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The Morning After: Connor Cook and the rookies shine in Raiders preseason opener

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The first game of the preseason is in the books, and it was a pretty dang good one. The score of 16-10 isn’t anything all that exciting, but there was a lot to be very happy about throughout the game. Besides, a win always feels good even if it’s just the preseason.

Can you believe how different the team felt with the new coaching staff in place? The Raiders did not play like this was the first preseason game, the players seemed far more prepared than you would have expected this early. I didn’t hate Jack Del Rio by any means, but it took a lot longer before the team played this cohesively under him. You can tell the extra preparation that Jon Gruden expects of his players for sure, which is one of the best signs for the future to come out of this game.

Connor Cook especially looked great in his 11 of 19 completions for 141 yards and a touchdown. All of the attention throughout the off-season was the relationship between Gruden and Derek Carr, but Cook was sitting through all those QB meetings too and making strides in training camp. He’d shown his potential in the past, but yesterday he looked like he could be a trustworthy back up to Carr. If he keeps playing this way he might even work his way into being a starter somewhere else one day.

The play from Cook that was most impressive was his touchdown to Ryan Switzer, the two showed great communication on the play. Cook drifted to his left to pull the defense that way while Switzer sprinted the other direction to get open, the scramble drill was executed perfectly. That was exactly the type of crispness that you don’t expect in the first preseason game, both Cook and Switzer did exactly what they were supposed to do for the score.

As for the defense, what a way to say hello to 2nd round pick P.J. Hall! His manhandling of the Lions center on his sack was a thing of beauty, and he also batted down a pass later which he was known for in college. To draft a small school player that high the Raiders really had to like what they saw from him, now we know why. If he can play like this consistently then he will quickly become one of the favorite players among Raider Nation.

Another rookie with a spectacular game was Chris Warren III. He finished with 13 carries for 86 yards, which is especially impressive considering his short amount of time with the team. He showed very surprising quickness and change of direction for a 247lb player, and he was a very powerful runner despite his pad level being too high. He clearly will be on an NFL team this year and despite the depth the Raiders have at the position it will be hard not to keep him if he plays well the rest of preseason too.

The receiver that stood out most to me was Martavis Bryant even though he only had a couple of plays that highlighted what he could bring to the team. He came into this game under heavier scrutiny after being criticized by Jon Gruden during training camp but his speed was on full display against the Lions.

His one catch underneath turned into an 18 yard gain, and he had a step on his defender on an under thrown ball from Derek Carr on the opening drive that likely would be a TD in the regular season. The catch and run for 18 yards was even more exciting though because it was the type of route that Gruden was emphatic on Bryant needing to get better at. His big gain on the play showed exactly why the team wants him to become more versatile.

There were other nice performances from players like rookie DT Maurice Hurst who showed off his burst at the line of scrimmage a couple of times, rookie CB Nick Nelson who was huge at the end of the game, CB Anthony Hamilton despite seeming to get hurt every other play, and K Eddy Pineiro who went 3 for 3 on his field goal attempts including a 47 yard kick.

The only knock in Pineiro was his kick out of bounds that gave the Lions the ball at their 40 on the last drive of the game, that could be extremely costly in a one score game but the defense managed to do their part to win anyway.

Overall this was a very good game for the opening of the preseason though. Plenty of things to work on, looking at you new punter Johnny Townsend, but plenty to be excited about too. There were too many penalties, but that is how the early preseason games always are. Definitely not too much to complain about though, it was a good start to the Jon Gruden era in Oakland and a nice teaser to the start of football season.