At the half of Saturday night’s preseason opener, the Los Angeles Rams offense had 110 total yards, and just three points to show for it.
It didn’t get much better in the second half, as Sean McVay’s group tallied only 80 more yards, and were unable to change the scoreboard, eventually falling to the Oakland Raiders 14-3 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
“It was good,” said Arden Key of the team’s defensive effort. “We fixed the things we messed up the first two days against the Rams, went in, saw the film, corrected it, and we came out – for the most part we had a pretty good, solid defense all around the board.”
Pretty good is right.
No Rams quarterback tallied more than 54 yards through the air, and the team’s longest run of the night came via one of those quarterbacks, John Wolford, and that was only a 10-yard scamper.
That said, Saturday night’s effort came against an offense led by Blake Bortles and Darrell Henderson Jr., not Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, but nevertheless, for a defense that struggled to find any continuity or momentum a year ago, the result in their first game of the preseason was certainly cause for optimism.
“It definitely felt good,” said Jason Cabinda. “Obviously, it’s the preseason, so it probably doesn’t mean as much. I think a lot of [offensive coordinators] and [defensive coordinators] keep things really vanilla, but I think just the way we played, the effort, the d-line was getting after it, getting after the quarterback, no runs really busted through there. We played really sound defense I think.”
While the Rams didn’t have their full complement of offensive weapons, as has become the case in the preseason, neither did the Raiders defense, as nearly every projected starter watched from the sideline.
And while fans of the Silver and Black will have to wait a few more days to see Karl Joseph, Tahir Whitehead, and Gareon Conley make their 2019 debuts, the guys who did go to work for Paul Guenther Saturday night made sure they made the most of their reps – Key in particular.
When the 60 minutes of football came to a close, the second-year defensive end had tallied three tackles, two quarterback hits, a tackle for loss, and one sack, his first of the preseason.
“I think Arden Key had a good game,” Head Coach Jon Gruden said postgame. “He made a lot of plays. Credit to him too, he played a lot of football tonight. I thought he stood out.”
While the former LSU Tiger enjoyed a quality night from top to bottom on the stat sheet, for a team that struggled as mightily as the Silver and Black did to get after the quarterback in 2018, his second quarter sack is the play that stands above the rest.
“Very good,” Key said when discussing the play. “Just working with [defensive line coach] [Brenston] ‘Buck,’ [Buckner] teaching us different angles, different ways to set up moves, and things of that sort, so just kudos to him.”
Key continued, “He [Buckner] said he wanted me to go out there and get another one, but shoot, I missed it. It’ll be alright.”
The Raiders now boast a 1-0 preseason record – and to be fair, boast might be the wrong word – but nevertheless, the team’s defense did their part Saturday, and they’ll head into Arizona with momentum on their side.
“I think we have a lot of guys in there who are still proving themselves, myself included, so just to be able to get that confidence and go out there and basically be able to pitch a shutout, that’s definitely a confidence builder,” Cabinda said. “And I think that’s the biggest thing coming from this. We just have to build on it.”
“We get to see what we really look like against other teams,” Key added. “Next game, the vets are playing, so we’ll get to see what the vets look like, and things of that sort, everybody put in together. On film, from what I saw on film, we’re a fast defense, real fast.”