Photo credit: therams.com
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND — For the first time in 24 years, the Raiders will play a game in Los Angeles when they face the Rams at the Memorial Coliseum Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. PT.
This is the second-straight season that the Rams and the Raiders link up in the preseason.
Los Angeles won 24-21 at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum last August. Oakland will host the Rams in Week 1 as part of a double-header on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, but don’t expect both teams to reveal any true game plans Saturday.
It was December 24, 1994 that the then-Los Angeles Raiders lost a 19-9 game to the Kansas City Chiefs that would end the Raiders’ 12-year run in Southern California. Depending on who you talk to, the Raiders still hold a major footprint in the country’s second-largest media market next to New York.
Even with the Rams back in town after relocating from St. Louis, where they won the franchise’s only Super Bowl trophy, following a 20-year stint from 1995-2015, it’s as if the Raiders have never left as you can still see people wearing Raiders’ gear.
The Raiders did win a Super Bowl in Los Angeles following the 1983 season, the third trophy in franchise history.
That’s why I’m very interested to see how much of the 93,607-seat Memorial Coliseum will be Silver and Black Saturday afternoon as both teams will play their second preseason game.
The Raiders defeated the visiting Detroit Lions, 16-10, last Friday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the first-team offense started the game, playing just one drive before heading to the sideline. Carr completed just 2-of-4 passes for 11 yards in his night of work, but the first-team offense did show some potential of being a big-play offense this season, after seeing running back Marshawn Lynch dart down the Oakland sideline for a 60-yard touchdown run before the play was called back following a holding call on rookie left tackle Kolton Miller.
Expect Carr and the first-team offense to play more than one series, after Raiders head coach Jon Gruden broke training camp Thursday giving the players the day off.
Connor Cook, who took over for Carr, completed 11-of-19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown while playing the remainder of the first half. Cook would lead the Raiders to a 13-7 halftime lead, looked good engineering the Raiders’ second-team offense.
Undrafted rookie running back Chris Warren III played extensively, recording 13 carries for 86 yards. Its just one preseason game, but Warren III is making a strong case to make the team with impressive showings in recent training camp practices according to reports from Napa.
Defensively, Oakland was without star defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who has been a training camp holdout as he seeks a new contract. Missing that game cost Mack $814,000. Mack won’t play Saturday, which will cost him another $814,000.
Oakland’s defense won’t nearly be as formidable without Mack, who has made three trips to the Pro Bowl, named All-Pro twice, and won Defensive Player of the Year in his first four seasons in the NFL.
Rookie defensive tackle P.J. Hall showed great activity when he stepped on the field, recording a sack and a batted pass on his first two plays in the NFL. Other rookies like defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and cornerback Nick Nelson will get more playing time Saturday.
New kicker Eddy Pineiro made a case to be Oakland’s permanent kicker, nailing all three of his field goals. The rookie made field goals from 21, 48, and 45 yards.
Fellow rookie in defensive end Arden Key is expected to play Saturday after missing the previous game with a “tweaked” ankle per reports. As a sophomore at LSU, Key would set a school-record by registering 12 sacks in 2016.
As a matter of fact, Oakland could have their entire rookie class available this Saturday for the first time since their rookie class of 2016, per Marcus Allen Krause of Silver and Black Pride.
Second-year cornerback Gareon Conley, who has been nursing a shin injury, is expected to make is preseason debut against the Rams. It was revealed early in training camp that Conley had suffered vitamin D deficiency, which became a major talking point on the Raiders.
Last week, the Rams traveled to Baltimore to open up their preseason slate, before being toppled by the Ravens 33-7.
Backup quarterback Sean Mannion started for the Rams in place of starter Jared Goff, completed just 3-of-13 passes for 16 yards and one interception, as Los Angeles held out the majority of their starting offense. Third-year quarterback Brandon Allen fared better, connecting on 10-of-15 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Star running back Todd Gurley didn’t suit up for the Rams, but was on the sideline.
Los Angeles rewarded Gurley with a four-year $57 million extension with $45 million guaranteed in the offseason following a career-year in 2017 in which he rushed for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Gurley also finished with career-highs in receptions (64), receiving yards (788) and touchdowns (5) last season in route to being named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Los Angeles traded for former Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who is coming off his third-straight of a least 60 catches, 1,000 yards and six touchdowns, and gave the aforementioned Goff another weapon to throw to.
Los Angeles led the NFL in scoring, averaging 29.9 points per game in 2017, and were a top-10 offense orchestrated by the second-year Goff (who threw for a career-high 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 100.5 passer rating), designed by first-year head coach Sean McVay.
McVay, the NFL’s youngest head coach at age 31, is a Gruden disciple, cutting his teeth as a coaching assistant on Gruden’s staff with the Buccaneers in 2008. The former wide receiver at Miami of Ohio from 2004 to 2007 eventually would work his way to being the offensive coordinator at Washington under head coach Jay Gruden, the brother of Jon.
After leading the Rams to an 11-5 season, the NFC West title and the team’s first playoff appearance in 13 years, expectations are running high for McVay and Co. in Year 2.
Whenever the Rams come to terms with star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year (and former Defensive Rookie of the Year) on a new contract, Los Angeles will have one of the best defenses in the league heading into the season. The Rams added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib via trades to bolster the defense around Donald.
Just like Mack, Donald is holding out of training camp looking for new long term deal. Donald didn’t make the trip to Baltimore last week, and he too was fined a game check.
Donald missed out on a $405,000 payday for skipping the game.
The four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro is adamant that he’s not playing a game without a new deal after outplaying his rookie deal after the Rams selected him 13th overall in 2014.
So the similarities are there between the Rams and the Raiders:
- Head coaches that are offensively innovative and detailed, but don’t expect Gruden or McVay to reveal their hands prior to Week 1.
- Star defensive players that should get massive deals, but when will Mack and Donald sign?
Following Saturday’s game, the Raiders will host the Green Bay Packers at home next Friday, while Los Angeles will host the Houston Texas next Saturday.