The Oakland Raiders came away from their second preseason game with a win, but it wasn’t pretty. It took a late-game comeback — led by third-string quarterback Matt McGloin — to enable the Raiders to escape with a 27-26 victory over the Detroit Lions. McGloin sent the fans home happy with a 19-yard touchdown throw to Brice Butler with six seconds left, and Sebastian Janikowski’s extra point sealed the deal.
Yet there were several reasons for concern, as the starters on both sides of the ball looked rather pedestrian. And what stood out the most was poor play in the trenches for the Raiders.
After dedicating most of the offseason to rebuilding both the offensive and the defensive lines, the Raiders expected line play to be a strength, or at the very least not to be a liability. The latter, however, is exactly what transpired last night.
The Raiders were only sacked once, but that didn’t tell the whole story. Matt Schaub — who completed 8-of-13 passes for 87 yards — faced pressure on nearly every passing play. Even when he got throws off, would find himself on the ground afterward. Schaub wasn’t able to do much damage downfield, which wasn’t all that surprising with an offensive line that didn’t give him time to survey the field.
Derek Carr completed 9-of-16 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown pass to Jake Murphy. He was sacked once, but seemed to sustain an injury when he was hit by Larry Webster after throwing the ball away. He suffered a concussion and “sore ribs,” according to head coach Dennis Allen.
Another aspect of the Raiders game that was expected to be a strong suit, the run game, never got going against the Lions. Again, that was in large part due to an offensive line that was unable to successfully carry out its responsibilities. The Lions defensive line has been formidable in years past so the Raiders knew it would be a tough test, but it was one they hoped to pass, even if only by the slimmest of margins. Unfortunately, there is no way to give the line’s performance against the Lions’ defensive front a passing grade.
Oakland’s defensive line played only slightly better. They looked solid against the run, but the Lions are not exactly known as a power running team. Plus, the Raiders run defense was decent last season — it was Oakland’s complete inability to get pressure on the quarterback in 2013 that concerned most. That’s why they spent a lot of their cap dollars on pass rushers on guys like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith. It seemed as though the Raiders were determined to get a pass rush from their front four, even though they will use a lot of blitzes once the regular season starts.
Pressure never came on Friday night. The Raiders were only able to record two sacks, and both came on blitzes from linebackers Khalil Mack and Nick Roach. Cornerback play for the Raiders was poor, but everyone knew that was the weakest group on the roster coming into training camp. The expectation (or hope) was that the defensive line could put enough pressure on the quarterback that the corners would have more success. That never happened last night. As a result, Matt Stafford tore the secondary apart even without All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson.
It’s hard to take too much away from preseason games, but this was not a great performance for the Raiders. While it was an improvement over their first game against the Vikings, the good certainly didn’t outweigh the bad. Next week against the Green Bay Packers will be much more telling.