OAKLAND – Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said it felt good to win Friday’s preseason game 13-6 over the Green Bay Packers, even though the final score didn’t matter one bit.
That winning feeling prevails, even in a slog-fest like this one that he said felt like “an eight-hour game.”
There’s plenty to glean from this contest, not all of it great, despite the fact few stars played much. Here are three things you need to know from Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Raiders have a backup QB problem
Derek Carr is going to be the Raiders' starting quarterback and, if all goes according to plan, he’ll play every single snap this season. Carr hasn’t played all 16 since 2015, so the Raiders certainly know important that No. 2 spot can be.
Connor Cook and EJ Manuel have not inspired confidence that either could be functional in relief. Both guys were terrible for a second straight game. In fact, they were so bad that Gruden couldn’t say for sure if Carr’s backup was currently on the roster.
“I don’t know (if we do),” Gruden said. “We’re going to continue to work and continue to see who’s available. I thought there were some good moments tonight, and some moments that weren’t good. It’s been too inconsistent. I don’t want to say any more until I see the tape, but we’re going to continue to evaluate it.”
The tape will show some inaccurate throws from both passers. Cook was 6-for-15 for 72 yards and a poorly thrown interception. He opened the preseason with a solid showing against Detroit, but struggled in practice and play since.
Manuel has been the better thrower but has a major turnover problem. He has now lost a fumble in all three preseason games.
It’s hard to bring in a new quarterback at this stage, to teach him Gruden’s offense and terminology in time to prepare him well enough to relieve Carr in a worst-case scenario. It might be what the Raiders do, should poor play force Gruden’s hand.
Jury’s still out on Penn experiment
Donald Penn started his first game at right tackle since being asked to make a position switch just over a week ago. After a live viewing, it didn’t go well. He got bull rushed on the first series, which got Carr sacked on his only series.
Gruden, fairly, didn’t want to comment on Penn’s performance until he watched the film, but was complimentary of a two-time Pro Bowler attempting a position switch at age 35. He’s also working his way back into football shape after recovering from December foot surgery. He wasn’t cleared for full practice until the last Tuesday of training camp, so he hasn’t had much time to get acclimated to full practice or the right tackle spot.
He moved so first-round offensive tackle Kolton Miller could stay on the left. Miller struggled some on the first drive, but seemed to get better on succeeding series. Putting Penn on the right permanently is dependent on two things: Penn’s learning curve as he adjusts, as well as Miller’s continued development.
The Raiders don’t have sure answers at either offensive tackle spot at this stage. It’s particularly important they find some to avoid the backup quarterback problem mentioned above. The issues are linked somewhat. If the line can’t get right, the offense won’t run or protect Carr, the franchise’s prize possession, well enough to be productive.
D-line looking a lot better
The Raiders have been completely dependent on Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to pressure opposing quarterbacks in recent seasons. That’s why the Raiders drafted three defensive lineman and are pushing to develop a few more this offseason.
With Mack withholding services and Irvin away from the game with an excused absence, it was the reserves' time to shine on Friday. They certainly did that. The Raiders had five sacks, and continued to get solid production from rookies Maurice Hurst, Arden Key and P.J. Hall. Fadol Brown, Treyvon Hester and Shilique Calhoun put good film out there, and proved they too can get after the quarterback.
“The edge rush is better with a good inside pass rush,” Gruden said. “I think Key and Brown have don’t some good things. Those guys are better because of the guys inside, and that’s what we’ve seen this preseason. They’re working well together."