Safety Karl Joseph
The Oakland Raiders opened the preseason tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium, but ultimately lost 20-10.
In the grand scheme of things, the final score of tonight's loss won't hold too much weight, but there certainly are some major takeaways from the loss.
Here are four, quick things that stood out tonight in the desert.
**1. The big guns watched from the sidelines
Unsurprisingly, most of the Raiders marquee players weren't active participants in tonight's game against the Cardinals, instead watching the action unfold from the sideline.
Defensively, defensive end Khalil Mack and linebacker Bruce Irvin didn't hit the field, and offensively, quarterback Derek Carr ceded the starting responsibilities – at least for one night – to EJ Manuel.
In addition to Carr, most of his favorite weapons also got the night off, as running back Marshawn Lynch, and tight end Jared Cook, as well as wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree didn't see any action in the preseason opener.
There were several, notable absences along the offensive line as well, as Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and Kelechi Osemele didn't hit the gridiron either.
Having so many guys take the first preseason game completely off is starting to become more the rule than the exception, so not to worry, I'd expect to see more of the big guns next week against the Los Angeles Rams.
2. Karl Joseph looks ready to go
We heard time and time again last season about the big-hitting ability of Karl Joseph, and while we did catch glimpses of it at times, it wasn't consistent throughout his rookie season.
Well, Joseph showed that ability in a big way Saturday night, delivering a few punishing blows throughout the three defensive series he was in the game.
The former West Virginia Mountaineer has enjoyed a strong training camp, and in a word, that's how he looked tonight against the Cardinals; comfortable.
Joseph is healthy right now – a fact that's hard to overstate – and after one game, a healthy, comfortable Karl Joseph looks like he'll be a force to be reckoned with in 2017.
I know it's important not to overreact to one game, but Joseph showed a little something tonight, and that's good for the Raiders defense a whole.
3. EJ Manuel had a nice night
With Carr acting as another coach on the sideline Saturday night, EJ Manuel was tasked with leading the Raiders offense.
In total, Manuel played the entire first half, completing 10 of 12 passes for 107 yards, looking comfortable in Todd Downing's offense in the process.
Since arriving in Oakland, players and coaches alike have raved about how Manuel looks to be having fun playing quarterback again, and tonight, while the team only produced three points while he was at the helm, he looked to be having a good time out there with his teammates.
Connor Cook finished the night with 10 of 21 completions for 82 yards, as the Silver and Black fell to the Cardinals 20-10. For Cook and Manuel, I'll be excited to see them go toe-to-toe for the rest of the preseason.
4. I see you, John Crockett
With Marsahwn Lynch, Jalen Richard, and DeAndré Washington ahead of him on the depth chart, undrafted rookie John Crockett doesn't get that many reps during practice at training camp.
However, the North Dakota State-product made the most of his opportunities tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium, and was a key figure in one of the Raiders scoring drives.
With the Silver and Black trailing 17-3 in the third quarter, Crockett rumbled 29 yards on a pass from Connor Cook, then just a few plays later, he capped the drive with a strong, one-yard touchdown run.
While Crockett finished his NFL debut with just one reception for 29 yards, he certainly provided the Raiders offense a spark during his limited time on the field.
Let's see if he can keep that positive momentum rolling next week at home against the Rams.