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Las Vegas Raiders: Overreactions and conclusions following Hall of Fame Game victory

Moe Moton

The Las Vegas Raiders kicked off the preseason with a 27-11 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. While teams will always take a win—even in an exhibition game—coaches want to see development in young players.

With that said, several potential and likely starters took the field for the Raiders’ early possessions. From left to right on the offensive line, Brandon Parker, John Simpson, Andre James, Lester Cotton Sr. and Alex Leatherwood took the field for multiple series. Left tackle Kolton Miller didn’t suit up. McDaniels may have featured four-fifths of his starting five-man unit.

Josh Jacobs’ workload shocked some people. He took five carries for 30 yards and caught two passes for 14 yards.

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The Raiders defense didn’t have a lot of flashy plays, but it kept the Jaguars out of the end zone for 56 minutes and 34 seconds and allowed just 3-of-12 third-down conversions.

In the big picture, McDaniels’ focus on details seemed to translate on the field. The Raiders only committed two penalties through three quarters before they got a little sloppy in the final 15 minutes. Furthermore, the team didn’t turn the ball over.

For one preseason performance, what does this all mean, if anything?

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Let’s take a look at some knee-jerk overreactions and reasonable conclusions following the Hall of Fame Game.

Las Vegas Raiders are showcasing Josh Jacobs for a trade

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders
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Typically, NFL coaches feature backups and players on the roster bubble. So when Jacobs took the field for the first two series of the Hall of Fame Game, many wondered about his short-term future with the Raiders. Is the front office going to trade him before Week 1?

Relax.

Though the Raiders have a strong running back room that includes Jacobs, rookie fourth-rounder Zamir White, Kenyan Drake and Brandon Bolden, Vegas needs its top ball-carrier from the last three seasons.

During Thursday’s game, Drake briefly exited with an injury. He finished with five carries for nine yards, and he just recovered from a fractured ankle. White looked quick and decisive, rushing for 52 yards on 11 carries, but let’s see the first-year ball-carrier establish some consistency before crowning him RB1 of the backfield.

As the proven running back in the room with two 1,065-plus-yard rushing seasons and a Pro Bowl year, Jacobs is too important to trade as the Raiders look to improve a ground attack that ranked 28th in yards last season.

Furthermore, Jacobs has racked up 3,087 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground in 43 games. He’s an established commodity. The Raiders don’t need to showcase a running back of his caliber in the Hall of Fame Game.

Vegas didn’t exercise Jacobs’ fifth-year option, but that probably says more about McDaniels’ perspective on the dollar value of running backs than his desire to trade a productive player before Week 1.

  • Verdict: Overreaction

Las Vegas must sign an offensive tackle

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Parker made Travon Walker look like Julius Peppers on the edge. The Jaguars pass-rusher beat him multiple times early in the game. Going against the No. 1 overall pick from this year’s draft, the Raiders tackle simply looked overmatched on the outside.

In fairness to Parker, he took a majority of his practice reps at right tackle, but he filled in at left tackle for Kolton Miller Thursday night. Parker has served as the team’s swing tackle over the past four years, so he should be able to snaps on both sides of the line, but he easily had the worst night of any player on the roster in the Hall of Fame Game.

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Parker’s subpar preseason outing provided a glimpse as to what issues the team could face if Miller cannot suit up, and it doesn’t look good. The former may still win the right tackle job over Alex Leatherwood, but the Raiders clearly need veteran insurance at the position.

Leatherwood had a decent showing at right tackle against the Jaguars, but is he trustworthy at left tackle if Parker starts on the right side? The Alabama product has collegiate experience on the left side, though he’s lined up on right with the Raiders.

With Parker’s troubling performance at left tackle and Leatherwood’s exclusive experience on the right side of the line, the Raiders should add a more experienced player who can become a plug-and-play option on both sides.

  • Verdict: Conclusion

Lester Cotton Sr. has a clear lead for the right guard job

Syndication: Montgomery
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The Raiders’ interior offensive linemen stood out for all the right reasons Thursday night. In part because of a consistent push up front, the offense accumulated 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Simpson and James will likely reclaim their starting jobs from last year. Meanwhile, Cotton has made a strong case to take over at right guard following Denzelle Good’s decision to retire.

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Overall, the Raiders offensive line struggled in pass protection, and their quarterbacks took five sacks in total, but the unit clicked on all cylinders in the run game. As an interior trio, Simpson, James and Cotton did a good job going downhill.

Since the spring, Cotton has lined up with the first unit at right guard. With Good on the reserve/retired list, the Alabama product has a clear path to win the starting job. He should have a leg up on rookie third-rounder Dylan Parham. Unless McDaniels feels more comfortable with a veteran such as Jermaine Eluemunor at right guard to start the season, Cotton looks like the front-runner at the position.

  • Verdict: Conclusion

Raiders’ lack of a pass rush raises some concerns

NFL: Hall of Fame Game-Jacksonville Jaguars at Las Vegas Raiders
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas’ defense finished the game with just one sack, but if you rewatch the contest closely, pay close attention to Malcolm Koonce. He only recorded a tackle and batted down a pass, but the second-year edge-rusher also had a few pressures. Pro Football Focus credited him with three.

Koonce had one of those beyond-the-boxscore performances that won’t catch your eye on the stat sheet, but he made plays that helped stall the Jaguars’ aerial attack.

Related: Winners, losers from NFL Hall of Fame Game

With Kyler Fackrell on season-ending injured reserve, Koonce has a chance to play a significant number of snaps behind Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones.

Also keep in mind that Crosby, Jones, Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Hankins and Bilal Nichols didn’t play Thursday night. We should reserve strong opinions of the pass rush until more defenders return to action. Nichols could be an X-factor for an interior push up front.

  • Verdict: Overreaction

Tyron Johnson could be a secret weapon in passing attack

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp
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Tyron Johnson had a couple of big catches for 25 and 14 yards, though he couldn’t hold onto a pass from Jarrett Stidham that may have led him into the end zone.

Johnson, also known as T-Billy, wears No. 1 and has a ton of speed. No, he’s not DeSean Jackson, though the fourth-year wideout showed enough to suggest that the Raiders can target him on a few big plays every week.

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As the fourth or fifth receiver on the depth chart, Johnson won’t have to catch 60 passes for the season, but his long speed can open up the offense in some situations. As a role player who’s capable of stretching the defense, McDaniels can use him in creative ways.

On Thursday, Johnson converted five targets into two receptions for 39 yards. If he continues to see a steady volume of targets, he could make a push for a spot on the 53-man roster.

  • Verdict: Conclusion

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.