Welcome back to Raiders football and the next season of Ballers & Busters. Preseason is unique from regular season games when it comes to individual performances evaluations. This is when the outcomes matters little and each player is literally fighting for their NFL lives. Some are fighting for their place on the depth chart while others are fighting for a job.
With that in mind, here are those who improved their statuses and those who have work to do.
Chris Warren III
Quite a breakout performance by the undrafted rookie. While we’re all thinking about the battle between Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, Warren says ‘what about me?’
What about Warren is he living up to the legacy of his 3-time NFL Pro Bowl father. When Warren III wasn’t carrying defenders for yards inside, he was running by them for big gains on the outside. He had runs of 26, 19, and 11 yards and finished with a team leading 86 yards on 13 carries (6.6 yards per carry).
The fourth round rookie is already having a few NFL GM’s kick themselves for passing on him. He was viewed as a second round prospect until he tore a meniscus in a workout with these same Lions. He returned healthy for training camp and is back to full strength.
Nelson led the defense in snaps and made the most of them. The first two passes his way came in the third quarter and they resulted in an incompletion due to his tight coverage, and a tackle for loss he perfectly played out in the right flat.
He had a rough patch at the end of that drive, called for holding to wipe a sack off the board on third down, and gave up a 9-yard catch on third and two. But he shook it off and had a good close to the fourth quarter.
He should have had an interception, but after making the catch, he got so excited that he held up the ball to show possession and it popped out of his hands. Luckily it was 3rd down and the Lions punted anyway. On the final drive, he had a pass defended that was very nearly a pick, made the tackle on a 3-yard catch on third and 14, and batted a pass down at the line on the second to last play. He gave up just two catches in the game for 21 yards.
After just one series for Derek Carr, Cook entered the game to run the offense for the remainder of the first half. In that time, he went 11 for 19 for 141 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
A 41-yard toss to a wide open Johnny Holton set up a field goal on his first drive. On third down of his second series, he hit Martavis Bryant in stride on a crossing route for 12 yards to keep the drive alive. Later in the drive, he escaped the pocket out right and threw for Paul Butler who made a diving 24-yard catch. He finished off the drive from third and goal from the 7-yard-line with another escape from the pocket, this time out left. Then he re-set and found Ryan Switzer in the back of the end zone for the score.
His next two series would end with high passes on third down, but those first two series gave him something to build upon.
He had the first tackle of the game for the Raiders when he stopped the return man. Then on the second play of the series, he made the run stop for a one-yard gain and the Lions would go three-and-out. He would have two more run stuffs in the first half and even made a tackle on a short catch that led to another three-and-out. He finished tied for second on the team with 5 combined tackles (3 solo).
The rookie kicker was given three chances in the game to show his worthiness to be the Raiders next kicker. Jon Gruden even made it difficult for him, intentionally placing the offense on the infield dirt for two of his three kicks. And he nailed every one of them. The first was a chipshot from 20 yards out and the two off the dirt were from 48 and 45 yards out. In the 16-10 game, those kicks made all the difference.
Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther
The offense was clicking and the defense was stifling so long as the players on the field were performing their duties as they were supposed to. The result was some unexpected solid performances from some young and previously under the radar players. Most notably on offense it was the presence of play action and on defense the presence of disguising the blitz to confuse the opposing offense. Two things that we haven’t seen much of lately in Oakland.
Aside from his potential suspension this season, what Worley did in this game should give some confidence to the Raiders should Gareon Conley continue to have injury issues. The very first defensive play of the game saw Worley step up and seal the edge of the line to send the running back inside for a short gain. Then on the third play of the next series, he had a nice looking pass defended and would ultimately end the drive teaming up for a tackle on a run short of the first down. That was his last play of the game. Solid outing.
The rookie second round pick had a sack on his very first play. Credit goes to the scheme that had the quarterback pressured to step up and gave Hall a single blocker, but he had the discipline and strength to hold his ground and shed his blocker to make the sack and send the Lions offense to the sidelines with a three-and-out. The next drive, Hall had a batted ball at the line. The two things he was known for doing in college — sacks and batted balls at the line — he had on display right away.
Oddly, he wasn’t in the game with the first team. But when the Raiders needed him, he proved he was the man for the job. He had just one catch in the game, but it was a beauty. With Connor Cook scrambling and looking for and open receiver, he saw Switzer roaming in the back of the end zone. Cook threw to the open area and Switzer went and got it, diving full extension to make a sure-handed touchdown catch to put the Raiders up 10-0 early in the second quarter. And he dove into the Black Hole.
He didn’t come in the game until the 4th quarter. The first series he was in the game, the Lions were in third and one and Cowser made the stop for no gain to force a punt. The final series of the game, with Matt Cassell back in the game and the Lions trying to pull out a late win, Cowser had a pressure for an incompletion and then ended the threat by getting in the backfield and was credited with a strip sack. Victory formation after that.
Jordy Nelson — Had a 4-yard catch on the first play of the game, but made this list for the pass defended he had to prevent what would have been an interception.
Marshawn Lynch — A Kolton Miller holding brought it back, but Marshawn broke off a 60-yard run on the first series that showed he can still outrun a defense.
Keith Smith — His blocking was superb and relentless, showing why Gruden wanted him in Oakland.
Karl Joseph — He made a pretty nifty jump sack and was penalized for a great tackle due to the over-called new lowering the head rule.
Fadol Brown — He and Bruce Irvin had the pressure to set up that PJ Hall sack. Brown also got in the backfield along with Cowser and it appeared as if it were him who knocked the ball out, though Cowser got the credit for it.
Pharaoh Brown, Paul Butler — Both had some fine blocking in the game. Butler also had an outstanding diving catch for 24 yards that set up the Raiders only touchdown.
Marcell Ateman — Led Raiders receives with 4 catches. Though he had just 22 yards, he showed he is versatile as a receiver. He even made a tackle on special teams.
Shilique Calhoun — Had a sack and a QB hit in the game. May have had another sack had Nick Nelson not been called for holding.