Welcome back NFL football, even if it is just Week 1 of the preseason. There is always something special about watching those Silver and Black uniforms hit the field again after the long off-season though, and they did not disappoint in there first action of the 2019 preseason. The 14-3 win over the Rams was actually more decisive than the score suggests, the Raiders were in control in this one pretty much the whole time.
It wasn’t all good of course, the first week of preseason rarely is, but the team clearly looked faster and more confident compared to last year’s squad. There were some standout moments from some of the rookies, 2nd year players and free agent acquisitions such as Clelin Ferrell’s 3rd down stop on a scrambling Rams QB, Arden Key closing in fast despite his larger size for his first of what hopefully will be many sacks this year, and QB Nathan Peterman’s 51 yard scramble and perfectly placed red zone touchdown pass to UDFA WR Keelan Doss.
The biggest winner of the game has to be Nathan Peterman between his own performance and the up and down game from his competition for the back up spot Mike Glennon. There were times where Glennon looked poised and precise with his tall presence in the pocket as he threw for 200 yards and he led the Raiders opening drive to an impressive touchdown. Unfortunately for him he threw two terrible interceptions that really took the luster off his performance, especially the 2nd one which happened inside the red zone on a terrible decision with an under thrown ball early in the downs that should have just been thrown away.
After that Nathan Peterman came in and took the lead in the competition with his 9 of 12 passing (though just for 66 yards) with a touchdown pass along with his 3 rushes for 56 yards. His 51 yard run was the highlight of the game, and more importantly Peterman did not turn the ball over like Mike Glennon did. His athletic ability was on display with that 51 yard scamper, and it was a stark difference from Glennon’s lack of movement outside of the pocket.
Personally, I much prefer a back up QB who can improvise and run around over a pocket passer most of the time. When the starter goes down and the back up comes in it causes a feeding frenzy from the defense, it’s not that often that the pocket stays strong in those situations so a mobile back up is definitely a plus to me.
Another player who made a strong case in a tough competition was RB DeAndre Washington who had 6 runs for 24 yards and a touchdown along with 2 catches for 21 yards. In a game with not many starters playing there were times where Washington looked like the best player on the field for the Raiders. That’s big for a veteran player to standout when playing with the back ups, Washington has been here before and looked like it throughout his time early in this game against the Rams.
There is another competition that is so loaded that it’s hard to imagine being the one having to make the decision on who stays and who goes, the wide receiver depth on the Raiders right now is very impressive. J.J. Nelson is a free agent pick up from the Arizona Cardinals and he had 2 catches for 43 yards but it was really all about his key 38 yard grab over defenders that set up the opening drive touchdown. After hearing a lot about Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams this off-season, it was Nelson who stepped up with the other two not playing in this preseason opener.
Not to be outdone was last year’s preseason star Keon Hatcher though, he had 2 catches for 45 yards. Then after that there was still Ryan Grant (3 catches, 32 yards), Marcell Ateman with his impressively huge frame (1 catch, 19 yards), and Hunter Renfrow with his impressively not huge frame. That’s not all either, UDFA Keelan Doss (2 receptions, 9 yards with a TD) has looked very good throughout training camp and there is also still return man specialist Dwayne Harris to consider. This is the position group that is going to be the hardest to finalize on the team and it isn’t even close.
As for the defense, Clelin Ferrell’s motor was on display already. Even though he only had 2 tackles, you could tell that he is going to be a handful for offensive linemen to try to control. His 3rd down stop that was mentioned earlier was a thing of beauty with him perfectly playing off his block and sliding infield to the hole for an awesome diving stop to save the Raiders from giving up a first down. He also had a tackle for a loss and was consistently in the back field, though a couple of times too aggressively when it was his job to set the edge.
Arden Key was also consistently attacking in the back field too with his 3 tackles including 1 sack and 1 tackle for a loss. His sack was one of the best moments of the game because of the way he closed on the QB being a massive improvement from last season. He had so many almost sacks in year one, if he can keep closing so aggressively we won’t be talking about him still almost getting there this season. It was especially uplifting to see considering he had to put some weight on this off-season but clearly that extra muscle has not slowed him down.
There were a couple of flash moments from Johnathan Abram’s short time on the field where you saw his hard hitting and closing speed too, and 2nd round pick Trayvon Mullen had a nice pass deflection early in the first quarter too. The secondary player that stood out the most though was Nevin Lawson, the former Detroit Lions starter and free agent pick up who likely will be suspended for the first 4 games of the year.
Lawson didn’t let the looming suspension seep into his play for this one though, he was very noticeable on the field in both his pass defense and his special teams work. He also had a ridiculous pass interference penalty where he was basically still jamming the receiver 15 yards down field but overall he had a very solid game. As far as depth goes for the secondary he had a good showing in his Raiders debut.
All in all this was a great opening act for the Raiders to get the 14-3 victory over one of last year’s powerhouse teams in the Rams. Preseason victories are not something to get too excited about, but any time the Raiders can get a win this decisive against a talented team it’s something to be happy about. It also was a nice introduction to many new faces for Oakland, if they continue to play this fast and this confident then there is no doubt that they should be much improved from last year’s 4-12 team.
Next up is the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 of the preseason, a Thursday night game that will be a great test for the Raiders new quicker defense with Kyler Murray at the helm for Arizona. Murray is exactly the type of athletic QB that has given the Raiders defense nightmares so it will be interesting to see what they can do against the top overall pick in this year’s draft. Beating the Rams was a good start to the preseason, hopefully they can follow that up with another good performance against the Cardinals next week.