Raiders 14, Rams 3: What we learned in Oakland's preseason-opener win


Raiders 14, Rams 3: What we learned in Oakland's preseason-opener win


OAKLAND -- The Raiders sat most every presumptive impact player during Saturday night's preseason opener against the L.A. Rams, an expected turn after those players received so much quality work in joint practices against the same opponent.

It’s safe to say that, with occasional exception, most of those featured in Oakland’s only home exhibition game won’t make the regular-season roster.

Here are three takeaways from the Raiders’ 14-3 victory over the Rams at the Coliseum:

Receiving corps looks deep

Tyrell Williams watched the game in street clothes. Antonio Brown is off the reservation, not with the Raiders in training camp recently or at the Coliseum on Saturday to see his team play.

Those guys will be productive as expected this season -- let’s be real; there's no way AB will give up $30 million over a helmet -- but the Raiders' remaining receivers proved against the Rams that they have some game.

The Raiders have some hard choices ahead with that position group, which should count Brown, Williams, Hunter Renfrow and return man Dwayne Harris as roster locks. That leaves one, maybe two spots for several qualified candidates.

One of those might be reserved for speedster J.J. Nelson, a camp standout who made another big-time contested catch deep downfield against the Rams and finished with two receptions for 43 yards.

Ryan Grant hasn’t shown much in camp, but his three catches for 32 yards were impactful. Keon Hatcher (two receptions for 45 yards) showed some life in the first half to complicate matters more. Marcell Ateman, who made a 19-yard reception, also is in the running after several solid practices. We haven’t even mentioned Keelan Doss, a talented pass catcher in an ultra-competitive group, who caught a 3-yard touchdown pass.

Gruden always was going to face tough choices, and his guys aren’t making it any easier with solid performances from several in the preseason opener. Oakland's sixth receiver spot might be more about a needed skill set to round out the crew, where Ateman’s size and physicality could prove useful.

Backup QB competition now in full swing

Mike Glennon was given the first crack at running the Raiders' offense with starter Derek Carr sitting out, an elevated post he has maintained over Nathan Peterman most of training camp.

Glennon, a 29-year-old veteran, was accurate and efficient during his two quarters, taking yards in big chunks while throwing to several receivers, and finishing 17-of-25 passing for 200 yards. A 58.8 passer rating won’t reflect that, as two terrible interceptions, including one thrown in the end zone, dampened that number. That seemed to be a result of a miscommunication with Derek Carrier, but it was a mistake nonetheless. Glennon also killed an earlier drive with a pick, and came away from several productive drives with one score.

Peterman won the Bills' starting job last year with a powerful, accurate arm that engineered several quality preseason performances. He showed athleticism Saturday on a 50-yard run and hit Doss for a TD, finishing 9-of-12 passing for 66 yards.

The right to be Carr’s backup will be contested deep into August, with the Raiders' unquestioned starting QB not scheduled to play much all during the preseason. Glennon is the early favorite, though Gruden likes Peterman and the 25-year-old’s upside. That could sway the decision, or at least compel Gruden to keep a third quarterback after using just two last season.

Gruden gets impact rookies' feet wet

The Raiders are counting on several rookies to play expansive roles this season, but Gruden didn’t keep them on the sidelines with the veteran starters. He let every instant impact draft pick, save running back Josh Jacobs, see the field Saturday, getting NFL-debut jitters out of the way in a game of zero consequence even by preseason standards.

High picks Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram got a few hits in before being yanked. Trayvon Mullen showed some toughness in nearly a full half of work.

Renfrow, a virtual lock to be Oakland's primary slot receiver, was targeted only once in limited action. The stats are secondary to the experience and teachable game film, which should help the rookies progress throughout the preseason.

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

The Raiders set out to get faster on defense. That mission was accomplished in every sense.

That’s true by traditional measures, as the Raiders hope their raw speed can keep up with the track stars Kansas City trots out on offense Sunday afternoons.

It’s also true in terms of reading and diagnosing plays. The Raiders installed a faster multi-core processor this offseason, plugging Vontaze Burfict into a defensive network that now runs at warp speed.

Burfict has mastered Paul Guenther’s scheme and knows exactly how to adjust and re-align to best defend a particular offensive play. Burfict is confident in his reads, efficient and clear when dispensing pre-snap information. Being in the right spot, able to anticipate what’s coming, allowing the defense to play faster.

Burfict as Guenther’s field general has been a storyline since the veteran joined the Raiders in March, and his scheme knowledge assisted returners and newcomers alike during the preseason.

That was clear when operating at game speed. Burfict orchestrated the defense well in a Monday night victory over Denver, making individuals better while helping the defense play as a cohesive unit.

“It was awesome,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “He knows the system inside and out, so he’s able to make checks pretty quickly. He always seems to know what’s coming and gets us aligned fast, so we can just play ball.”

The Raiders must play mentally and physically fast against Kansas City, armed with speed and an offense that will attack using both latitude and longitude.

“They make you defend every inch of grass,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “Laterally with the jet sweeps, you got to defend them sideline to sideline. They can outrun you, outflank you and vertically they can run right by you over the top.”

There’s a buzz word that describes the key to defending this high-powered attack.

“Eye discipline,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said. “[Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid] will try to mess with a defense, to shift people around the formation and put you in a bad spot. They will do all types of things to play with your eyes and make you think you’re seeing one thing when it’s something else. You have to trust your preparation and make the right checks.”

That’s where Burfict comes in, and why he’s so key to the Raiders’ defensive effort on Sunday.

“He obviously knows the system, but Vontaze is very intelligent,” Morrow said. “He processes information quickly and is confident in what he’s doing. That’s what you want from somebody in his position.”

Burfict is the defense’s cerebral cortex, but he isn’t just directing troops while watching them work.

He plays with trademark intensity and didn’t step over the line in his Raiders debut. That’s key moving forward, because the Raiders need him on the field to succeed against Kansas City, a team that doesn’t need freebies to score.

“He’s really fun to play with,” Hurst said. “He’s an aggressive player. He’s going to come downhill and hit everything that moves. It’s awesome playing with someone like that.”

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Burfict fought through some knicks in the opener but didn’t miss a practice snap all week. It’s important for him to stay upright and available, because they need his presence and football smarts on all three downs.

“Those of us returning for a second year with Paul [Guenther] feel pretty fluent in the system,” cornerback Daryl Worley said. “But having a leader like Vontaze in complete command is definitely helpful.”

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

An undefeated record is on the line.

It may only be Week 2 but after the Raiders and Chiefs earned victories to open the season, both will look to keep the momentum rolling in Oakland on Sunday afternoon.

The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown and likely would get a few additional points if the game were being played at Arrowhead Stadium.

[RELATED: NFL rumors: Raiders' Johnathan Abram fined for hit causing shoulder injury]


Caesars: KC -7 (-110)
Consensus: KC -7 (-110)
Westgate: KC -7 (-110)
Wynn: KC -7 (-110)

Here’s how NFL writers around the country see the matchup shaking out:

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN: Chiefs 38, Raiders 30
Adam Teicher, ESPN: Chiefs 37, Raiders 31
Gregg Rosenthal, Chiefs 30, Raiders 26
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 35, Raiders 21
Tadd Haislop, SportingNews: Chiefs 34, Raiders 20
Greg Patuto, Chiefs 37, Raiders 21