Six Raiders to keep an eye on during preseason game vs. Cardinals

Six Raiders to keep an eye on during preseason game vs. Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Raiders haven’t practiced much between last Saturday's preseason opener and Thursday’s second showing at Arizona. They had one full session and some walkthroughs, but progress and production still are expected from a group firmly on the roster bubble as we work through the preseason.

Head coach Jon Gruden said some veteran starters will play against the Cardinals, though probably not much. That includes one prominent player on this list of six to keep an eye on during this preseason contest against the Cardinals.

QB Derek Carr

The team’s starting quarterback should play a little bit here in Arizona, but it might look more like a cameo than a prolonged stretch. Every throw will be overly scrutinized, as Carr’s efforts always are, but it’ll show whether he has found sync with receivers not named Antonio Brown.

He has developed chemistry with Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson and, if Carr’s going to play, it only makes sense that the first-team offensive line and prominent skill players join him.

Carr told NBC Sports Bay Area that he’s quarterbacking as well as he ever has in this training camp. A solid, short performance should build momentum through the preseason and help him prep for what should be a big year for No. 4.

DT Anthony Rush

The undrafted defensive tackle, who wasn’t signed until training camp, has really impressed since joining the interior rotation. He had three tackles in the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, and every tackle was either for a loss or no gain.

He’s pushing hard for a roster spot inside, and P.J. Hall’s is vulnerable after struggling to stay healthy and perform well in training camp. Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins and Justin Ellis are roster locks. Ethan Westbrooks has a leg up on another spot, and Rush could fit into a fifth tackle spot if they keep that many interior guys. If the Raiders only keep four, then Rush, Hall and Westbrooks will battle for the final opening.

Rush has a real shot a job if he continues to shine.

“Anthony Rush is a 340-pound guy that really took advantage of his snaps [against the Rams],” Gruden said. “He’s only been here eight or nine days. Caused some tackles for loss, made a couple of plays and pushed the pocket pretty good. We like him. We’re going to try to keep working him into great shape and looking forward to see him play here against Arizona.”

WR Ryan Grant

The veteran receiver was largely invisible in camp’s early stretch, outshined by rookie slot man Hunter Renfrow and other talented rookies. Then Grant showed up in the Rams game, reminding everyone he can be a smooth, reliable receiver able to contribute to a talented receiver corps.

Finding a roster spot might be more of a challenge than originally expected, but Gruden likes him. Gruden’s brother loved working with Grant in Washington, and that’s a point in his favor.

Grant must continue to produce in these preseason games to fight for a roster spot against several quality options of varied skill sets.

S Curtis Riley

The veteran has worked behind the three top safeties options most of camp. Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph and Erik Harris seems to have roles locked up, but Riley has experience playing deep and has the veteran knowledge Gruden likes in that spot. He started alongside Abram in the Rams game -- Joseph was held out to preserve health -- and received some first team reps with Joseph this week.

He must convince the Raiders to keep four safeties, something that seems unlikely considering slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is an excellent safety, but don’t count the former New York Giant out just yet. Solid games could keep him in the mix this summer.

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OLs Denver Kirkland and Jordan Devey

The Raiders must survive the first quarter of the season at least without Gabe Jackson, who injured his knee during joint practices against the Rams.

Gruden said Devey has the first crack at that right guard spot, though Kirkland’s auditioning for that role as well. Devey will be a super sub at guard and center and thus should have a roster spot secured, but Gruden must feel comfortable with him or Kirkland at the right guard position moving forward. Solid performances at right guard from one or both of those guys would keep general manager Mike Mayock’s eyes from wandering to the waiver wire or street free agents for Jackson’s stand-in.

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 34-14 loss to Vikings

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 34-14 loss to Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS – Positives for the Raiders were tough to spot after the Vikings dismantled Oakland 34-14 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Jon Gruden's squad was down three scores after three Vikings series, and results barely got better from there. The Raiders struggled in all three phases of the game, exposing some real weaknesses and showing they aren’t currently on par with an upper-echelon NFL team.

This loss wasn’t due to poor preparation or a litany of major mistakes. The Raiders just got beat -- they were out-executed by a superior team.

Let’s take a look at the Raiders report card from this loss to the Vikings:

Rushing offense

It’s tough to run a ton when you’re down so big so fast. Josh Jacobs only had 10 carries in this one, without much production beyond an 18-yard run. The offensive line had a rough time against Minnesota’s defensive front, with few clean holes to work through.

The Silver and Black had 88 yards on 20 carries, but the backs couldn’t make a significant contribution in this game. Jacobs needed to be a real factor to win this contest, and a negative game script took him out of it.

Grade: C

Passing offense

Derek Carr’s passing line isn’t half bad. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 242, two touchdowns, a pick and a 103.7 passer rating. That doesn’t look bad, but it also doesn’t reflect the passing game’s struggles. They weren’t able to work the ball downfield, with most of Carr’s passes thrown five yards or fewer in the air.

Tyrell Williams wasn’t a real factor. Darren Waller played well as the primary target, but the Raiders couldn’t protect Carr well – Kolton Miller had a rough game – and couldn’t generate the explosive plays required to make a comeback attempt.

Grade: D

Rushing defense

The Raiders' run defense walked into Sunday’s game with heads held high. They left with tails between their legs after Dalvin Cook ran wild for 110 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. The Vikings churned out 211 yards on 38 carries, and never even passed in the fourth quarter. That’s how dominant the run game was throughout this game, which leaves the defensive front to do some soul searching heading into Week 4.

Grade: F

Passing defense

Kirk Cousins didn’t have to do much to win this game, with Cook running strong and the Raiders unable to score points. The pass rush was non-existent, with Cousins hit just three times and never sacked. Adam Thielen had 55 yards and a touchdown, making safety Curtis Riley look bad on one big play. Free safety is a real issue for this team, and it might require a personnel change.

Grade: C-minus

[RELATED: Raiders defense preaches accountability after ugly loss

Special teams

The Raiders never started a drive beyond their own 25-yard line, and lost the battle for field position. Former Viking Daniel Carlson was booed relentlessly in his first trip back to Minnesota, and it seemed to rattle him on a 51-yard attempt that hit the upright. Dwayne Harris is sorely missed in the kicking game.

Grade: D-minus


The Raiders just got beat, plain and simple. It was tough to excuse, showing real weaknesses that may crop up against quality competition down the line. There’s plenty to fix but it has to happen fast. A prolonged losing streak could send the season down the drain shortly after it started.

Grade: F

Raiders defense preaches accountability after terrible Week 3 showing

Raiders defense preaches accountability after terrible Week 3 showing

MINNEAPOLIS – The Raiders entered Sunday’s game in Minnesota as the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense. They’re going to fall far down the list after coming face-to-face with Dalvin Cook.

The explosive running back had 116 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries, the featured piece of a Vikings attack that churned out 211 yards on the ground. The Vikings were so comfortable with a massive lead and an efficient run game that they didn't attempt a pass in the fourth quarter of a 34-14 blowout win at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Raiders only forced two punts. They never took the ball away and couldn’t sack Kirk Cousins.

Defensive leaders took the performance personally. They weren’t downtrodden after a rough showing. They were pissed, and vowed to take immediate action to fix it.

Even if it means some uncomfortable conversations are on the way. Some guys may get called on the carpet this week, with everyone being held accountable for their play.

“It has to be addressed,” defensive end Josh Mauro said. “If it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter because sometimes change is going to be hard. There are a lot of guys who have a lot of pride and put in a lot of work, so feeling comfortable losing like that is unacceptable.”

Mauro and linebacker Tahir Whitehead huddled up after the disappointing loss and discussed that very fact, that this type of performance simply won’t stand. The Raiders believe they’re far better than they showed on Sunday, and won’t tolerate a repeat of what happened here.

“This is something you can’t just move on from,” Whitehead said. “It’s a long road ahead. If we don’t get this corrected, then it is going to be a long season. We need to hold each other accountable and make sure nobody is comfortable after this loss because there is a lot of things that need to be fixed.”

The Raiders weren’t good during a 4-12 season where losing was all too common. Expectations are heightened with an influx of talent through the draft and free agency, and giving up 34 points while getting beat on execution (and a few costly penalties) won’t be tolerated.

“We experienced a long season last year,” Whitehead said. “I am not trying to go through the same thing, and many others on this team will say the same thing. The only way you fix it is by digging deeper. You can’t start pointing fingers because it is a long season. We need to start coming together even tighter, especially being on the road the next few weeks.”

This is the first of five games played away from Oakland. They face Indianapolis next week and head to London immediately for a home game against Chicago. Then comes a bye week followed by game at Green Bay and then Houston.

They’ll go 0-5 during this season-defining stretch if the defense repeats this performance. The veterans understand more is required to get back in the win column.

“Guys are just trying to do too much,” Whitehead said. “This creates gaps in the defense and that’s when big plays happen. We have to get back to the drawing board and make those corrections to move forward. You can’t go out there and keep making the same mistakes over and over again. In this league, you can’t win games when you allow big plays. We need to make sure we are just doing our job.”

[RELATED: Derek Carr believes Raiders' recent offensive woes won't persist long]

Coaches can demand more and hold feet to the fire, but the message also needs to come from inside the locker room.

“It starts with the players,” Mauro said. “The good teams are able to hold each other accountable. We are going to come back and execute a lot better next week.”