OAKLAND – Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin wasn’t supposed to make the 53-man roster. That was prevailing thought even a week ago, but the undrafted rookie out of Penn State has shown real moxie of late.
That was evident in the third quarter of Friday’s 19-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at O.co Coliseum, when he made the most of playing time afforded.
McGloin play was impressive, and not just because the bar was set so low. He scored 10 points on his first two drives, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Brice Butler. He left the game with the Raiders up 16-10, having completed 4-of-7 passes for 78 yards. Grantde played against the Cowboys’ third team, but his decision-making, accuracy and poise was a real surprise for someone so young.
Old guys in the secondary played well together, and looked like a cohesive unit of quality. Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch were strong at safety and Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter looked good at cornerback.
The first-team defense didn’t allow a touchdown, and responded well to middle linebacker Nick Roach’s pre-snap adjustments. It was an important step for a unit expected to have nine new starters.
“I’m excited to see what we can be,” Roach said. “It’s early to tell at lot of things, but the foundation we’ve been able to set over the past couple weeks was clear. With the start we had on defense, I think this was good for us.”
McFadden’s quick cameo: Running back Darren McFadden started Friday’s exhibition opener, but he didn’t play much. He had just five yards on three rushes – the interior line collapsed on each – and had an 8-yard reception before being pulled.
For starters: Quarterback Matt Flynn showed the composure necessary to lead this offense. He lost a fumble after being sacked, but that was due to confusion on the offensive line. He led a field-goal drive on his second and final series, which included two clutch third-down conversions.
Premium reserves: Running back Rashad Jennings showed great vision, patience and physicality in his first game as a Raider. He had 39 yards on nine carries, including a 16-yard romp that was McFadden-esque. He seems a good fit to backup McFadden, but continued solid play might warrant carries, whether McFadden’s healthy or not.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor looked good at times and terrible at others, showing why Flynn is the clear-cut starting quarterback. Pryor made plays with his arm (6-for-10, 88 yards) and his feet (three rushers, 31 yards, but he threw a pass into heavy traffic that was intercepted in the end zone.
Safety Usama Young continues to play starter-worthy football. He had an interception in the third quarter, and laid a big hit in the first. He looks like a solid backup at both safety positions.
Rookie report: Linebacker Sio Moore needed just three snaps to record his first sack as a Raider. He sacked quarterback Tony Romo with time afforded by excellent pass coverage, but showed vicious power with his tackle. Cornerback D.J. Hayden and offensive lineman Menelik Watson sat out with injury, but quarterback Tyler Wilson played late in the second half. The fourth-round pick was sacked on his first play (not his fault) and couldn’t find the end zone with great field position. It’s clear the defensive end David Bass is a project with deficiencies against the run.
On the bubble: A tight position battle is being waged at wide receiver, with just a few roster spots remaining. Second-year pro Andre Holmes has a knack for winning balls in the air, while Butler has shown rangy athleticism worthy of consideration. Butler is a solid route runner, so clear on his touchdown reception.
Special start: The Raiders had quick success on special teams. Tyvon Branch blocked a short field-goal attempt and Sebastian Janikowski had two first-half field goals, including one from 51 yards out. The punt coverage team also created a turnover in the fourth quarter. Eric Harper recovered a fumble that set up a field goal for Eddie Carmona.
Not cool: Raiders punt returner Phillip Adams was injured on a trying to make a fair catch. He clearly called for space, but was leveled by Eric Frampton. He was medically treated and limped off the field. Sitting it out: Hayden (hamstring) and Watson (calf) couldn’t go, in addition to several others. LG Lucas Nix (knee), DE Lamarr Houston, LBs Miles Burris, Billy Boyko and Kaluka Maiava, WR Jacoby Ford (knee) and DTs Pat Sims (hamstring) and Vance Walker (paternity leave) did not play.
What's next: The Raiders head to New Orleans for their first road game of the season on Aug. 16. They have a full week to recover before a major test for their revamped defense. The starters should increase their snap count and play the entire first half.