It’s a good thing these games don’t count, because the 2017 Raiders have not put a win on the board through three preseason games. In each instance, the defense has let them down.
If you’re looking for progress, I suppose the fact that the Cowboys only scored on their first two possessions and not three times in the first half as the Raiders’ allowed to their first two preseason opponents.
Just like last week, the Raiders offense scored two touchdowns in the first half. This time they had a 13-10 lead at halftime. With the second team defense in the game in the third quarter, they scored a defensive touchdown to take a 20-10 lead. Then two late Cowboys’ touchdowns sent the Raiders home as 24-20 losers.
There were some pleasant surprises amidst all this. As usual, we look at those first.
Derek Carr, Amari Cooper
Carr’s first pass of the game went to Coop for nine yards. A few plays later on that first series, Carr went back to Coop on third and 4, but threw behind him and incomplete. Another pass over Coop’s head on the next drive once put the Raiders in third and 8. Carr went back to Coop on a slant and picked up the first down. That was the start of Carr settling in a bit more. He finished off that drive completing four straight passes for 48 yards and a touchdown strike to Cordarrelle Patterson up the seam.
The third drive of the game, Carr found Michael Crabtree for five yards on third and 3. The drive stalled after a holding penalty and two run stuffs put the Raiders in third and 20. A 10-yard connection with Coop and the Raiders would punt.
Carr would complete 7-straight passes before his next incompletion on a tip at the line. The next play Coop went up the left sideline, Carr pump faked and Coop broke open where Carr delivered a perfect strike to him for a gorgeous 48-yard touchdown. Coop even slowed to a jog for the final few yards.
In total, Carr would go 13 of 17 for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns for a QB rating of 140.3. Four of those completions for 78 yards and a touchdown went to Coop and Carr’s passer rating rose to 149.3 when throwing to Coop according to Pro Football Focus figures.
Jenkins may be a great example of ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’. He has been working with the second team all offseason and training camp and has been going about his business waiting for his shot. He finally got his shot at middle linebacker Saturday in place of Cory James who didn’t make the trip. And Jenkins stepped up. Right away he had four tackles on the Cowboys’ first drive. Three of them were big stops at the line – a run stuff for one yard, a stop for no gain on a dump off, and a tackle for loss. The last two tackles set the Cowboys up in third and 11. They couldn’t pick up the yardage and settled for a field goal. It was the first time this preseason the opposing offense didn’t open the game with a touchdown drive.
Jenkins opened the second half the same way with a stop for no gain on a dump off. That series went three and out. All told, on 30 snaps (45%) Jenkins would finish second on the team with 5 tackles with only one of those tackles farther than one yard from the line. Barring any additions to the team, Jenkins and James look like the best options at inside linebacker to start this season.
There’s that man again. Luani entered the game in the second half and immediately made an impact. On the third play of the third quarter, with the Cowboys in third and 7, Luani came over from his safety spot to stop a catch short of the sticks and force a punt. He ended the very next drive on third and 5 with a tackle in a 3-yard catch for another punt.
Late in the third quarter, Luani had a run stuff and two plays later made the tackle on third and 11 to stop a dump pass at six yards. Unfortunately the Cowboys went for it on 4th and five, picking it up and finishing off the drive for a touchdown. But Luani did his part to try and stop it. What an absolute revelation this seventh round rookie has been. Like he said; ‘see ball, get ball.’
At one time this camp, the final cornerback spot was a 4-way race. McDonald may have distinguished himself with this performance. It didn’t start out well. He entered the game midway through the second quarter after the injury to David Amerson and Dak Prescott went after him on is first play in the game. McDonald gave up the catch for a would-be first down, but was bailed out by a Cowboys Oline penalty. Then he was called for holding on a return.
Early in the third quarter, McDonald came up to assist on a run stop and two plays later stayed with his receiver deep over the middle to knock the ball down incomplete. Two plays later the Cowboys would be forced to punt.
On the Cowboys’ final drive of the third quarter, McDonald had sticky coverage on former Raiders receiver Brice Butler, forcing him to push off where he was flagged for offensive pass interference. A few plays later, McDonald nearly intercepted a pass on third and 11, but his great play was in vain as Jihad Ward was flagged for roughing the passer. The next drive, McDonald left the game with a left leg injury after allowing an 8-yard reception.
He has shown some great coverage skills in camp and in this game. Hopefully his injury isn’t too serious and doesn’t trip of those efforts.
In his first game with the Raiders since returning from an injury that had him out most of camp, this second round rookie offered his team some hope. Melifonwu made the first big tackle of the game when he stopped a catch at 6 yards on third and 11 to ensure the Cowboys would not get that game opening touchdown. That stop brought out the field goal unit.
The next time a Cowboys’ player touched the ball was on their kick return after the Raiders touchdown drive. And Melifonwu was right there to make the stop at the 20-yard-line. Late in the fourth quarter, Melifonwu showed his coverage abilities, to chase down a receiver on a deep ball to force an incompletion on third down.
That stop gave the Raiders the ball back with 1:46 remaining to give them one last shot to pull out the win. They drove to the Dallas 9-yard-line and had two shots at the end zone, but couldn’t seal the deal.
With Seth Roberts not making the trip due to illness, Patterson got work with the first team. He pulled down a high pass for a 6-yard gain in the first series. The second series, he caught a 3-yard pass on third and 1 to keep the drive alive, then finished off the drive by blowing past his defender on a seam route and catching a 17-yard touchdown to put the Raiders in the lead to begin the second quarter.
What put his inclusion here in doubt was his work as a kick returner. He took both of his kick returns out from deep in the end zone and both times was tackled well short of the 25-yard-line. His first he took from 7 yards deep he returned to the 19 and his second from 6 yards deep he returned to the 15. I understand he is confident in his ability to return any kick no matter how deep in the end zone, but it needs to balance out to make it worth it. It didn’t Saturday.
Solid day for the second team center, giving up no pressures or run stuffs. He laid a key block on a 12-yard run early in the third quarter to allow Elijah Hood to nearly pick up the third and 15. Later in the game, when Connor Cook was strip sacked, it was Felciano’s alertness and great hands that had him recover the fumble after several others on both teams failed to do so.
While His cohorts Sean Smith and TJ Carrie were getting lit up in the first two games, opposing quarterbacks have either shied away from him or been unsuccessful when targeting his receiver. His solid work continued in this game, not giving up a single catch in 23 snaps.
Amerson left the game after what appeared to a blow to the head in the second quarter and headed to the locker room to get checked out. The Raiders will need him to be ok for the regular season because he’s easily their best corner.
Reggie Nelson – Tied for second on the team in tackles while giving up just one catch for 8 yards.
Antonio Hamilton, LaTroy Lewis – Teamed up to account for the Raiders’ third touchdown. Hamilton came around the left side to strip sack the QB and Lewis caught it and returned it 65 yards for the score.
Connor Cook – Was 9 of 16 for 89 yards in one quarter of work. He picked up three 3rd down conversions, including a 36-yard connection to Johnny Holton over the middle. That pass set the Raiders up in first and goal at the 9. After a spike, he had :09 seconds and two chances at the end zone but both his passes were too high for his receivers, so once again he couldn’t play hero.