The story of yesterday's game is obvious, it was the play of rookie cb Keith McGill! No, even though McGill had a really good game last night, the real story is clearly that of the play of rookie qb Derek Carr. Wow, could he have been more impressive?
Seriously, he went 11/13 for 143 yards and 3 TD's for a nearly perfect quarterback rating. He played like a super star last night, there is no way around it. Whatever happens now happens, but there will be a lot of Raiders fans upset if Derek Carr isn't the starting quarterback next week against New York.
It was just one performance by Carr, but it was the type of game that the Raiders faithful have been dying to see from their quarterback since Carson Palmer, maybe even longer. Derek was a freaking surgeon out there, it still doesn't seem real. The back shoulder TD throw to close out his day to Denarius Moore was one of the hardest throws to make in the NFL and he could not have thrown it better.
As great as Carr played, there is a good chance that Matt Schaub is still going to end up starting in Week 1. I hope not, it seems clear that Derek is ready to play now even if it does mean playing through the growing pains. Schaub's face on the sidelines showed that he knew exactly what Carr's breakout performance meant for him; either losing his starting spot all over again or possibly worse still being the starter with the entire football world waiting and watching for every mistake he makes.
How about Denarius Moore too? He was basically an after thought to many when this preseason began, he was struggling and he was down the depth chart. It is amazing how much changes in just a few weeks as not only as Moore looked like the best receiver on the team, but he has been playing like one of the better receivers in the NFL. There were talks of using him in trade because he brought the most value of any expendable player on the team, consider each and every one of those conversations completely halted.
From one receiver to another, we have to talk about Andre Holmes. Personally, I could not be more disappointed with how Andre played this entire preseason. He was my breakout star choice coming into this season and now I don't even know if he is going to make the team. I hope he does make the squad and make up for his unspectacular play over these 4 preseason games, but he is not a lock to make the team in any sense of the term.
Holmes showed flashes of the player from last year with some really impressive catches here and there, but his preseason will be remembered for his drops and missed opportunities more than anything else. There was a third down pass his way in the 2nd quarter from Matt McGloin that was right on his hands and he completely dropped it ending that drive, that unfortunately is one of his signature plays this preseason.
The running back competition has to be the hardest one to decide on for the whole team, and that is still the case even after Kory Sheets getting knocked out of the competition by injury. Considering the way Latavius Murray played in this game and how little he got the ball you have to assume he is a lock to make the team but how on earth can you cut Jeremy Stewart?
Stewart has been crushing it on special teams, just absolutely crushing it. It seemed like every kick, whether kick off or punt, the first player to meet the return man was Jeremy. He wasn't a special teams only player either, he showed consistent hands and a willingness to take the punishment to get an extra yard or two. With Murray being too good to cut, and Stewart working his way towards that status himself the Raiders might end up having to keep 4 running backs on the team.
As for the defense, Keith McGill was the player that stood out to me most. He wasn't afraid to take on the ball carriers, he was disciplined in keeping the edge, and he made a couple of nice pass break ups too. What most impressed me though is his size, he is a huge corner with big shoulders that likes to hit people. The 4th round pick was one of the quietest rookies on the team this preseason but he definitely was impressive yesterday.
Neiko Thorpe and T.J. Carrie are the two players that are battling for that Nickel spot if Chimdi Chekwa isn't ready to come back from injury yet. If it was up to this game to decide that spot, it has to go to Neiko Thorpe. He was all over the place just like McGill was and earned a spot on the team with his play. T.J. Carrie has played very well since the very first time he put the silver and black jersey on too though so that is a touch decision for the coaches.
A couple of players that I would be very surprised to see make the team were rookie 7th round pick Jonathan Dowling and fellow Safety Brandian Ross. Neither player impressed this season, nor last season in Ross' case, and both players missed plays in their final auditions for the team. Andre Holmes and Greg Little both seem behind Brice Butler to me, so that is another interesting battle to see who won.
This was one hell of a way to close out the preseason this year and hopefully this is more indicative of the team that we have with the Raiders this year. If they play like they did last night then this season will be a lot more successful than most people believed it would be. The coaches have more questions than answers after a game like last night though so they probably did not get much sleep.
It will be interesting to see what the coaches have to say after watching the tape, specifically on the quarterback position. Matt Schaub has not been impressive this preseason and was outplayed by both Derek Carr and Matt McGloin, but he is the veteran that has been in line to start since arriving. Has it been enough to displace that thinking and for a new starter to emerge? It is tough to say.
McGloin played well in this game and was the best of any quarterback on the team this preseason, but he will not be starting this season. Derek Carr however, I can not say with such certainty that he will not be a day 1 starter. If I had to choose what I think will happen it would be that Schaub will end up starting but that isn't who I would choose if I was in charge. Without a single doubt in my mind if it was up to me then Derek Carr won the starting job last night.