When the final 0:00 ticked off the scoreboard in Levi’s Stadium, the preseason ended without the Las Vegas Raiders starting offense playing a single down.
Football is a sport that must be practiced until reaching a near-mastered ultra-instinct level. However, nothing hurts the product on the field quite like being off of it. Extending the regular season to 17 games while reducing the preseason to three games besets the need for a change. Traditionally, teams played starters for a series or two in the first preseason game, a quarter in the second, and a half in the third game. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden decided this season would be a little different.
Practice makes starters
To the dismay of Raider Nation, Gruden opted to not play his established offensive weapons. Nathan Peterman, the emergency quarterback played every snap except one this preseason. Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake have only been seen on a practice field and at a press conference. The entire world has heard various accounts of how Henry Ruggs III’s route running and physique have improved. Gruden has compared Bryan Edwards to Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Nobody outside of the fans at the Los Angeles Rams’ Thousand Oaks, CA practice field has seen them in competition against another team.
A general consensus amongst various beat writers and reporters who were on the field suggested the Raiders starters did well. Running the ball with purpose, and having success against the Rams defensive backs. Surprisingly, the Raiders defense and Hunter Renfrow stole the show. Darren Waller is still nightmarish for defenders in one on one matchups. Marcus Mariota, when healthy, has shown a better comprehension of the offense and can step in and run when necessary.
Gruden, his coaching staff, and offense got to line up against last season’s top-scoring defense in the league. With two practices of 11-on-11 live scrimmaging and individual drills, there seemed to be more than enough positive play on tape.
Making the right decision
Ravens placed RB J.K. Dobbins on injured reserve, officially ending his 2021 season.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 30, 2021
A day after the Baltimore Ravens lost their number one running back in a meaningless game, the Raiders and 49ers took the field. The Raiders were already facing a couple of key question marks in terms of health. Mariota is dealing with a quad-strain, Richie Incognito is nursing a calf-strain after coming back from an Achilles injury. Jalen Richard, the third-down pass-blocking back, also has a foot injury along with Nicholas Morrow. Javin White is out indefinitely.
With an additional week off in between the last preseason game and the season opener, it’s the best call to not chance the health of any of the starting rotations. It sucked royally to be in attendance at the game and see the 49ers playing their ones against the Raiders’ twos and threes. As it stands now, the Raiders are on track to be nearly completely healthy on offense heading into the opener. Meaningful football is what Gruden is all about.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images