It was just preseason and doesn’t mean much to what we will see come the regular season, but that was one of hell of a finish to the preseason. If it turns out the regular season is anything like that team then this is going to be a very fun season for the Raiders. This game was a great example of everything that Gruden wants his team to be though, aggressively attacking deep while making sure you respect the run along with a swarming defense.
Credit for the defense clearly goes to Paul Guenther, and the difference between his defensive scheme and former defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. is night and day. This game showed that difference side by side because Norton is the defensive coordinator for Seattle and the Raiders exploited his coverages all night long. It was glorious.
I’m not one who hated Norton Jr. either, the defense under him was his but it was also Jack Del Rio’s and the blame should be put on both of them for the monstrosity they put on the field. It is such a relief to have a coach that is as versatile and effective as Guenther though, his scheme has worked for a long time in Cincinnati and hasn’t missed a beat being installed in Oakland so far.
Another sign of the coaching working within the locker room was the extreme competitiveness the bubble players showed last night. Creating competitions is how you get the best out of the players, but rarely do you see that many players excel in their final opportunities to make the team. It was evident among the corners, the linebackers, the defensive line and especially with the wide receivers.
How do you possibly cut Keon Hatcher after that game? He had 8 receptions for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns, an average of 16 yards per reception. It wasn’t just the final stats though, he just looked the part so much while making those plays. He was fluid with his routes, clean with his hands, and showed the fire you want to see from an NFL wide receiver.
Hatcher deserves to make the team after that performance, and if the Raiders don’t agree then he will absolutely be on a different team’s roster. Probably the Patriots, and that’s just gross so hopefully he makes the Raiders roster.
However, it’s not like the other receivers make that an incredibly easy decision. Both rookies Marcel Ateman and Saeed Blacknall also showed up big in this game. They both made had 3 catches for 58 yards, and Blacknall added a touchdown where he bounced off a tackler like a pinball which was really impressive.
Ateman is the one who would be most likely to take the spot that Hatcher seems to have earned just because of his 6’4, 216lb frame. That type of size would be really great to have as a goalline option, no doubt. Blacknall isn’t small either though at 6’2. If either of them go without being claimed if they are cut it would not be surprising to see both of them on the practice squad, but there is no certainty either one would make it past the other 31 teams prying eyes.
Another player who seems like you have to make a spot for is CB Anthony Hamilton who has played well for the entire preseason. This was another game where he was consistent with his coverage and physical in his tackling, especially at the line of scrimmage. The Raiders have a lot of corners vying for a roster spot, but it seems like it would be smart to make sure that one of the ones who cracks the final 53 roster is Hamilton.
A person who definitely won’t be cracking the roster is Raysean Pringle who was burned regularly in this one. Ironically, the 81 yard touchdown that he gave up was one of his better plays of the game with him very nearly deflecting the pass away before the receiver took off to pay dirt. Though he had a bad game, he has shown potential and might be a practice squad target.
As for the defensive line, Fadol Brown is a lock to make the team. The guy was simply dominant this preseason frequently bullrushing his blockers into the quarterback’s lap. There was one play in particular against the Seahawks that made me convinced that there is no way he get’s cut, and it wasn’t when he was rushing the passer.
They actually dropped the behemoth defensive lineman back into pass defense as a surprise move and he very nearly intercepted a pass that was a good 10 yards down field. I couldn’t stop smiling after that play, it was one of those big moments where a player really stakes their claim on their roster spot. There is no doubt in my mind that Brown made this team.
Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that the spot Fadol Brown ends up taking is that of former 2nd round pick Mario Edwards, Jr. because he just never really showed up enough this preseason. It sucks because Edwards has shown a ton of potential but he was outplayed on the defensive line this preseason by all three of the other players in competition with him with Brown, Tank Carradine and Treyvon Hester all making more plays this preseason.
It’s not certain that Edwards won’t make the team by any means, he is a very talented player and has shown flashes throughout his time with the Raiders of a possible beast. Sadly for him though, the Raiders defensive line is the deepest it’s been in ages and his past flashes don’t really matter to the new coaching staff who is making their evaluations based off of what they see now, not what happened before they were here.
The last person who deserves the highlight from the game against the Seahawks is E.J. Manuel because after being lambasted all week he just put together a work of art. He was great in this game going 18 of 22 for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns. He likely showed enough to win the back up QB spot, though we still have to see who gets cut from other teams before that’s finalized.
It would be shocking to see Gruden go with Connor Cook over Manuel though, even if he wants more time with Cook it was clear that Manuel was the better quarterback this preseason. One of the biggest plays in that competition wasn’t even a big completion for Manuel, it was when he corralled a high snap and passed quickly for a few yard gain. It was a play that showed the ball security he has lacked at times, and the benefits of Gruden’s no laces football drill too.
It’s great just to have the final dress rehearsal done though, the next time we see the Raiders hit the field will be for Monday Night Football against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1 of the regular season. There will be a lot happening between here and then though, with final roster cuts being due by 4pm ET tomorrow.
It will be a whirlwind of activity once that happens with some extremely tough cuts coming for the Raiders and surely some additions from tough cuts for the other teams too. No matter what happens, there will be players that get cut that should still be proud of what they put on tape this preseason for Oakland.
It was awesome to see all the competitions play out this off-season with more than a few deserving roster spots that unfortunately for them they just won’t get with the NFL’s 53 player roster limits. Sure seems like it’s time for the NFL to adjust that number though, because it’d be nice not to have to cut a few of these guys that won’t be making the Raiders roster.