Play fast. Play hard.
Sounds simple, but that’s all that Raiders coach Josh McDaniels asked out of his team heading into their preseason opener and his first game at the helm Thursday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium in Canton, Ohio. They answered his call — and then some.
Las Vegas was the hungrier, and all together better team, in a 27-11 victory over Jacksonville to kick off the NFL preseason.
“It’s electric, just coming out here and putting a performance on,” Raiders safety Tre’von Moehrig said at halftime.
The Raiders sat nine starters according to their current depth chart — five on offense and four on defense — but that was far fewer than the Jaguars, which kept most of their first-team players on the sidelines.
Not only did the Raiders did have more talent on the field, but they also appeared more motivated from the onset, running an up-tempo offense and attacking defense.
Las Vegas marched right down the field on the first drive with second-team quarterback Jarrett Stidham hitting wide receiver Keelan Cole for 31 yards on the opening play. Running back Josh Jacobs — whom many presumed would rest with other offensive stars like quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Davante Adams and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow — got the next three touches to help set up a 32-yard Daniel Carlson field goal.
The Raiders went on to score again on each of their next two possessions, first via a 55-yard Carlson field goal and then on an 8-yard sweep by running back Ameer Abdullah.
Meanwhile, the defense, led by second-year linebacker Divine Deablo calling plays with Pro Bowler Denzel Perryman sitting out, gave up little.
Las Vegas wasn’t forced to punt until midway through the second quarter, when Jacksonvile’s Travon Walker, the top overall pick from this year’s NFL Draft, sacked Las Vegas quarterback Nick Mullens.
Walker played the whole first half and dominated a matchup with the Raiders’ Brandon Parker, who was playing left tackle for the resting Kolton Miller. Parker appeared to be slightly ahead of the competition with Alex Leatherwood for the starting right tackle spot coming into the game, but the latter had a better showing against the Jaguars.
Leatherwood opened multiple holes for rookie running back Zamir White, who led the Raiders with 52 rushing yards on 11 carries. Jacobs finished with five rushes for 30 yards, while Abdullah logged four touches for 30 yards.
Stidham may have edged Mullens as the more impressive of the two players vying for the job to be Carr’s backup, though their statistics were similar. Stidham threw for 96 yards on 8-for-15 passing for an average of 6.4 yards per attempt; Mullens threw for 72 yards on 8-for-11 passing for 6.5 yards per attempt.
Stidham had a few strong plays that didn’t show up on the stats sheet, however. He hit Tyron Johnson in perfect stride for what would have been at least a 37-yard gain and potential touchdown, but the speedy receiver dropped the pass.
On the same drive, Stidham saved a sack with a pump fake. He got rewarded a few plays later when the Jaguars left a whole half of the field empty, and he took off for a 9-yard touchdown run.
The Raiders didn’t push quite as hard in the second half while nursing a big lead. They didn’t need to.
Motivation is always a key factor in the preseason, and Las Vegas held a clear edge in that department in the 2022 Hall of Fame Game. Just like McDaniels asked.
“It’s fun,” center Andre James said at halftime. “We’ve been waiting on this since last year.”
Check back to lasvegassun.com later for more coverage on the Raiders’ win over the Jaguars.