The Las Vegas Raiders kicked off the preseason with an emphatic 34-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Here are some initial reactions to the game that will surely dominate headlines this week.
Aidan O’Connell Will Be The Raiders’ Franchise QB — Sooner Or Later
Aidan O’Connell was nearly perfect in his NFL debut. His decision-making was phenomenal throughout the contest. He was accurate and demonstrated some great intangibles. The stat line would be superb for any quarterback, not just a rookie. O’Connell completed 15 of 18 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for two first downs on a couple of quarterback sneaks.
What was most impressive were the plays that didn’t make the box score. The young signal-caller tossed an absolute dime to fellow rookie Tre Tucker on a deep ball down the sidelines. Unfortunately, Tucker was unable to finish the catch.
It is also worth mentioning that O’Connell demonstrated steady composure when face-to-face with a free rusher. He flexes an effective pump fake and is never shy to duck underneath the defender to slip away. Not only did he avoid multiple sacks on the day, but by extending plays, the Raiders kept drives alive that would normally have scuffled.
The fourth-round pick has already proven that he can take what’s in front of him, make big-time throws, and work his way out of hairy situations. Those are traits that only franchise quarterbacks possess. ‘AOC’ is that guy.
Trey Lance Is A Bust
On the flip side, it is officially time to call the former North Dakota State quarterback a bust. It seems harsh, but what we saw Sunday was rough. San Francisco gave Trey Lance ample playing time vs. the Raiders, and he struggled mightily.
Lance took four sacks and made several questionable decisions. One of those decisions should have led to an interception. However, Duke Shelley couldn’t hang onto an errant pass, allowing Niners tight end Ross Dwelley to grab it for the touchdown. That play salvaged his stat line, but Lance is clearly not ready to be an NFL starter.
The most concerning thing is his lack of growth. Lance is entering his third season and is still making rookie mistakes. The idea was always that Lance would take some time to develop but that he had superstar potential. However, the former first-rounder has not developed much at all, making that potential harder to see. At this point, there is no chance he ever lives up to the hype of being a top-three draft pick.
Cole Fotheringham Is Getting Traded
Usually, a statement like that is an indictment of a player’s performance. In this case, it is actually the opposite. Cole Fotheringham quietly had an excellent game in the Vegas opener. He led the team in receiving, catching five balls for 71 yards. The 243-pounder also had a nice solo tackle on special teams.
So, why would the Raiders trade him? The fact that Austin Hooper, Michael Mayer, and Jesper Horsted were all held out of Sunday’s game suggests that the coaching staff feels set at the position. Maybe the Raiders could be convinced to keep a fourth tight end if Fotheringham continues to play well on special teams.
More likely, another team’s front office watched that game thinking he could be a regular contributor on offense. Don’t be surprised if the Raiders net a fifth-round pick for the former Utah tight end.
*Top Photo: Getty Images