In 2022, during his first year as head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders, Josh McDaniels made [the wrong side of] NFL history. With a 6-0 preseason record during his time in Las Vegas, McDaniels might find himself on the right side of history – even if it’s only the preseason. Rookie Aidan O’Connell has made sure his coach’s record stays perfect.
As Associated Press’ Josh Dubow notes, McDaniels has won more consecutive contests before suffering his first loss with his team than any other head coach since at least 2015.
I can only go back to 2015 for preseason stats. Robert Saleh was undefeated in his 1st 6 games for Jets but there was 1 tie so only 5-0-1 https://t.co/uCnP4qcXTd
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) August 20, 2023
The Raiders’ latest win with McDaniels at the helm came on a 34-17 victory over the Rams in Los Angeles. As preseason contests should, this duel highlighted both good and bad with the regular season inching closer.
Here’s the roundup of everything you need to know, Raider Nation.
Alex’s Raider Roundup: Josh McDaniels extends preseason record with Raiders to 6-0 with latest win over Rams
AOC, A-Con, Irish Cannon, whatever you want to call Aidan O’Connell..
It doesn’t matter what nickname you have for the Raiders rookie quarterback; all that matters is this kid can ball. 11-for-18 passing, 163 yards through the air, two passing touchdowns, and a QB rating of 127.8 (second-highest league-wide among quarterbacks who attempted at least 10 passes in Week 2 of preseason). It’s no surprise that Aidan O’Connell had the fourth-highest passing grade (87.5) last week via Pro Football Focus.
With a 14.3 average depth of target, only three signal callers threw the ball further on average than O’Connell. And out of the five times he threw the ball 20+ yards downfield, three of them were completions. Here’s a 40-yard bomb to his fellow rookie, Tre Tucker.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) August 20, 2023
That’s back-to-back showings that have left fans and analysts alike in awe. Is O’Connell a threat to take Jimmy Garoppolo‘s job by Week 1 of the regular season? That’s a popular topic of discussion right now, but as things stand, I simply can’t see that happening.
Kristian Wilkerson’s uphill battle
Wilkerson has been as good as any player on the Raiders’ roster throughout the team’s preseason campaign. Try this on for size: 7 catches (second-most on team), 36 yards after catch (most on team), five catches that resulted in a first down (second-most on team), one forced missed tackle after reception (only receiver on team to record any), and one touchdown.
A dime from Aidan O'Connell + a toe drag from Kristian Wilkerson = a @Raiders TD.
— NFL (@NFL) August 20, 2023
The 26-year-old has checked all boxes, but there’s one major problem as Wilkerson fights an uphill battle for a roster spot: the sheer depth at the wide receiver position. Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Jakobi Meyers are locks, and for my money, so is DeAndre Carter for his return abilities. You have to figure the Raiders didn’t draft Tre Tucker at 100th-overall just to not give him a spot, too.
That’s five players ahead of Wilkerson right there. Then there’s Phillip Dorsett.
Too much depth? That’s a darn good problem to have
Bet on Dorsett
Josh McDaniels has typically carried five receivers on his teams, but with the sheer talent at the position, a sixth feels like a must. For my money, that’s Phillip Dorsett.
When Dorsett signed with the Raiders back in March, I was instantly under the impression he would likely make the 53-man roster. He’s only strengthened that theory each week through the preseason, too.
Kristian Wilkerson is playing as good as anyone, but so is Dorsett. The veteran wideout has six catches on seven targets with a team-high 95 receiving yards. Against the Rams, he recorded the longest play of Las Vegas’ preseason by catching a 43-yarder from Brian Hoyer in a two-minute drill.
Dorsett is on the roster bubble, but he made his case vs the Rams. A nasty route on the corner makes an easy throw for Hoyer. pic.twitter.com/v6K3hQFhdw
— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) August 20, 2023
The last time Phillip Dorsett was in Josh McDaniels’ system, he logged a perfect quarterback rating when targeted from the slot. Only two of his 34 snaps this preseason have come in the slot, however, proving he can feast on the outside as well as the inside in this system.
I better find your lovin’.. Oh, wrong Drake
Drake Thomas had six tackles on Saturday, which was double the next-highest total of three. With a run defense grade of 82.6, Thomas earned the 15th-highest mark league-wide in this area. Throughout the preseason as a whole, the Raiders undrafted free agent has a grade of 90.4 against the run. Only three players in the National Football League have a higher grade on running plays.
His pursuit to ball carriers has been second-to-none.
57 Drake Thomas was lighting folks up last night. pic.twitter.com/TsP7Irn1LN
— Guzz (@cguzzle) August 21, 2023
The linebacker room is wide open; in fact, it’s practically begging for a player like Thomas to join the rotation. Two undrafted free agent linebackers made the Raiders 53-man roster in 2022. Perhaps another achieves such a feat in 2023.
It’s not all good
Rook plays like vet, vet plays like rook
Aidan O’Connell looks like a seasoned veteran on the field. Brian Hoyer, a 14-year quarterback, looks like an inexperienced rookie.
Hoyer finished Week 2 with a 54.5% completion percentage, 144 passing yards, and a quarterback rating of 55.9 – the seventh-lowest league-wide. He was also responsible for a pick-six that happened while Rams head coach Sean McVay was guest appearing on the broadcast to talk about his team.
#Rams HC Sean McVay was on the broadcast when LB Jake Hummel picked off Brian Hoyer and took it to the house for a TD.
McVay was pumped. pic.twitter.com/Q7Ni1wr2mx
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) August 20, 2023
Aside from the pass to Phillip Dorsett shown earlier, there wasn’t much good from the 37-year-old. O’Connell taking over as the Raiders QB1 seems far-fetched, but it’s almost-certain that the rookie has at least leaped Hoyer for QB2.
While on the subject of pick-sixes, safety Isaiah Pola-Mao notched one himself against Stetson Bennett.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) August 20, 2023
Alright, Austin Blooper is a little harsh, but it accurately describes his performance against the Rams. One target, one drop; and it was a bad drop, too. He was also responsible for a bone-head penalty.
Austin Hooper, at this stage of his career, CAN'T DROP that ball.
— Hondo Carpenter (@HondoCarpenter) August 20, 2023
Of every player who was targeted at least least once in Week 2 of the preseason, Hooper had the fifth-lowest overall grade (34.6). His receiving grade was 29.4, however, his grade when pass blocking was a respectable 73.6. The good blocking just wasn’t enough to counter his rookie mistakes.
Raider Nation is expecting big things from their team’s tight end duo, but if this is what the Raiders are going to get from Hooper, leave the high-hopes at the door.
Tre Tucker Must Catch, pt.2
Holding onto the ball was once again a struggle for Raiders rookie Tre Tucker. The Cincinnati alum had yet another drop as a receiver, and even put the ball on the ground when fielding a kick return.
Tucker did some great things on Saturday, such as the catch on a deep-ball from Aidan O’Connell shown earlier, and leaving his man in a different area code on a rare miss by the rookie. But the drops, man.
He even got away with one here:
— The QB School (@theqbschool) August 21, 2023
That should’ve been another drop. Tucker has tons of explosiveness, but if he isn’t hauling in passes, it’s all for naught.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Alex Gallardo