GREEN BAY, Wis. -– The primary goal of any preseason game is to stay healthy.
The Raiders didn’t accomplish that mission in Friday’s 31-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
A total of three of starting defenders were lost in this game, each for an indeterminate amount of time. Weakside linebacker Sio Moore was taken off the field in a stretcher (further details below). Cornerback Tarell Brown and middle linebacker Nick Roach left the game with concussions.
Even reserve running back Kory Sheets was helped off the field with an ankle injury.
It’s uncertain how long the aforementioned will be out -– they have two-plus weeks to recover before the regular season -- but losing starters in such volume could spell trouble for a defense that showed flashes of life in this game.
After allowing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to orchestrate a touchdown drive on the opening possession, the Raiders front seven buckled down and made life hard on the opposition. They forced three straight punts, including a pair of three-and-outs. They slipped some as the first half continued and the starting lineup thinned out, but fared better than past games. Rookie Khalil Mack was particularly impressive in his best preseason game to date.
The Raiders offense continues to struggle despite relative health. They couldn’t score after Maurice Jones-Drew’s 40-yard touchdown run on their first series. There’s plenty of blame to go around in a passing game that has looked off kilter all preseason, from uneven quarterback play to receiver drops and ineffectiveness.
The offense was also woeful on third down.
Through three quarters -- the first-team played two-plus periods –- the Raiders were 3-for-12 on third down. They only reached the red zone once in that span.
If the Raiders are to improve as an offense before the regular season, they’ll likely do so on the practice field. Starters aren’t expected to play much in Thursday’s preseason finale versus Seattle.
The backups did provide a highlight late in the fourth quarter. Matt McGloin threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler, the same connection and yardage that beat the Detroit Lions late last week.
Butler scored his second touchdown from McGloin on a 28-yard jump-ball in the end zone with 11 seconds left in the game.
Butler, fighting for a roster spot, continues to impress while playing with the third unit.
Moore sustains neck injury: Moore was taken off the field on a stretcher after hurting his neck.
A team official said that Moore was taken to an area hospital for further evaluation.
Moore laid face-down on the turf for an extended period, and was turned over with a backboard.
He was seen moving his extremities and gave a thumb’s up as his was taken off the field.
Mack’s improved attack: After a pair of quiet preseason games, rookie strongside linebacker Khalil Mack showed significant improvement with a stellar showing against the Packers.
He was much quicker off the ball, solid in run defense and frequently helped collapse the pocket. He also had an excellent statistical night, with five tackles, including two tackles for a loss, and an interception during two-plus quarters of play.
If he sustains that play in the regular season, he will certainly make an immediate impact on this defense.
Schaub’s uneven play: Veteran starting quarterback Matt Schaub played into the third quarter in his longest stretch of the preseason, and had mixed results.
He completed 13-of-27 passes for 110 yards against the Packers. While receivers dropped some passes yet again -– fullback Marcel Reece was the worst offender, letting a sure touchdown clank off his hands –- Schaub showed lackluster arm strength. There were a few highlights, including a 40-yard strike to Denarius Moore in third quarter.
He seems to have solid chemistry with receiver James Jones, who had four catches for 39 yards. Rod Streater was quiet yet again, with just one reception for 16 yards. He has just three catches for 24 yards in three preseason games.
Veteran RBs see limited action: Maurice Jones-Drew had a 40-yard touchdown run on the Raiders’ first offensive series.
It was his third touch of the series, and his last of the night. Darren McFadden took over after that, and had three rushes for five yards before Latavius Murray took over on the first team.
Injury update: In addition to Moore, middle linebacker Nick Roach and cornerback Tarell Brown suffered head injuries in the first half and were ruled out of the second.
Running back Kory Sheets was helped off the field in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He fumbled on that play, and gave Green Bay possession.
Sitting it out: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski was scratched with strained right quadriceps. It’s uncertain how severe the strain is, and how much time he might miss.
Marcel Reece’s foot was good enough for him to play against Green Bay after sustaining an injury the week before. Quarterback Derek Carr suited up but did not play due to sore ribs.
Cornerbacks Taiwan Jones, DJ Hayden and Chimdi Chekwa, tight ends David Ausberry and Nick Kasa, defensive tackle Justin Ellis, offensive linemen Lucas Nix and Matt McCants and Janikowski were scratched prior to Friday’s game.
What's next: The Raiders will trim their roster to 75 men on Tuesday, a few days prior to Thursday’s preseason finale versus the Seattle Seahawks at O.co Coliseum, when, generally speaking, the starters will sit.
The Raiders will finalize their 53-man regular-season roster on Aug. 30.