Takeaways from Raiders preseason opener at Arizona

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr warms up prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

GLENDALE — With the majority of the starting lineup on both sides of the football  sitting out, the Oakland Raiders entered their first preseason game in Arizona looking to develop depth around the championship-caliber roster headlined by franchise quarterback Derek Carr and defensive linchpin, defensive tackle Khalil Mack.

Even though the Silver and Black fell to the Cardinals 20-10 Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, Oakland had some bright spots in the game:

The battle for the No. 2 quarterback

Former Buffalo starting quarterback EJ Manuel started the game for Oakland and was impressive in his first appearance in a Raiders uniform. Manuel looked sharp in the first half, finishing 10-of-12 for 107 and a passer rating of 103.8.

In the second quarter, the fourth-year pro out of Florida St., made a nice throw over a Cardinals defensive back that found tight end Clive Walford for a 30-yard gain that set up a 43-yard field goal by kicker Giorgio Tavecchio that finally got Oakland on the board, 17-3 right before halftime.

Second-year quarterback Connor Cook wasn’t as effective as Manuel, but did lead the Raiders to their only touchdown score of the night.

In the third quarter, Cook engineered a five-play, 63-yard drive, keyed by a 29-yard screen pass to backup running back John Crockett that would setup Crockett’s one-yard score that pulled Oakland closer, 17-10, albeit against Arizona’s third- and fourth-team units.

All indications are that Manuel will cement his position has Carr’s backup once the regular season begins, but Cook (who made NFL history by becoming the first rookie quarterback to make his pro debut in a playoff game last season), will make the decision tough for Del Rio and Co. as the preseason progresses.

The linebacker room

A position that has some question marks coming into the season, the linebackers for Oakland could actually be a strength for the Silver and Black.

With Bruce Irvin firmly entrenched as the team’s starting “SAM” linebacker, Cory James and rookie Marquel Lee made cases to join Irvin in the starting lineup in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Sept. 10.

James, in his second year with Oakland out of Colorado St., led the Raiders with seven tackles against Arizona and is currently listed as the team’s starting “WILL” linebacker on the unofficial depth chart.

Rookie Marquel Lee started as the team’s “MIKE” linebacker and finished with six tackles (five solo). Lee, was drafted in the fifth round by the Raiders in this year’s NFL draft, recovered a forced fumble by defensive tackle Justin “Jelly” Ellis in the first half.

The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon still needs to improve is footwork in pass coverage as Lee did find problems covering tight ends on curl- and in-routes.

Overall, the Raiders’ defense racked up four sacks, two a piece by fellow linebacker LaTroy Lewis and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, possibly developing more depth for a team that must improve a 26th-ranked defense in 2016.

Oakland (1-0) host the Los Angeles Rams next Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Rams (1-0) defeated the Dallas Cowboys 13-10 Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.


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