SEATTLE – The Raiders didn’t want to risk injury in Thursday’s preseason finale, and sidelined every starter save cornerback DJ Hayden against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Raiders wanted to stay healthy entering the Sept. 13 regular-season opener. Consider that mission accomplished.
There was something lost in this game – confidence in some primary backups. The Raiders’ second unit struggled mightily at the outset, fell behind early and never caught up.
Keith McGill got torched in his first snap, stumbling in coverage on a 63-yard touchdown strike from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Tyler Lockett. The Raiders couldn’t block well for the run, nor could they defend against it.
There were well-playing exceptions, from No. 3 signal caller Matt McGloin to receiver Seth Roberts to linebacker Ben Heeney.
Players unlikely to make the 53-man roster manned most of this game, which makes it all together odd that linebacker Sio Moore didn’t join the defensive rotation until the fourth quarter, behind undrafted rookie Gary Wilkins, who as little shot of making the team. Seemingly out of head coach Jack Del Rio’s good graces, the incumbent weakside linebacker hasn’t been on the field outside of special teams in two preseason games since regaining health.
Snaps Moore didn’t take stood out. So did the snaps Hayden got.
The 2013 first-round pick played the entire first half in an attempt to iron wrinkles before being heavily relied upon in the regular season. Hayden has had an uneven camp, and must make better plays on the ball. He still isn’t doing that from slot or on the outside, but his coverage was tight.
Roberts seems to have a roster spot wrapped up, and punctuated a solid preseason with seven catches for 110 yards and a toe-tapping touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Rod Streater had three catches for 37 yards and a touchdown and Brice Butler had four catches for 62 yards.
Sio shows up: Linebacker Sio Moore didn’t play defense in Sunday’s exhibition against Arizona despite being healthy enough to play special teams. On Thursday he didn’t play linebacker until the fourth quarter, with the lowest unit. It was his first defensive stretch of this preseason.
Moore seems to have fallen out of favor with this coaching staff, which played rookie outside linebackers Neiron Ball, Gary Wilkins and Josh Shirley playing ahead of him.
It seems crazy to consider, but might the Raiders cut a talented player with 22 starts in his first two NFL seasons? It’s at least in the realm of possibility, however unlikely the concept sounds considering the Raiders don’t have experienced depth outside recently-signed veteran Lorenzo Alexander. He could find a role on the team in time during this regular season, though he has some work ahead to get one.
Backup quarterback battle? Despite McGloin’s preseason heroics, Christian Ponder has remained the backup quarterback to Derek Carr. McGloin has mastered the art of beating third-unit competition, and has outshined Ponder in games.
That was the case again on Thursday. Ponder was 7-for-11 for 99 yards.
McGloin took over midway through the second quarter and was much, much better. He completed 16-of-24 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
Ponder has a history with coordinator Bill Musgrave and was given a $2.25-million contract to be a primary backup plan, but McGloin is certainly making the coaching staff at least consider shuffling their quarterback pecking order.
Raiders can’t run: The running game has been off for two games now, no matter who has been involved in execution. The Raiders ran for 37 yards on 21 carries Sunday against Arizona using mostly first-unit players. The lower units didn’t fare better against Seattle, with 27 yards on 25 carries and rushers routinely hit in the backfield.
Michael Dyer had the most production of the bunch, with 17 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Alexander in town: The Raiders signed veteran outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander on Wednesday afternoon, and he was in Seattle for Thursday’s game with his new team. Alexander didn’t play, but seems set for the 53-man roster. He adds linebacker depth and offers an immediate upgrade on special teams.
Injury update: The Raiders want to make it out of the final preseason game healthy, and it looks like they accomplished that goal.
Linebacker/defensive end Benson Mayowa limped off the field late in the first half and had his left knee wrapped in ice in the second half. It’s uncertain at this time if he’s injured or just sore.
Del Rio does not update injuries during the preseason.
Sitting it out: Del Rio sat every starter save Hayden in this game. That long list included quarterback Derek Carr, defensive end Khalil Mack, left tackle Donald Penn, safety Charles Woodson receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and running back Latavius Murray.
What's next: The preseason has officially, mercifully, come to a close. The Raiders must now trim their roster to 53 by Saturday afternoon, though cuts will start leaking on Friday. They have a few days off before a Sunday practice, where they start preparing in earnest for Cincinnati in the regular-season opener.