one went 65 yards but once again reached the end zone for a 45-yard net. He followed that up with a 52-yard blast that was fair caught at the 8-yard-line. THIS time, a defensive stand had QB Trevone Boykin throwing out of his own end zone and resulted in a safety off an intentional grounding. King's big punt set the Raiders up for their first points of the game. He then helped keep it a 2-0 halftime lead with a 42-yard punt that was downed at the 11-yard-line.

Six of his eight punts were in the first half. His first punt of the second half was fair caught at the 6-yard-line and the other had a net of 40 yards. He finished with an impressive 48.9 yards per punt average and 43.5 net.

Jihad Ward

Completing the fine work by the defensive line in this game is this rookie second round pick. His stats don't jump out, but he did work just the same. In fact, he had the pressure to help force the incompletion to end the first series of the game. He ended the Seahawks third drive with a run stuff on third down. Then he ended their fourth series with another run stuff on third down.

Since we're on the theme of ending drives, he got pressure on the quarterback in the end zone to help force the intentional grounding call that resulted in a safety. He finished with 3 combined tackles (2 solo) in the stat line which is just proof how the box score doesn't always show what kind of performance a player had.

Neiko Thorpe

That first drive ended in with two straight incompletions; both with Thorpe in tight coverage. The final incompletion was due in part to Ward's pressure, but without tight coverage by Thorpe, it may have resulted in a completion anyway. An example of the synergy between pass rushers and those in the secondary. The first half ended with the Seahawks launching a Hail Mary and Thorpe knocking it down to send the teams to the locker room with a 2-0 Raiders lead.

His final play of the game came on special team. And you could say he save the best for last, considering it was the final play of any consequence in the game. It was George Atkinson's 81-yard touchdown run that would have been stopped short had it not been for Neiko Thorpe racing downfield to lay the key block that allowed Atkinson to go the final stretch for the score. It was a hell of a play by Thorpe which shows the value he holds as a special teamer. And giving up just two catches for a total of 13 yards helps as well.

KJ Brent

Brent led the team with 4 catches for 59 yards. He had his first catch to begin the second quarter and it was a sneaky fantastic grab. He came back to get it and Connor Cook threw it right at the defender. Brent reach out for the wide pass to steal it away from the defender who probably had visions of a pick six. But instead it was Brent to snatched it for an 11-yard gain.

Brent would do his QB a solid again in the third quarter when on 3rd and 1, Cook rolled right and Brent caught his pass for a 12-yard gain. That one helped put the Raiders in position for their first field goal and a scorching 5-0 lead.

Later in the third quarter, he had consecutive catches of 19 and 18 yards to finish as the leading receiver for the second straight week.

Honorable mention

Jaydon Mickens -- He had 3 catches for 43 yards including a really nice diving grab for 33 yards up the left sideline to lead to the Raiders' first touchdown.

TJ Carrie -€” On 20 snaps, he gave up just one catch which he stopped for a two-yard gain.

James Cowser -€” The safety that put the Raiders on the board was directly as a result of the hurting he was about to put on the quarterback that forced the intentional grounding in the end zone. He added a tackle on special teams to stop a return at the 18-yard line to start the second half.

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