OAKLAND -– Raiders quarterback Derek Carr led his first-unit offense on the field for a third time at the start of the second quarter.
He wasn’t supposed to be there. Backup Christian Ponder tapped Carr out of the huddle, permanently lifting him from Friday night’s preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams.
It was probably just a miscommunication, but Carr couldn’t be blamed for wanting to stick around for another series.
No quarterback likes to leave after an interception in the end zone.
That was Carr’s last pass in a 18-3 exhibition victory over the Rams at O.co Coliseum, an ill-advised toss to Amari Cooper picked off by cornerback Trumaine Johnson. It ruined a promising drive.
Carr won’t like watching that play on film, and he’d certainly like to have it back.
Focusing on that play ignores a larger point: the Raiders first unit looked pretty good. Latavius Murray slashed through the Rams for 35 yards on six carries, including a 17-yard scamper that exemplified his persona as a smart rusher with speed.
Cooper got some early touches and was consistently open. Michael Crabtree jumped up and showed great hands a few times.
“We’re just excited to get some passes caught in a real-live situation,” Carr said after the first half. “Those kinds of things you can’t do in practice. When you get out here in a preseason game, you can do it in live reps.”
Khalil Mack didn’t show up in the box score, but he was dominant as a pass rusher, as he was in the backfield a few times and set up a sacks from Justin Ellis and Shelby Harris.
The Raiders’ first-team defense played the first quarter and bent some early, but only gave up a lone field goal in two series.
Those were the only points given up by all Raiders defenses. The offense scored on a field goal and then on a touchdown catch from Andre Holmes.
Third-string quarterback Matt McGloin was on target in this game, completing 10-of-11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown to Brice Butler.
The team wasn’t perfect. Not by a long shot. Carr took the Raiders deep into Rams territory twice and emerged with just a field goal. Backup Christian Ponder threw an interception. Starting right tackle Menelik Watson got beat a few times by a talented Rams defensive line.
They lost a turnover battle 2-0, but didn’t punt until late in the fourth quarter. There was plenty for the Raiders to be pleased about, and plenty left to work out.
The first exhibition game is a building block for the rest of the preseason, and the Raiders got off to a decent start on a long road toward games that actually count.
“We just have to go watch the film,” Carr said, “and correct the things we need to correct.”
Mixed results for Ponder, standout showing for McGloin: Backup quarterback Christian Ponder has had a lackluster start to training camp. He was overthrowing targets and making some ill-advised decisions during team drills.
Ponder excelled during a drive with the starting offensive line, leading the team 80 yards on a 10-play drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Andre Holmes. He made some nice throws and looked elusive on a 10-yard run.
His next drive, a hurry-up attempt at the end of the first half, concluded with an interception on a ball that shouldn’t have been thrown.
All told, Ponder was 6-for-8 passing for 59 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
McGloin was pretty darn good (as mentioned above), and will continue to press for that No. 2 job. He was working against a third-unit defense, but was accurate and confident in leading his offense downfield.
Watchful eyes on Richardson: The Raiders need a reliable running back behind Murray. Trent Richardson is being given an opportunity to fill that role, especially with third-down back Roy Helu Jr. out with injury.
Richardson was decent against the Rams, with five carries for 18 yards. He showed decent instincts on a pair of runs in the second quarter, following blocking until an extra move worked better on 5- and 6-yard runs, respectively. He’ll have to continue producing this preseason and duke it out with Helu and Michael Dyer for a spot.
Return battle wages on: The Raiders’ quest for a return man will carry on through the preseason, but Trindon Holliday got the first shot at it on Friday. He muffed the Rams’ first kickoff on a returnable volley, but squeaked his way through a 22-yard punt return later in the first quarter.
TJ Carrie got some work returning punts and Taiwan Jones got an opportunity to return kickoffs.
Injury update: The Raiders made it through the first half without having to pull an injured player off the field. The same goes for the second half, a positive initial sign heading out of the first preseason game.
There could be injuries coming out of this game, but they weren’t evident during the course of this contest.
Head coach Jack Del Rio doesn’t discuss injuries during the preseason.
Sitting it out: There were no surprises among a talented group that sat out Friday’s game. Linebacker Sio Moore, receiver Rod Streater, fullback Jamize Olawale, tight end Lee Smith and running back Roy Helu Jr. hadn’t practice in recent sessions and didn’t suit up against the Rams.
What's next: The Raiders have another week of training camp at the Napa Valley Marriott. They practice in wine country three straight days starting Sunday, heading toward preseason game No. 2 at the Minnesota Vikings.