Raiders

Three things you need to know from Raiders' 19-15 loss to Rams

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AP

Three things you need to know from Raiders' 19-15 loss to Rams

LOS ANGELES – With a 19-15 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, the Oakland Raiders dropped to 1-1 in Jon Gruden's first preseason back with the Silver and Black. 

Here are three things you need to know from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum...

1. Progress hindered by preseason opponent

Jon Gruden wasn’t thrilled having to play the Rams in the preseason’s second game and again three weeks later when it actually matters. Starters typically play into the second quarter of this exhibition, expanding workloads from the previous week.

The Raiders went in reverse on Saturday, sitting 21 healthy players in this game to prevent the Rams from seeing too much of their personnel, play calls or hand signals. There’s no reason to help the opposition prepare to play you. The Rams took a similar tact. Both teams stripped schemes to the suds for this one, keeping exotic blitzes, pre-snap shifts and even their terminology away from prying eyes.

The Raiders will take less from this preseason game than usual, forced instead to focus on evaluating younger players.

"I’ve never been in a preseason game like this,” Gruden said. “I don’t know in the history of the NFL, if that’s ever happened. I’m not going to sit up here and cry about it because it’s the same for them as it is for us.

“But in our first year of operation (as a coaching staff), we didn’t want to play our starters. We didn’t want them to hear our audibles and see our hand signals. I don’t think they wanted us to get a feel for them either. It was a strange week of practice and a strange ballgame in that regard.”

2. Offensive line depth a concern

The Raiders have a solid starting offensive line. Center Rodney Hudson plus guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson make up arguably the NFL’s best offensive interior. Kolton Miller and Donald Penn have the ability to be a strong tackle tandem if Penn can successfully transition to the right side.

None of those guys played Saturday. Their reserves, however, didn’t show well.

Jon Feliciano is a quality player but had a bad day at the office. He had a bad snap to start the game, and was called for a false start inside the Rams’ 20-yard line. Raiders blockers were called for holding four times – one was declined – and a false start.

Brandon Parker was pushed straight back into Connor Cook got sacked when he fumbled in the first half.

It wasn’t a great day for the guys up front, and those who played Saturday and make the roster must show better when called upon. Feliciano has been a quality reserve, and there’s confidence he will be again. Parker and David Sharpe must improve on the outside. Ian Silberman is a versatile backup, and could leapfrog the other two tackles.

3. L.A. still a Raiders town

The Raiders curated a rabid, devoted fan base during their 13 years in Los Angeles, so it was no surprise their supporters turned out en masse for Saturday’s preseason game against the Rams.

After all, they hadn’t returned to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since returning to Oakland after the 1994 season.

The crowd was mostly black and silver, routinely booing Rams players and successes. They stayed engaged in a game that meant nothing, wasn’t terribly well played and manned by guys down the depth chart.

They didn’t seem to care. This was Raiders football, live on stage.

“It’s awesome being back here,” Gruden said. “The Raiders have a championship history in Los Angeles. There were a lot of fans here who remember those teams, and rightfully so. We appreciate their support and, hopefully, in a few weeks (when they play the Rams to open the regular season) we can give them a better game.”

Raiders rally back, but fall short in preseason loss to Rams

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USATSI

Raiders rally back, but fall short in preseason loss to Rams

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES – The Raiders hadn’t played in Los Angles Memorial Coliseum since they returned to Oakland after the 1994 season. A loyal, passionate part of Raider Nation showed up for their team’s grand return, painting the stadium silver and black.

They didn’t get much of a show. Most understudies struggled mightily, producing a stinker even by the preseason’s incredibly low standards.

Head coach Jon Gruden sat 15 offensive players, including every member of the first unit. He sat six healthy defenders. That’s 21 impact athletes glued to the sideline.

Gruden was right to do so.

There’s no point giving firsthand looks to a team the Raiders play in Week 1. Gruden was flummoxed by the Rams scheduling, with a Monday Night Football game against them just three weeks after Saturday’s preseason game.

A 19-15 loss to the Los Angeles Rams didn’t say much about the Raiders as a whole. Too many headliners out for that.

Gruden used this time to evaluate players down the depth chart fighting for roster spots. Backups got long looks they won’t receive next week against Green Bay, when starters are expected to play a half, maybe into the third quarter.

Chris Warren III capitalized on extensive snaps. The former Texas running back likely cemented his roster spot after another productive day, with 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He’s a tough runner that Gruden likes, and could develop into a productive option in 2018 and years after that.

He could be the only undrafted rookie save kicker Eddy Pineiro to make the squad.

The Raiders starting secondary played early on, with Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin working at outside cornerback with safeties Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph.

That group looked good, with Melvin especially strong in coverage. Conley was fine in his first game in almost a year, and will surely knock off rust as the preseason progresses.

Connor Cook and EJ Manuel rotated into the game throughout, though neither passer played particularly well. Cook started the game, struggled in the first half and was 6-for-12 passing for 49 yards and a wonky lost fumble that sure looked like an incomplete pass.

EJ Manuel wasn’t much better. He was 10-for-16 passing for 89 yards and lost a fumble trying to scramble for yards. He threw a late touchdown to Griff Whalen that kept the score close.

The crowd erupted then and at several moments, seemingly set on getting their money’s worth. Most stayed to the end, and enjoyed late-game drama when the score got close.

That will happen when a team returns after more than 20 years.

Four Raiders players to watch in Saturday's preseason game vs. Rams

Four Raiders players to watch in Saturday's preseason game vs. Rams

LOS ANGELES -- The Raiders will face the Rams on Saturday in their second preseason game, and then again roughly three weeks later when it really counts.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden isn’t thrilled about it.

“I don’t understand it, honestly,” he said. “I really don’t.”

Exhibition No. 2 typically is an event where starters work deeper into the action, nearing closer to halftime. It’s a time to refine some and get in some good work.

That might not happen in the Silver and Black’s return to L.A. Coliseum. Even if action for the regulars increases over last week’s preseason game, coaches will provide a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

“It’s a preseason game, and we have a lot of really tough evaluations to get through before we start thinking about what play we’re going to call,” Gruden said. “We’re going to really continue to use this as an evaluation, period. You’re going to see a lot of players playing a long period of time that are going to get a chance to show us they belong here. That’s how we’re looking at this game.”

We won’t see regulars for long, but two important debuts are in the cards. Another pair is looking to impress. Here are four players to watch against the Rams.

CB Gareon Conley

Conley was supposed to miss four weeks with a hip injury he suffered during training camp’s first full-squad practice. That might’ve cost him the entire preseason. Conley and the Raiders were thrilled he made it back in two weeks.

Conley expects to play Saturday for the first time in nearly a year, after missing the last 13 games in 2017 with a shin injury that required surgery. He might not stick around long, but he could support the praise heaped upon his potential, athleticism and ball skills.

Showing well this preseason would inspire confidence that he can become a top-flight cornerback.

Conley, for his part, isn’t stressing over another injury issue.

“If you think about it, it’s going to happen. You have to put it out of your mind,” Conley said. “If you don’t, it becomes more mental than physical. Once you think about it, you get hurt again. You can keep going down and down. You’ve got to stay (positive).”

DE Arden Key

The former LSU edge rusher missed last week’s preseason game with a bum ankle, but he's set to make his professional debut in L.A. He should get some solid snaps in this one, and many are anxious to see if he can translate excellent practice work into games.

He has a wide variety of pass-rush moves -- he’d be wise to keep some in the arsenal -- and tremendous agility working against offensive tackles. He’s long with unreal bend, and many within the organization are expecting him to make an immediate impact.

QB EJ Manuel

Connor Cook was the first quarterback off the bench in last week’s preseason game against Detroit, and the Michigan State alum took full advantage. A solid performance didn’t earn Cook the right to back up Derek Carr. Gruden insists that job remains competitive, and that Manuel would get more work against the Rams.

Manuel must capitalize on it to get back in a race he might be losing at this stage. He has worked mostly with the third team in recent practices, and has had an issue with fumbled snaps. Cook had an uneven week of practice, so the window’s still cracked for Manuel to earn the No. 2 job he had last year.

WR Griff Whalen

The Stanford product got more run than anyone expected against the Lions. The slot receiver played 14 snaps of offense with the first and second units, and had a chance to return punts and kickoffs. His work came before Ryan Switzer, who had been the primary slot guy in practice.

That order changed during this practice week, when Whalen continued to work with top units.

“Whalen has stepped up,” Gruden said. “He earned that right. He’s doing some great things.”

He has to keep doing them, because a roster spot is not guaranteed. He was believed to be on the outside looking in prior to the Lions game, and he must prove on offense and special teams in these preseason games to earn a job in a competitive position group.