It was ugly for Las Vegas but there were at least a few positive standouts
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Las Vegas Raiders undefeated season is over. After two impressive showings against the Seahawks and Rams, the Raiders suffered a humbling 34-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
While the score is slightly misleading since San Francisco played most of its starters in the first quarter and Las Vegas didn’t, the second half wasn’t much better for the Silver and Black. They got outscored 14-7 in the third quarter and it was 0-0 in the fourth, and several Raiders flat-out played poorly.
However, it wasn’t all bad as a handful of players rose to the occasion.
Dillion Stoner: UP
After being relatively quiet in the first two preseason games, Dillon Stoner picked the perfect time to have his breakout performance.
Stoner was targeted four times and hauled in three receptions for 69 yards, three first downs and a passer rating of 116.7 when targeted. For reference, he had 2 catches for 22 yards, one first down and a passer rating of 14.2 in the two other games this month.
What might have been most impressive about the Oklahoma State product’s day was his 27-yard catch over 49ers’ cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who had only allowed one completion for nine yards coming into the game. On paper, that matchup favored the defensive back but the wide receiver rose to the occasion and made a beautiful grab near the sideline.
Stoner’s big day will force the Raiders’ coaching staff to make a tough decision on cutdown day tomorrow. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said wide receiver will be one of the toughest position groups to decide on and that was before Sunday’s game.
Now, the staff will likely be burning the midnight oil as they try to figure out what to do with the undrafted free agent. In other words, Stoner did exactly what he was supposed to do.
Nevin Lawson: DOWN
It’s been a rough month for Nevin Lawson and it doesn’t seem like September will be any better. He’ll start the season suspended for the first two games and has seen his role on the defense diminish week by week. Nate Hobbs appears to have won the starting slot corner job as he didn’t even make the trip to Santa Clara, while Lawson played, and played poorly.
During the game, it felt like the 49ers had a game plan to attack the veteran defensive back and target any receiver he was covering. He was thrown at seven times, three more than any other Las Vegas defender, and allowed four receptions for 48 yards. And honestly, it felt like those numbers could have been even worse as he was the benefactor of a drop or two.
Since Lawson is suspended, he won’t count towards the Raiders’ 53-man roster and the team can’t outwardly cut him yet, but that feels inevitable. Barring an injury in the first couple of weeks, the eight-year pro’s tenure with the Silver and Black is likely over, and Sunday’s game might have been the final nail in his coffin.
Patrick Omameh: UP
Since I’ve pointed out when Patrick Omameh has played poorly this preseason – he made the “down” list in Weeks One and Two – it’s only fair that I call out when he plays well, and Sunday was a much better performance by him.
Omameh started at right tackle and took 11 snaps in pass protection without allowing a single quarterback pressure. While the sample size is smaller, that’s a dramatic improvement over the seven he surrendered in the first two games, especially considering that the 49ers played a handful of starters in the game.
The veteran lineman entered the contest on the roster bubble and made a strong case to stick around with the team. His experience and ability to play inside and outside could give him a competitive advantage over the other players fighting for the last offensive line spot.
Defending the option: DOWN
Something that stood out to me during Sunday’s game, and it was an issue beyond a single-player, was it felt like the Raiders struggled to defend the read options and inverted veers San Francisco was running with Trey Lance.
Unblocked defenders seemed to be caught by surprise and ended up in no man’s land, meaning they wouldn’t be able to make a play on either the dive back or quarterback. On top of that, the second-level defenders struggled to get to their proper run fits, and Lance and the 49ers seemingly moved the ball at will on option plays.
That’s something defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is going to have to emphasize for the season opener against the Ravens, who have the best running quarterback in the league in Lamar Jackson. With a weapon like Jackson under center, read options and inverted veers are bread and butter plays for Baltimore.
Granted, Las Vegas’ struggles on Sunday were with mainly second- and third-string players on the field, so it could be a different story with the starters. However, it’s not exactly comforting to see players look like they’re lost defending these types of plays, as that could be an issue with the scheme or coaching.
At the end of the day, it was a game that didn’t count so no harm no foul, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on during Monday Night Football in a couple of weeks.
Matt Bushman: UP
Similar to Stoner, Matt Bushman saved his best performance of the preseason for the final game. He was only targeted once but hauled it in for a 10-yard gain, picking up a first down with six yards after the catch. On top of that, he earned a 71.0 PFF run-blocking grade that ranked eighth among tight ends that run blocked at least eight times.
While the Raiders will likely only keep three tight ends – Darren Waller, Foster Moreau and Derek Carrier – Bushman did exactly what he needed to do to stick around on the practice squad. He moved the chains in the passing game, creating rushing lanes as a run blocker and even stayed in to help the offensive line in pass protection for a play. The coaching staff can’t ask for much more than that.
The Raiders’ decision will likely come down to the rookie and second-year tight end, Nick Bowers. Bowers played well on Sunday too, which might give him the nod, but Bushman did exactly what he needed to do and that makes this a tough decision for the coaching staff.
Divine Deablo: DOWN
Sunday was a rough professional debut for Divine Deablo. He was targeted three times, allowing all three to be completed for 43 yards and a passer rating of 118.8 when targeted. And he was actually better in coverage than against the run.
Deablo was one of the players mentioned above who looked lost defending the option and it didn’t seem like he was comfortable playing linebacker as a run defender. While that’s somewhat expected since he’s playing a new position, recording a PFF run-defense grade of 24.7, which ranked dead last at the position, is simply not good enough.
The former Hokie did miss time during training camp with an injury and is in no danger of losing his roster spot, but the team is likely going to be relying on him this season, so things need to change and change soon. Las Vegas is banged up at linebacker and needs to get the most out of every player in the position group.
There’s still plenty of time for Deablo to turn it around but the clock is certainly ticking.
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