NEW ORLEANS – The Raiders first-team defense played well in last week’s preseason opener. On Friday night, that unit couldn’t have played worse.
There was little, if anything, to be proud of after getting gutted by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in Friday’s 28-20 preseason loss at the Superdome.
The Raiders failed a stern test during a first half played by the starting units, allowing Brees to pick them apart. The Saints scored on every drive, tallying 23 points the defense could do nothing to prevent.
The Raiders had no semblance of a pass rush – the team played without defensive end Lamarr Houston, which didn’t help – giving Brees comfort and time to pick the secondary apart.
Case and point: On a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills, Brees had an astonishing 12 seconds to throw.
Brees threw for 202 yards and a touchdown. After the first quarter, he was on pace to throw for a single-game NFL-record 588 yards.
Tracy Porter was beat several times before leaving with a groin injury. Sio Moore was invisible and end Jason Hunter was nowhere near the quarterback. Linebacker Kevin Burnett was a lone bright spot among the starting unit, but, all in all, it was a disastrous night for a revamped defense looking for signs of progress.
McFadden update: Running back Darren McFadden played a bit longer than he did last week. He has 17 yards on five carries, including a nine-yard scamper that was his best run of the preseason. He left in the second quarter and was replaced on the first team by Rashad Jennings.
For starters: Alex Barron had a rough day. Jared Veldheer’s replacement at left tackle struggled blocking for the run and pass, and did little to help quarterback Matt Flynn run the offense.
His linemates weren’t much better. Right guard Andre Gurode and right tackle Khalif Barnes had their share of miscues that kept the offense off kilter.
Flynn spent the first half on the run, operating out of an easily collapsible pocket. He was sacked five times and took several other big hits, but hung tough a finished a difficult half well.
Flynn’s last throw was his best. He threw a perfect strike to receiver Denarius Moore, who hauled in the 18-yard touchdown pass.
Premium reserves: Defensive lineman Jack Crawford made a solid case for a roster spot. The second-year pro had a sack and a fumble recovery in the third quarter playing out of position on the interior line.
While he fared better against the Saints’ second-team line, he showed improvement and the ability to help in a backup role.
Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor didn’t make progress in his second outing. While he operated under heavy pressure, the offense was disjointed with him under center and his decision-making seemed suspect.
Pryor made some careless throws and wasn’t as effective running a read option the Saints were clearly prepared for. Pryor was just 1-for-5 passing for nine yards and ran four times for 15 yards.
Linebacker Omar Gaither intercepted a pass deflected by tackle Kurt Taufa’asau and looks like a capable backup to middle linebacker Nick Roach.
Rookie report: Receiver Brice Butler has improved his lot during camp. His ascending status was confirmed on Friday night, when he played well with the first unit. He had three catches for 38 yards playing through the third quarter.
Defensive end David Bass made a big play in the third quarter, forcing Saints quarterback Seneca Wallace to fumble on a sack flying off the edge. Fellow rookie Ryan Robinson recovered the fumble and returned it for a touchdown.
Quarterback Matt McGloin came back to Earth with a pedestrian effort in the fourth quarter, but remains ahead of fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson, who did not play against the Saints.
On the bubble: Defensive back Brandian Ross played well in the second half, and forced a fumble. He’s fighting an uphill battle to make this roster, which is loaded at cornerback.
Taiwan Jones didn’t help his cause. The converted running back was cited for a 38-yard pass interference penalty and got juked covering a punt that turned into a solid return.
Injury update: Tight end David Ausberry injured his shoulder in the first quarter, landing awkwardly after making a nice reception, and did not return. Cornerback Tracy Porter left in the second quarter after hurting his groin.
Sitting it out: CB D.J. Hayden (hamstring) and OT Menelik Watson (calf), DE Lamarr Houston, LBs Miles Burris, and Kaluka Maiava, WR Jacoby Ford (knee), RB Latavius Murray, RG Mike Brisiel sand DTs Pat Sims (hamstring) and Vance Walker did not play.
[RELATED: Jared Veldheer's surgery a success]
What's next: The Raiders will host the Chicago Bears on Aug. 23. It will mark the debut of first-round pick D.J. Hayden, who was cleared for full contact on Friday. The first unit will play the majority of this game, possibly as long as three quarters.
Scott Bair is the Raiders Insider for CSNCalifornia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BairCSN.