Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND — Halfway through the preseason, the Raiders are 0-2.
Cause for concern if you’re Raider Nation?
Not really, seeing that the first game of the regular season against the Titans in Nashville isn’t for another month and records don’t carry over from the preseason, but after watching the Raiders lose to the Rams 24-21 at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Saturday night, a few things jumped out at me in the press box relating to the Silver and Black:
Starting quarterback Derek Carr looks healthy, but starting left tackle Donald Penn’s absence looms large
Saturday night marked the first time that Carr was in uniform for the Silver and Black for a home game after sustaining a season-ending leg injury on Christmas Eve against the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Showing no signs of the injury that derailed the Raiders’ chances of winning their first playoff game since 2002, Carr completed 7-of-9 passes for 100 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in three drives for Oakland.
Carr found backup tight end Lee Smith for Oakland’s first score of the game with a 19-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter that gave Oakland an early 7-0 lead, then in the second quarter, Carr hooked up wide receiver Michael Crabtree on a 13-yard, catch-and-run touchdown that saw Crabtree absolutely abuse Rams cornerback Troy Hill with a ridiculous fake out move that left Hill on roller skates.
Fellow wide receiver Amari Cooper may had the highlight of the night when he jumped over two defenders to reel in a 31-yard pass from Carr in the second quarter.
Carr finished with a passer rating of 113.0, but had to move around in the pocket to avoid a bevy of Rams’ pass rushers coming from the left side of the offensive line to complete his passes. When you’re worth $125 million and play the most crucial position in football and the team will only go as far as you, your health is of the utmost concern and it was evident that the Raiders need their wall of an left tackle on the field if Carr is to remain healthy.
Penn has been a no-show during all of training camp in Napa due to wanting a new contract. The 11-year veteran is set to make $5.8 million in the final year of his deal and wants to be paid as a top-10 left tackle.
Some may point out that Penn could be replaced if he decides to stay away, which I don’t buy. Penn may have given up the sack that led to the end of Carr’s MVP-like 2016 season, but he is irreplaceable and the Raiders and Penn need to come to an agreement somewhere if they expect to be a Super Bowl team.
The defense can be leaky
Defensive end Khalil Mack recorded a sack in his first preseason action, but the rest of Raiders’ defense has some work to do.
Rams’ starting quarterback Jared Goff was razor sharp, completing 16-of-20 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown in leading Los Angeles to 17 points in his three drives of work. Goff looked more poised and confident in Year 2 than he did as a rookie last year and showed growth as an NFL quarterback by keeping the Raiders defense on their heels with quick passes and tough runs by starting running back Todd Gurley.
But the real guy that was hurting the Raiders was Rams’ rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Kupp was a matchup problem for Oakland, especially working in the slot and it showed in catching six balls for 70 yards and a 23-yard touchdown where Goff found Kupp 10-yards ahead of the closest Raider defender. There’s no question that Goff will look for Kupp early and often in games during the regular season.
There were times where you saw Raider defensive backs looked out of position, most notably on the Rams’ final drive of the game and backup quarterback Sean Mannion dropped a 20-yard dime for a touchdown to another promising Rams rookie, wide receiver Josh Reynolds, for the game-winning score leaving reserve cornerback Chris Humes confused.
Mannion finished 15-of-22 for 132 yards after taking over for Goff at halftime.
The battle for the No. 2 quarterback continues, but Cook could have inside track at job
One week, fifth-year quarterback EJ Manuel appeared to be in the driver’s seat to be the No. 2 guy behind Carr after completing 10-of-12 passes for 107 yards and posting a 103.8 passer rating against the Cardinals, Manuel didn’t look near as good against the Rams in front of Raider Nation.
Manuel took over for Carr and was just 3-of-9 for 16 yards with a passer rating of 42.4 in two drives.
Connor Cook may have actually helped his case at being the primary backup behind Carr with his night.
The second-year signal-caller from Michigan State finished the game completing 9-of-15 passes for 81 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown dart to backup wide receiver Johnny Holton to give Oakland a 21-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. Cook completed his final six-straight passes on the 11-play, 65-yard drive for the Silver and Black.
After posting a meager 58.0 passer rating in Arizona, Cook finished with a passer rating of 97.4 against Los Angeles.
Both teams will be in action again next Saturday, Aug. 26 for preseason football, with the Raiders traveling to Dallas, and Los Angeles hosting their in-city rival, the Chargers.
Lynch sits again, Carr puts right arm around Mack during National Anthem
Prior to the start of the game, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat down during the National Anthem. Lynch also sat during the National Anthem in Arizona last weekend.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr put his right arm on the shoulder of defensive end Khalil Mack during the National Anthem.
Recently, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (who sat during the National Anthem during Seattle’s 48-17 win over the Chargers last Sunday), called for white football players to join the anthem protest to help change and improve race relations and the general treatment of other human beings.