LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, August 31, 2015 — Former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green once held an angry post-game tirade where he pointed out that the third preseason game mattered. It still does, since the starters play at least the entire first half. Bruce Arians now coaches the Cardinals, but he and his Oakland counterpart Jack Del Rio both treated the third preseason game like a real football game.
While the Cardinals won the game 30-23, this is a very misleading fact. Unlike the regular season, the preseason is not about the final score. The Cardinals clearly have better backups than the Raiders, and the Raiders do have a depth issue. However, the Raiders dominated the first half when the starters played, taking a 15-3 lead into the locker rooms.
Of the main new Raiders stars, most of them continued playing well.
Khalil Mack is a monster on defense. He sacked Carson Palmer twice in the first half. Palmer was sacked three times, finishing a miserable 8 of 22. Palmer was also intercepted twice.
Sebastian Janikowski is ready. He made all five field goal tries in the first half. This is good for him, but bad for the rest of the Raiders. They still do not finish drives. The red zone is the dead zone. Seabass cannot be the end of every scoring drive. Touchdowns are just not happening.
Derek Carr has total control of the huddle and Amari Cooper is playing like a veteran rather than a guy who has never played a regular season game.
Unlike the first two games, this week the running game failed. Latavius Murray had a rough night. He did break off a 13 yard run, but he was tackled for so many losses that his first seven carries netted one total yard. Trent Richardson finally had one good run worth 15 yards, but is otherwise an afterthought.
Carr made one mistake, and it was a big one. Early in the third quarter, after leading the Raiders to what appeared to be a sixth Seabass field goal, Carr threw a terrible pass with no receiver near it. The resulting interception was returned 81 yards for a Cardinals touchdown. Arizona was now back in the game down 15-10. After completely dominating, the Raiders just gave away the game. Carr is smart, and he will learn to just throw the ball away when no play is available. He has to be allowed to make these mistakes. Carr did finish 18 of 34 for 213 yards in a little over a half.
Backup quarterback Christian Ponder is still ineffective. Third string quarterback Matt McGloin continues to impress, but it is hard to truly gauge him since he is always playing against backups. After seeing the Raiders give up 20 straight points to fall behind 23-15, McGloin came in the game and quickly led the Raiders to the tying score. his two-point conversion throw was a perfect strike. A fired-up Carr pumped his fists and was quick to greet McGloin. This is Carr’s team, and leadership on the sideline when not in the game does matter.
Unfortunately for the Raider Nation, the Raiders do not have effective backups on defense. Cardinals backup quarterback Drew Stanton carved them up. Stanton is no ordinary backup, and after leading a touchdown drive to give Arizona the lead, Arians decided he only needed one series. Logan Thomas is Arizona’s fourth string quarterback. He entered a tie game with just over one minute to play and delivered the winning touchdown with 30 seconds left. The Cardinals were trying to get into field goal range but the Raiders decided to entirely fold. They have a very good starting defense. Most of the defensive players presiding over this fourth quarter will not be on the team during the regular season.
Like many preseason games, this one will quickly be forgotten. However, the Raider Nation should still have cause for optimism. The starters are significantly improved, regardless of the final score.