Three things you need to know from Raiders' 13-6 preseason win vs Packers


Three things you need to know from Raiders' 13-6 preseason win vs Packers

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."

Boo birds chirp as Derek Carr, Raiders offense continues downward slide


Boo birds chirp as Derek Carr, Raiders offense continues downward slide

OAKLAND – The Raiders offense was humming to start Sunday’s game against Tennessee. They found end zones on three of four first-half drives, and entered the break tied with the Titans.

Then the wheels came off. The offense never scored during a disastrous second half featuring four punts, a lost fumble and a turnover on downs following a fourth-and-goal throwaway. Things never got better in another terrible result ending with a 42-21 loss to the Titans at Oakland Coliseum.

The tide turned in the third quarter, after consecutive, fruitless three-and-outs. After the second one, boo birds came out. They were chirping a bit before that, but voiced displeasure in unison. Fans were frustrated with the offense and seemed bothered most by Derek Carr’s play in particular at that point.

They didn’t like the optics of Carr tossing a pass out of bounds on fourth down, even with time winding down and the game out of reach.

Home fans have booed Carr before. They can be short-tempered, especially when things aren’t going right.

Carr put the boos in perspective, and therefore didn’t take them personally after a third-straight blowout loss.

“It’s happened before. You play here long enough and that will occur,” Carr said. “We have a rowdy group and that’s why we love them. They’re passionate, and they just want to win. It’s just like family. Even when they’re mad at you, they still want to hug you. They still want you to do well. I understand that frustration. I think I showed some emotion, too. I don’t think anything of it. It has happened for six years.”

Carr’s final line looks pretty nice. He completed 25-of-34 passes for 263 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, good for a 115.2 passer rating. The outcome and second-half fade didn’t feel quite as good, but the Raiders were proud of their quarterback’s effort in a third consecutive blowout loss.

“I think he played really well today, Carr did, given what’s going on around him,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I think there’s a big story there. At least we recognize it. We’re really proud of the way he’s competing and performing with all the moving pieces.”

Gruden’s referring to the offensive injuries piling up over the last few weeks, with a list of key players sidelined for Sunday’s game. Running back Josh Jacobs finally succumbed to a shoulder injury after playing through it since Week 7. Right tackle Trent Brown is down with a pectoral injury. Receiver Hunter Renfrow is down another game at least with rib injuries and a punctured lung. Foster Moreau suffered a knee injury in this one and might be done for the year. That’s another huge blow to the offense, and it’s surely impacting execution and an ability to sustain drives.

Carr didn’t want to hear that and didn’t want injury setbacks to excuse poor play.

“This game is next man up,” Carr said. “Nobody cares about our situation. Nobody cares who is playing. Nobody cares who has been here, who has not been here. The people who have played this position, played that. I have learned that in my six years. Nobody cares. We didn’t win the football game and it is what it is.”

The Raiders haven’t won since Nov. 17, when they beat the Bengals at home. They have been outscored 116-33 since. It sure seems like the Raiders have run out of gas down the stretch, unable to perform to earlier levels due to attrition and lack of execution. They can look good in spurts – take the first half versus Tennessee for example – but can’t sustain it.

The Raiders have struggled on both sides of the ball and have hit a rough patch they might not leave before the season’s out.

“We’re a tight football team that is competing hard,” Gruden said. “We’re missing some of the players that helped us win those three straight games. The Golden State Warriors are going through a similar process. It’s not as easy to win when you’re not playing with your frontline guys. It works out for the development of some young players, but it’s on me. It’s my responsibility to fix it and it certainly doesn’t look good the last few weeks.”

Raiders shocked, searching for answers after yet another ugly loss


Raiders shocked, searching for answers after yet another ugly loss

OAKLAND -- In the NFL, things can turn in an instance. 

Three weeks ago, the Raiders were the darlings of the NFL, having used a three-game winning streak to catapult themselves into the AFC playoff picture. They were headed on the road to face a Jets team that has a myriad of issues. A 7-4 record and a date with the Chiefs to decide the AFC West was in their sites. 

Things didn't go according to plan. 

The Raiders were ripped limb from limb by the Jets, and then headed to Kansas City where the Chiefs bullied them all around a freezing Arrowhead Stadium to drop Oakland to 6-6. 

So the Raiders returned home, needing a win Sunday against the Titans to stop the bleeding and keep realistic playoff dreams alive. Instead, the Raiders were torched by Ryan Tannehill as the Titans strolled to a 42-21 win at the Coliseum. 

A third straight dud has left the Raiders stunned and searching for answers. 

"That's how things happen in this league," guard Richie Incognito said. "We got home after the big road test, we got the three in a row, in my opinion, we probably weren't playing our best ball during that three-week stretch but we were winning. Then we take the trip over to New York and get exposed, went to Kansas City and they jumped on us and then today. I'm pretty shocked that we are in this position." 

The losses have been deflating and embarrassing. It hasn't been death by 1,000 cuts, but three gigantic gashes that have left the Raiders bleeding out hoping for a miracle to snag an AFC playoff spot that appeared to be theirs three weeks ago. 

The Raiders are banged up and missing bodies. Of that, there is no doubt. Josh Jacobs didn't play Sunday and neither did right tackle Trent Brown. Starting safeties Johnathan Abram and Karl Joseph are done for the season. Middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict hasn't been allowed out of the principal's office since a Week 4 hit against the Colts that the NFL deemed a season-ender.

Eventually, it's too much to overcome. It's too much to ask guys who just came in off the street to be meaningful contributors to a playoff run. 

But no one wants to hear excuses. 

"It comes with the territory," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said of the injuries. "It comes with the game. We've had a lot of adversity this season, but you have to go in there with that next man mentality. No matter what. No one cares what you have to go through during the week. No one cares how many injuries and as much as it matters as far as getting guys ready ... no one gives a s--t."

A once-promising season has been nuked by a non-competitive streak that has seen the Raiders outscored 116-33 and look helpless in the process. The defense has been dissected every way possible and the offense has lacked a punch that would strike fear into any creature with even a faint pulse. 

[RELATED: Jacobs 'in tears' when Raiders made him inactive vs. Titans]

The Raiders might be searching for answers, but they are unlikely to find any that will appease their desperate minds. 

There will be no magic elixir to save the Raiders from the disappointing reality of letting a golden playoff opportunity slip away. 

Coach Jon Gruden can't scheme the Raiders healthy or make them more talented. They simply are what they are. 

But no one wants to hear excuses for laying an egg with the season on the line. That's inexcusable.