Saturday afternoon the Oakland Raiders returned to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time since 1994, as the Silver and Black participated in their second battle of the preseason. The team went toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Rams, with the game coming down to the wire, ultimately concluding in a Raiders 19-15 defeat.
Head Coach Jon Gruden and Rams Head Coach Sean McCoy both opted to keep the majority of their starters out of the game, but regardless, there was no shortage of competition. With just a couple weeks left before the regular season is officially here, and roster cuts looming, the players that took the field yesterday are all fighting for a spot on the team, and there were a handful of players that stood out.
Here's a look at the three players who impressed during Saturday's action.
Wide Receiver Griff Whalen
Since the former Stanford Cardinal arrived early in the offseason, he's been an interesting player to watch. At 5'11, 190 pounds, he's not the biggest player on the field, but his elusiveness, and speed create problems for his defenders. Through the course of training camp, Whalen slowly started receiving more reps with Derek Carr and the ones, and was featured in the starting lineup last week during the Raiders preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. Saturday, Whalen managed to haul in a difficult one-handed catch for a touchdown, courtesy of EJ Manuel. The catch was one of Whalen's two receptions on the day, but it was awarded the play of the game on the television broadcast.
Whalen's contributions on special teams have also helped him see more time in the offense, and he's made the most of his opportunities. We'll see how he performs going forward, but through camp and the first two weeks of the preseason he's played well.
Linebacker James Cowser
James Cowser joined the Raiders two seasons ago as an undrafted free agent, but that didn't stop him from making the 53-man roster in 2016 and contributing early on. In his two seasons with the team, he's totaled one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one sack, and 27 tackles, while also playing an integral part on special teams. Saturday, Cowser hauled in the Raiders first interception of 2018, picking off Rams quarterback Brandon Allen, and putting the Silver and Black in excellent field position. It was the only interception of the day, and Cowser added three tackles to his stat line by game's end. Last week Cowser provided a game-sealing strip sack fumble that closed the door on a Lions team that was knocking at the door of the red zone.
Cowser's bread and butter has been rushing the passer, but his interception Saturday demonstrated his ability to drop in coverage, and it showed he's added another layer to his game over the years.
Running back Chris Warren III
Warren has arguably been the biggest story to come out of Raiders Training Camp this year. The son of former Seattle Seahawk and Dallas Cowboy Chris Warren Jr., has made quite the impression on his peers, coaches, and the media during his brief time as a Raider. He caught the attention of everyone around him during the Raiders-Lions joint practice, when he laid a booming hit on Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis that sent him flying through the air. He followed that hit up with a 13 carry, 86-yard performance against the Lions in the preseason opener at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and he took it up another notch yesterday, rushing for over 100 yards on 16 carries, adding his first touchdown as a Raider to boot.
The former Texas Longhorn is 6'2" and weighs 246 pounds — the man looks like a linebacker. The undrafted free agent has been learning from Marshawn Lynch on how to run more violently, and it looks like it's paying off. Warren has seen the majority of carries the last two weeks, and I don't expect that to stop over the final stretch of the preseason.