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Raiders preseason week three Ballers & Busters vs Packers

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NFL: Preseason-Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Who knows if the Raiders can translate any of their preseason magic to the regular season. Regardless, it sure feels a lot better leaving the field as a winner, even if it doesn’t count.

Unlike the first two games, this one didn’t have the Raiders lead most of the way and win comfortably. They were down 21-10 at the half and had to come back to win it with a field goal in the waning seconds.

The win is great and all, but both teams were fielding squads of mostly players who won’t be on the roster in a couple weeks. As to which players earned a legit claim for a roster spot, well, that’s where the game is truly won or lost.

Ballers

Keisean Nixon

This young fella has taken the Raiders by storm. At one time he was just another name among a crowd of undrafted rookies and he has distinguished himself and made it clear he will be on an NFL roster this season, whether it’s the Raiders or otherwise.

Nixon ended the first series of the game with tight coverage on third down. The next series, he had a pass breakup. Then he had another one on the following series. And added a big stick tackle on a short catch on the drive after that. And then yet another tight coverage incompletion on the drive after that. And then yet ANOTHER tight coverage incompletion on the drive after that. And then it was half time.

In case you weren’t counting, that’s six drives to begin the game with all six featuring a big play be Nixon. That’ll do, you buck. Go get yourself an NFL career.

Anthony Rush

Another dominant performance for this 6-5, 340-pound behemoth. The undrafted rookie out of UAB has been the talk of the preseason as opposing linemen have been unable to keep him from taking what he wants. Seven times in this game Rush either made the run stop or forced it either with his pressure or clogging the inside. On those seven plays, the Packers got a net one yards. That’s five stops for no gain, two for one yard each, and one for a loss.

P.J. Hall

One player who is watching the above monster tackle and sweating his job, is Hall. He was quiet for most of the first half, which wasn’t good for him.The first time you heard his name was when he was flagged for a neutral zone infraction. But when he came on, he really came on. But right around the end of the first half, Hall started his presence known. And on his first play of the third quarter, he bull rushed into the backfield to get the sack. Two plays later, he got pressure again, flushing the QB from the pocket where James Cowser chased him down for the ankle sack. On consecutive drives in the fourth quarter, Hall got around his man, who was flagged for holding him.

Keelan Doss

Once again, Doss led the Raiders in receiving, catching four passes for 52 yards. Most impressive was his ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls to haul them in and make a play. And with Nathan Peterman at quarterback, there were a lot of those.

Doss’s first big play was not a poorly thrown ball. It was a slant pass right on the money on third and five and Doss took it for 18 yards. Three plays later, the Raiders were in the end zone for the first time to take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

Come the third quarter, Doss saw another ball come his way. It was third down again and Doss took it for 11 yards. Peterman should’ve stuck with Doss because the drive stalled after that.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Alameda native had his biggest catch. Peterman threw it behind him up the right sideline (perhaps intentionally, hard to tell) and Doss adjusted leapt in the air and came down with the pass, tapped his toes inbounds for a 17-yard completion. Three plays later the Raiders were in the end zone again to pull within two.

James Butler

With the Raiders sitting their top four running backs, Butler got the start. Having signed on with the Roughriders (#RiderNation) of the CFL this offseason before being re-signed by the Raiders in training camp, Butler played like he was right at home in the great north. He had two 6-yard carries on the Raiders’ first scoring drive. Then on the first possession of the third quarter, he caught a short dump pass and took off for a 30-yard gain to put the Raiders in position for their third score of the game on a 40-yard Carlson field goal. Butler’s biggest play may have been on the Raiders final touchdown drive when on 4th and one, he started left and cut back to the middle and hurdled over the piled to pick up seven yards. He finished with 86 yards from scrimmage including 15 carries for 56 yards (3.7 ypc).

Keith Smith

Smith was often clearing the way for Butler on several runs, while clearing his own way to try and hold onto his job as the Raiders’ starting fullback. One of those 6-yard Butler runs on the Raiders first scoring drive, Smith laid a key block to give him the room he needed. Then early in the second quarter, Smith showed off his hands, catching a swing pass in the left flat and giving the Raiders their first touchdown of the game.

Come the third quarter, the Raiders had pulled to down 21-13. On the following drive, the Raiders were pinned at their own 1-yard-line. So, they handed it to Smith who was immediately met by a defender, but drove through him to get out of his own end zone and pick up a yard. Smith would have a couple more catches as well, to finish with four catches for 15 yards and a touchdown.

Jason Cabinda

He tied for the team lead in tackles (5). It’s hard not to focus on the missed tackle that resulted in a 20-yard screen play to set up the Packers’ second touchdown. But if you can get past that, he had a pretty good game. One drive in particular really stood out. He was a man on fire on that drive. Late in the third quarter, with the Packers up 21-13, Cabinda made a run stuff at the line on first down. A few plays later he had another run stuff at the line. Two plays after that, on third and 9, Cabinda made the tackle on the scramble to stop him short of the sticks. The Packers went for it on 4th and three and Nicholas Morrow got the sack. Making that sack possible was Cabinda taking two linemen with him and Morrow using his pick to get the sack on the stunt.

Daniel Carlson

Three field goal attempts, three field goals. That’s what he does. He had the first points of the game on a 42-yard field goal. Added a 40-yarder, and then hit the game winner from 33 yards out. Can’t ask for anything more than that from your kicker.

Honorable Mention

Nathan Peterman – Truth be told, Peterman was closer to a Buster than he was a Baller. His passes were behind his receivers so often someone needs to ask him if he knows receivers have FRONT shoulders. But kudos to him for doing enough to win the game while not making any crucial mistakes to give it away.

A.J. Cole - Ironic actually that Cole was punting for the Raiders while the opposing punter, JK Scott, was the guy the Packers traded up ahead of the Raiders to take in last year’s draft. The Raiders ended up settling for Johnny Townsend and put up with his dreadful punting last season before finding the undrafted Cole who has been every bit the punter the Raiders could have hoped from a drafted punter. While he had a couple touchbacks on the 80-yard field in Winnipeg, he also had a 54-yard punt and another punt downed at the two.

Nicholas Morrow – He closed out the third quarter with a 12-yard sack and two run stops, one for a loss. He too finished tied for the team lead with 5 tackles.

Rico Gafford – He had four catches for 31 yards, but his biggest play came after the 25-yard Keon Hatcher catch, when Hatcher fumbled and Gafford was right there to fall on it. Without that play, the Raiders’ comeback effort would have been lost.

De’Mornay Pierson-El – Led the Raiders in catches with 6 for 38 yards. One of those was a 7-yard touchdown catch.

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