Raiders show signs of personality in easy preseason win over the Cardinals

Jerry McDonald
Sacramento Bee

The Raiders showed a little bit of everything they hope to be Thursday night in a 33-26 road win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Keep it mind it was against an opponent which in no way resembled a Los Angeles Rams team the Raiders practiced and played against a week ago. The Raiders were up 26-0 in the second quarter and the outcome was never in doubt, with the Cardinals getting two touchdowns in the last 2:49 to make it cosmetically close.

Eight takeaways as the Raiders (2-0) reached the midway point of the exhibition season:

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1. Cover better, blitz a lot

With better speed on the back end, defensive Paul Guenther can dial up a pressure or two without being fearful of having someone running free in the secondary.

The Raiders came hard after Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray (3 of 8, 12 yards), the No.1 overall pick in the draft.

Johnathan Abrams came early on a safety blitz. Vontaze Burfict and Tahir Whitehead both blitzed over the middle. Lamarcus Joyner rushed from the slot and recorded a safety against Murray, By midseason, Murray may be wondering what life would have been like to have instead spent the summer playing center field for the Midland RockHounds, the Athletics Double-A affiliate.

Using Guenther’s game plan as a blueprint, go ahead and assume Murray will be blitzed frequently.

“We’re going to blitz. Guenther’s going to blitz,” Gruden said. “Sometimes he shows blitz and doesn’t blitz. When you’re playing spread teams, you’ve got to take some gaps away. You’ve got to present some different looks. Otherwise, they’ll dice you.”

There was also some good work done by Arden Key and Clelin Ferrell, when the latter wasn’t getting called for illegal hands to the face, which happened twice early in the game.

The Raiders finished with three sacks, including one in the fourth quarter by Ethan Westbrooks. That equaled their entire 2018 regular-season total of fourth-quarter sacks.

2. Derek Carr’s perfect cameo

Coach Jon Gruden opted to start Derek Carr at quarterback , and didn’t need to see anything else after one possession. The Raiders drove 75 yards in six plays, with Carr hitting Tyrell Williams on a 27-yard jump and catch and an uncovered Ryan Grant for a 13-yard touchdown.

“There was no lobbying,” Carr said. He said, after the touchdown, ‘You’re done.’ There was no conversation. I saw it in his eyes.”

Carr’s passer rating? A perfect 158.3. Carr may play a series or two against Green Bay in Winnipeg. He may not. He’ll most certainly sit out the exhibition finale in Seattle.

In the meantime, Carr’s job will be to play catch-up with wide receiver Antonio Brown and be ready on Monday night, Sept. 9 at the Coliseum against the Denver Broncos.

“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish,” Carr said. “We wanted to get Josh (Jacobs) rolling. He’s going to be a feature back for us and it was his first game. We wanted him to get hit more than I threw the ball. For the first time going out, it was nice.”

3. Ditto Josh Jacobs

The first-round draft pick out of Alabama carried four times for 21 yards with a long gain of eight. Jacobs didn’t face the Rams, and it’s impossible to tell in training camp how good a running back is with no tackling to the ground.

Jacobs’ first three carries were for 6, 8 and 6 yards He showed subtle inside moves and a good surge of power and like Carr, sat out the rest of the first half and perhaps the rest of the exhibition season.

“He wanted to stay in, but I think we’d seen enough,” Gruden said.

Gruden, who is constantly asking players their favorite plays to find out what they like best, applied that tactic with Jacobs.

“He actually asked me what plays I wanted to run,” Jacobs said. “He made it fun for me.”

4. Backup battle

Mike Glennon replaced Carr and put up impressive numbers for the second straight week, this time completing 11 of 14 passes for 175 yards with a 53-yard strike to a wide open Rico Gafford and a fade to Derek Carrier for 2 yards with perfect touch. And this time, no interceptions of the type which drew Gruden’s ire in the Rams game.

Glennon missed an open Darren Waller in the end zone on one play, forcing the Raiders to settle for a 25-yard goal. Other than that, not a lot to be critical about. Glennon’s superior passing passing ability already had him in the lead against Nathan Peterman. Avoiding the bad plays against Arizona was equally as important as converting the good plays.

Peterman, labeled a “house mouse” by Gruden on “Hard Knocks” because the coach wants to see more assertiveness, took the Raiders on a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second half and even lowered his shoulder to run for a first down.

“Whenever I say he’s doing well, some of the people in the media have fun with that,” Gruden said. ‘I don’t understand it. He was 8-for-8. You can see him running the read option. He brings en element we haven’t had here. We’ve got two veteran backup quarterbacks who started in the league, and I think they’re good enough to play in the league. But we’re not done yet.”

In all, Raiders quarterbacks were 21 of 24 for 256 yards.

“I think Derek kind of set the tone and went right down and scored and we were able to kind of carry that momentum,” Glennon said. “I think it was a good day for the quarterback room.”

5. Joyner stands out

Joyner’s sack of Murray was already referenced, but the slot/corner safety also showed sticky pass coverage skills in keeping with Larry Fitzgerald in the slot and played with passion and enthusiasm.

Compared by Gruden to Ronde Barber, his former do-it-all defensive back with Tampa Bay, Joyner has the look of an influential presence in the secondary along the lines of Charles Woodson’s second stint with the Raiders.

“It was very encouraging. Very encouraging,” Joyner said. “We’ve talked about it since OTAs and spring workouts, how excited we were to play together. To come out and dominate the game early like that, it was a great, great, great start for us to be together.”

6. Curtis Riley makes his move

Riley brought pressure with a blitz, and notably had a good punt rush in the first half.

Why is the punt rush significant? Because Gruden talked up Riley during the week and said they were looking to see more of him on special teams. Mission accomplished. Riley, a Fresno State teammate of Carr, started 16 games for the New York Giants last season and had four interceptions.

Riley is running behind Abram, but is still only 27. It’s a good sign for a Raiders team that had too many long-in-the-tooth defensive backs a year ago such as Reggie Nelson, Leon Hall and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

7. Antonio Brown update

Brown was on the field, suited up and running routes while wearing an approved helmet. (He also ran some routes without one). ESPN’s Lisa Salters reported Brown said he took his cryotherapy sessions wearing only socks, and that the wide receiver would ease his way back into practice. She also reported Brown had received helmets from all over the country in his effort to find his preferred model that is less than 10 years old.

“It was encouraging,” Gruden said. “It’s great to have him back. It’s been a strange, strange couple weeks. … We’ve weathered the storm, he appears to be in great spirits, and he appears to be ready to get going.”

Gruden said he hoped Brown would be practicing before training camp in Napa breaks Monday.

Any helmet Brown uses will have to be approved by the National Operating Committee for Standards of Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).

Brown told reporters following the game he had no idea where the report came from (ESPN) that he’d retire if he couldn’t get the helmet he wanted.

“I hate when my mom calls me and my dad calls me and say, ‘retirement,’ and I say, I never said that,’ ” Brown said.

8. Cole comes through

A.J. Cole, the undrafted free agent who is the lone punter on the roster after the release of 2018 punter Johnny Townsend, averaged 49.4 yards on five punts with a 43.4 net. He had one punt bounce into the end zone when it could have landed inside the 5, but had three others inside the 20 and gave no indication that he’s not worthy of being the Week 1 punter.

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