Not even the big news of Josh Jacobs’ return could overshadow the thud of a preseason finale for the Las Vegas Raiders. Okay, maybe a little. But that resounding thump against the Dallas Cowboys is hard to ignore.
In the final exhibition game on the Silver & Black slate — an opportune time for roster hopefuls to make an impression not only on the decision makers in Las Vegas, but around the league, the Raiders defense was throttled by the Will Grier-led Cowboys offense in a 31-16 shellacking.
Granted, Las Vegas didn’t see many starters hit the field in the preseason finale. The contest was treated as a showcase for both fringe players and NFL hopefuls. But the same could be said about Dallas and Grier surely put good things on tape as he’s reportedly going to get released by the Cowboys after they swung a trade for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance.
Grier played the entire game for the Cowboys finishing 29 of 35 for 305 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once by Raiders edge rusher George Tarlas but otherwise had his way with Las Vegas’ secondary. Grier, a 2019 third round pick, added 53 yards on the ground (including two touchdowns) as he evaded pressure and merely jogged into the end zone on scoring runs.
The Raiders secondary, led by hopefuls Duke Shelley and Amik Robertson, had little to no answers for Cowboys receiving options Tyron Johnson (former Raider, and wide receiver) who hauled in five catches for 90 yards and fullback/halfback Hunter Luepke (five catches, 60 yards and a score and 15 rushes for 58 yards).
The effort against Dallas appeared to be a far cry from what Las Vegas showed in the first two exhibition clashes, but not so, said Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels.
“The effort they played with for the entire preseason, regardless of who was out there. They played the right way and I felt like they were giving us everything they could give us,” McDaniel said in the post game press conference. “I know there is a big evaluation that needs to take place and all the rest of it, but we’re really proud of the way that our team goes out there and battles. Those guys all did it, all preseason long. Thankful for that.”
The film from Saturday’s finale should give Raiders decision makers additional evaluations to make informed decisions on the final 53-man roster that is mandated to happen on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as Grieg attacked the Raiders defense:
—Prized rookie Tyree Wilson made his NFL debut against Dallas and exhibited the speed-to-power transition that made him an intriguing pick at No. 7 overall in this past draft. His foot appears ready to go and Las Vegas is going to ease him back in, but the power and explosion he showed should be relieving. Wilson is indeed raw, but the physical tools are there.
This is why I always thought he is a great compliment to Crosby. Crosby would finish this off from the other side. https://t.co/bxWmmtSeQd— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) August 27, 2023
—The Aidan O’Connell-Kristian Wilkerson connection again was on full display. The rookie quarterback finished 17 of 26 for 178 yards (no touchdowns or interceptions) in his action while the wide receiver hauled in 10 passes (13 targets) for 122 yards. O’Connell seemingly wants to will Wilkerson onto the roster or decision to cut the wideout difficult one for Raiders’ staff.
—Cam Sims, another roster hopeful, showcased the catch radius that comes with his 6-foot-5 frame with a reaching 22-yard reception Saturday. Las Vegas lacks a true tall/big receiver and if Sims doesn’t latch on to the final 53, the team won’t have one.
—Drake Thomas, an undrafted free agent, led the Raiders defense with seven total tackles (four solo) against the Cowboys. He has a good shot of sneaking onto the roster as depth at middle linebacker is murky and special teams could use Thomas’ frenetic energy.
—Las Vegas must’ve sought more from running back Zamir White during preseason and in Year 2. The tailback garnered the first-team snaps with Jacobs absent and the Georgia product had an up-and-down performance. He only had three carries for three yards in the preseason closer.
Quote of Note
“There was a number of guys that were on the practice squad that came up and played very meaningful snaps for us. There’s a lot that goes into that. We’d love for our practice squad to be filled with guys that we feel have the traits and the skills that we think will eventually lead them to the roster whether that be through injury or just development. We have a lot of guys that can fit into that category, there’s no question about it.”
-Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels on the practice squad