The Oakland Raiders have now completed half of their preseason slate after traveling to Los Angeles California to take on the Rams on Saturday afternoon. The Raiders fell to the Rams by a score of 19-15, but as we all know, the score isn’t what matters in the preseason. What matters is evaluating individual performances rather than scheme based success. It’s a time for the coaching staff to evaluate what they have on the roster in order to properly set the depth chart and make cuts in two weeks.
Now that we can ignore the score, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what we saw. Here’s a look at five things we learned from the Raiders vs. Rams.
The Raiders will play host to the Rams in week one of the regular season and you could tell by the way Jon Gruden ran the offense. The play calls were so uninspiring, many fans began having flashbacks to the Todd Downing days of a high school-esque offense. Gruden held out the majority of starters on both sides of the ball and appeared to be more concerned about getting the game over with than he was with evaluating the team.
That, of course, is something you have to keep in mind when evaluating some of the players on offense. These guys weren’t exactly set up to succeed with the vanilla play calling.
Chris Warren was once again the star of the game for the Oakland Raiders. Warren carried the ball 18 times and tallied 110 yards and one touchdown, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Warren is currently leading the league in rushing yards this preseason, though it’s worth noting that he’s also leading the NFL in rushing attempts this preseason. That being said, Warren has 31 carries, which is the same as Los Angeles Rams running back John Kelly, but Kelly has 63 fewer yards on those 31 touches.
Warren has played primarily against backups and deep roster guys who are trying to make the team so his success needs to be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, Warren has proven enough to show that he’s an NFL caliber player. It’s yet to be seen if he’s just a depth guy or a future starter, but for now, we’ve seen enough to know that he’s not a guy you can stash on the practice squad without fears of another team poaching him which means he has a good chance of making the roster.
In week one, Connor Cook gave us hope that the backup quarterback position might be better this year. Cook looked better than he ever has in a Raiders uniform against the Lions in week one and it was starting to look like Gruden and his staff had worked a miracle. But the former fourth-round pick came back to Earth against the Rams in a rather rough outing. He looked inaccurate, made some questionable decisions and while he showed poise in the pocket at times, he also got flustered at times.
The one bit of good news for Cook is that E.J. Manuel didn’t have much more success against the Rams than Cook did. Both players looked average to flat out bad on Saturday. As I noted above, it’s important to remember that these guys were put in a rather tough position given how vanilla the play calling was. Because of that, you can’t take too much away from this game as far as the backup quarterback position goes. But it’s safe to say that one would have liked to see more from both guys than what we saw in Los Angeles.
Who would’ve guessed that one of the defenders having a solid preseason through two games would be Shilique Calhoun. He’s a guy who has already been cut by the Raiders once and who is going to have a real tough time making the final 53 man roster this year and yet he’s impressing far more than he ever has in the past.
He is playing a lot of his snaps against backups and guys just trying to make a roster, but that’s pretty much where he’s always played in the preseason and he’s never been able to perform the way he is this preseason. It’s clear that Calhoun has benefited from the higher caliber of coaching that Paul Guenther and his staff have brought to the Raiders. That being said, it might be too little, too late for him to actually make the roster since the Raiders are stacked along the defensive line at the moment.
The preseason isn’t over yet and the things you see in the preseason aren’t always as they seem. But after two games, it sure seems as though the Raiders are looking long and hard at Marquel Lee as the starting middle linebacker this season. He played a decent number of snaps against the Rams and looked good in the time he was on the field. He had the second most tackles on the team and added a sack and a tackle for a loss to his stat sheet.
I think there’s still a chance that Derrick Johnson is the go-to guy at inside linebacker when the Raiders are in the nickel or dime formation, but for the base formation on early downs, it sure looks like Lee is the guy. His preseason hasn’t been spectacular, but it’s been solid and Lee looks like a guy who has gotten a lot better over the past year.