While it was just one drive during the preseason, new Las Vegas Raiders starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo managed to produce during his debut with the Silver and Black against the Los Angeles Rams.
Garoppolo completed all four of his passing attempts for 39 yards and a couple of first downs, marching the Raiders down the field to begin the game with a touchdown and the team never looked back on their way to a 34-17 victory.
But what might be most significant about that opening possession is Las Vegas had the majority of its first-string offense on the field, a decision that head coach Josh McDaniels explained after the game.
“Yeah, you always go through that conversation in your head every year and we just felt like it was—with a number of new faces, number of guys that were basically going to play their first regular season game together that we’d like to go ahead and get that feeling you have in your stomach on a normal game day in the regular season,” said McDaniels, “kind of get some of that out of the way today and go through a normal pregame preparation understanding that you were going to play.
“...It’s different when you know you can get hit and when you’re bringing people to the ground as opposed to practice when you’re not really doing that. So I think just making that decision as a staff, as an organization with [General Manager] Dave [Ziegler]. I thought our players had a great mindset about it, wanted to come out and do it, do it right.
“I’m sure everything wasn’t perfect, but we were able to get them in there, get them communicating together, get in the huddle, look each other in the eyes, play a drive offensively with those guys and handful of snaps defensively, same thing. So just thought it was the best thing for our team.”
It’s hard to argue with that logic and the results as well. Garoppolo got to build some in-game chemistry with his new crop of pass-catchers like wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and tight end Michael Mayer. Also, the entire unit got a confidence boost by starting the year off with a score.
However, there is one negative takeaway from Garoppolo’s outing that wasn’t reflected on the stat sheet. While facing pressure, he threw a pass to Meyers that was a little short and behind Meyers where the wideout had to adjust and make an impressive catch to prevent the incompletion.
That being said, McDaniels doesn’t seem to be too worried about that lone toss and liked what he saw from the quarterback on the evening.
“I mean, look, I think every quarterback or player that touches the football knows once the regular season comes that they’re live bait, they’re going get hit,” the coach replied when asked about the throw mentioned above. “It’s always good to kind of get that out of the way and some of that anxiety about how it feels because you haven’t done it in a long time, seven, eight months at minimum.”
“...[Jimmy] wanted to be out there. I thought he handled the huddle really well, good tempo in and out of the huddle and was efficient in passing game and got us in the right run plays and we were able to get out there and put some points on the board.”
Looking more at the big picture, McDaniels has liked what he’s seen from the team’s starting quarterback and the supporting cast in training camp.
“Yeah, this was always the game we kind of had earmarked for him based on what we were doing to get him out there with his guys and let him have an opportunity to play. So he’s definitely progressing and continuing to improve as our group continues to work around him. And again, this will be another big week this week.”
It’s unlikely that Garoppolo and the majority of the Raiders' starting offense will get much, if any, playing time during Las Vegas’ final preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday. So, they’ll have roughly three weeks to get prepared for the season opener against the Denver Broncos when the bullets really start flying.