OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders' passing game has been the highlight in training camp. For the most part, the front-line passing game did well in the preseason opener.
Derek Carr's last play of the game was his worst of the night in Friday's preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams. He forced the ball in the end and it was picked off, ending a nice drive. Carr finished 6-of-9 for 43 yards. He was crisp and looked comfortable with receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. It's just the preseason; Carr will learn from trying to force the ball in the end zone.
Here are some quick thoughts on the Raiders' 18-3 win over the St. Louis Rams:
QB depth chart: The Raiders brought in Christian Ponder from the Minnesota Vikings -- he was there with new Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave -- to be the backup to Derek Carr. He has been sharing those duties with Matt McGloin. However, Ponder relieved Carr and delivered a touchdown on his drive. He played with the first-team offensive line in that drive against the Rams' backups. Still, it was good for him to work with the first-team line because he may be forced to do so in the regular season. McGloin was good as he always is in the preseason, completing 10 of 11 passes. Ponder probably still has the edge.
A surprise player who looks amazing: Second-year defensive lineman Shelby Harris had a sack while working with the first unit. Harris is a bottom-of-the-roster type, but he if can get to the quarterback, he will get more looks with the first unit.
Cooper watch: In less than quarter, Amari Cooper had three catches for 22 yards and he had one end-around run for three yards. He didn't dominate, but he looked comfortable. Most importantly, the Raiders felt comfortable with him. He had five designed plays in less than quarter. Yes, he is going to be a workhorse receiver.
Other rookie watch: Defensive end Mario Edwards (second round) and linebackers Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball (both fifth rounders) played a lot. All three will be part of Oakland's rotation, and all were solid. The two linebackers seem to know what they are doing. I could see Heeney getting serious playing time come September.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Raiders looked ...: Probably a little better than the Rams overall. The score was tied at 3-3 when the starters from both team wrapped up. I think the offenses were better than both defenses. I like how crisp Carr and company were.
One good reason to freak out: Latavius Murray looks ready for prime time. Even though he has 82 career carries, the impressively built Murray, 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, had 35 yards on six carries. Murray was explosive and ran with big authority. The Raiders may have something here.
One bad reason to freak out: The Rams converted long pass plays on their first two plays of the game. On the first play, cornerback DJ Hayden, the Raiders' No. 12 overall pick in 2013, was badly beaten. The Raiders are expecting a lot from Hayden. He needs better consistency.
Mack Attack: Khalil Mack, a second year star, played right and left end. He had a lot of push and looked like his dominant self after moving from being primarily a linebacker.