Linebacker Malcolm Smith, Defensive End Khalil Mack, and Cornerback Sean Smith
The engine that is the Oakland Raiders defense certainly won't be lacking any horsepower in 2016.
With All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack wreaking havoc along the defensive line, combined with a revamped secondary that features a pair of shutdown cornerbacks, the Silver and Black unquestionably have the pieces to be a dominant and dynamic defense.
However, that defensive engine took a little while to warm up Thursday night at Lambeau Field, but after it did, the results were akin to what will be expected from the Raiders once the regular season officially kicks off.
After winning the coin toss, the Packers elected to receive the football, and then marched down the field, methodically putting together a 14-play, 74-yard touchdown drive punctuated by an Eddie Lacy touchdown run, which admittedly wasn't the start the Raiders defense had anticipated.
"I don't know if it had something to do with it being preseason, or what, I just felt like we came out flat," said cornerback David Amerson. "We came out flat, and it took a minute for us to really get rolling. They were running the ball right down the gut, and that's where it starts, defending the run. We really have to establish that early, that they're not going to be able to run the ball, and I think if we would have done that the first series, it would have gone a lot different."
"I think we started off kind of slow," added cornerback Sean Smith. "Obviously, we let them come down there and score right out of the gate, but I think we definitely answered, made some plays, had a few stops."
Smith is right, as defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group definitely regrouped following the opening drive, as the starting unit didn't allow the Packers to score during the rest of their half of work.
The first-team defense forced a pair of three-and-outs, and after the first Packers drive of the day, the unit allowed just 68 total yards during their remaining time on the field.
All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack seemed to be in good form Thursday, filling the up the stat sheet with four total tackles, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, and one sack; so what was the difference between allowing a sustained drive, and forcing a three-and-out?
Amerson thinks it comes down to one thing, execution.
"It was just the fact of going out there and just executing the defense how we know how to play," Amerson explained. "We know we have a good team. We know we have good guys up front. We have good guys on the backend. Once we really just woke up, I think we were fine."
From top to bottom, Thursday's game at Lambeau Field wasn't what the Raiders wanted to put on film, but they'll have a chance to remedy the situation next week when the team hosts the Tennessee Titans at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their third – and arguably most important – preseason game, and Amerson expects to see a renewed effort from the Silver and Black.
"That third preseason game is supposed to be the biggest rehearsal you get for the regular season," Amerson said. "I feel like guys will probably come out with a little more fire, a little more energy, especially considering how we started this game. It's definitely going to be one of those games where guys are going to be pumped up for it."
Smith echoed Amerson's sentiment, and said that for the remainder of the preseason, it's all about competition.
"I think the biggest thing we want to do is just go out there and compete," said Smith. "When we're out here, and it's live against somebody else, we just want to go out and compete, and put forth a good showing, and try to see who we are as a defense."
Thursday night we saw glimpses of who the Raiders are defensively, now over the next two weeks, it will be important for those glimpses to turn into consistent production.