GLENDALE, Ariz. — If there were ever a moment to epitomize the first preseason game, it was the Raiders and Arizona Cardinals taking the field for the opening kickoff Friday and lining up on the wrong sides.
No, it wasn’t a crisp debut, but it was a victorious one for the Raiders, who beat the Cardinals 31-10 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
First-round pick Karl Joseph surprised by playing a series at strong safety after saying this week he wouldn’t be surprised to sit out the first couple of games. Matt McGloin threw a pair of touchdown passes, giving him 12 for his exhibition career, and Connor Cook had a solid NFL debut. The rookie from Michigan State completed 7 of 11 passes for 71 yards.
Here’s what we learned from the Raiders’ first of four preseason games:
Injuries bite: It’s hard to get through the first preseason game without an injury. The hope is just to not have any significant ones.
Starting defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. went down with 5:08 left in the first quarter with an injury that eventually required him to be carted from the sideline to the locker room.
Some online reports indicated the Raiders’ radio broadcast called it a hip injury and that X-rays were negative, but the team didn’t confirm that. Coach Jack Del Rio isn’t required to provide injury updates until the regular season, so it may take time before anything more is known.
Going deep: The Raiders sure looked like a team that wants to take shots down the field. Of Derek Carr’s seven passes, four were deep routes down the sidelines to Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree.
Only one of those connected, with Crabtree’s terrific sideline grab getting upheld after a review. Cooper showed he has some work to do after failing to drag his foot on one-potential catch and not stretching out far enough for another. But that’s what the preseason is for.
Tackling work: NFL teams don’t tackle to the ground at practice and a first preseason game can show when a team has a weakness in that area. That was the case Friday as several players failed to either properly break down in position to make a tackle or didn’t wrap up correctly.
THREE WHO HELPED THEMSELVES
George Atkinson III: His chances of making the roster seemed slim coming in, but Atkinson showed something Friday with a stellar 53-yard touchdown run — the first of his professional career. Then he added another touchdown from 35 yards out.
Atkinson’s speed to get to the edge of the defense and turn the corner was tremendous and he also showed impressive shiftiness. He finished with 97 yards on five carries.
If it’s not enough to get him into roster consideration, it’s the type of play that looks great on a highlight film across the league.
DeAndre Washington: The rookie running back needed a few carries to get his feet wet, totaling just six yards on his first three attempts. Then he showed off the player Raiders coaches think he could be.
Washington took a handoff and made a quick cut to his left to find a hole through the line, then used a stutter step to shake Arizona safety Marqui Christian. The 25-yard gain was the Raiders longest offensive play of the first half. He also had a 32-yard reception out of the backfield from Cook and had 43 yards on eight carries.
Cory James: The sixth-round pick figured to be mostly a special teams player as a rookie. But he showed nice game speed and an ability to cover, particularly when he shadowed running back Kerwynn Williams to force an incompletion. He finished with five tackles, including one for a loss.
THREE WHO HURT THEMSELVES
Dewey McDonald: The safety’s had a nice training camp and is in the mix to be the team’s No. 3 safety. But in his first chance to make a good in-game impression, McDonald struggled.
He had two glaring missed tackles when he tried to throw a shoulder rather than wrap up. He also was flagged for holding on a punt return that negated a nice gain by Jaydon Mickens.
Joe Hansley: After a strong offseason program, Hansley hasn’t looked as good in Napa. He didn’t help himself in Arizona either when he fumbled the only punt he attempted to return. Success as a returner is his best shot at making the roster and that’s starting to fade.
Jalen Richard: The undrafted rookie didn’t play after missing Wednesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury. The fact that Washington played so well and Atkinson flashed with a big play doesn’t help him when he wasn’t able to get out there and state his case.