Here is a link to my Monday Raiders column. The full text runs below:


The Raiders played their third exhibition game on Sunday night — it was against the Arizona Cardinals. Who cares about the score?

The third exhibition game is the “dress rehearsal,” the closest these silly preseason exercises approach real games, meaningful games, games you remember. How did the Raiders do in their dress rehearsal? Did they look all dressed up and ready to go?

Those are not easy questions to answer without laying down ground rules. If by ready to go, you mean Super-Bowl ready, shame on you for living in Fantasy Land, and for believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and other pleasant delusions.

The relevant concept, the concept that actually matters, is the Embarrassment Factor. Last season, the Raiders were sky high on the Embarrassment Factor — they won three games and lost 13. Things got so embarrassing they let go two head coaches. Not one. Two. A real embarrassment.

OK, we know all that. The Raiders, God love them, are trying to reduce the Embarrassment Factor — their EF. Not eliminate it entirely — that won’t happen. They just want to make the EF manageable. So, did they reduce the EF Sunday night in the dress rehearsal?

Kind of.

Believe me, that’s a good answer. It doesn’t mean the Raiders will reduce the EF in the regular season, but it gives hope. The word “hope” is new and unusual to associate with the Raiders.

Start with the Raiders defense which was surprisingly stout — “stout” is a serious football word used by serious football insiders. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said his defensive front “is going to be pretty stout.” Oakland’s defense made the Cardinals’ very good offense look very bad. The Cardinals scored three points in the first half when Arizona’s starters played. Three points is a pittance. The Cardinals rushed for only 29 net yards in the first half. Another pittance.

The Raiders made Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer look old and slow. The Raiders intercepted him twice. He completed only eight of 22 passes. His passer rating was 14, a number just north of the earthworm’s I.Q. Khalil Mack, a very “stout” defender — that’s what Del Rio called him, well Mack sacked Palmer twice. You might call Mack a one-man Mack Sack Attack.

Based on the work of Oakland’s defense in the first half, you would say the Raiders were OK. The Raiders defense may be reducing its EF, although no one can say for sure.

What about the Raiders offense? That’s a lot more troubling in the unforgiving EF Department. To start with, the Raiders rushed for one yard in the first half. That’s not a pittance. It’s a pity. “I didn’t see anything from our running game,” Del Rio said.

What about quarterback Derek Carr?

Carr led the Raiders offense downfield several times in the first half, led his team into Arizona territory. That was nice. He connected with alleged super rookie Amari Cooper four times for 62 yards. Nice. Del Rio said he saw “glimpses of a very bright future” from his passing game.

Glimpses. It’s just that despite his best efforts, Carr led the team to no touchdowns. Instead, the Raiders scored five field goals. Not what a serious team wants. It’s like eating onion or olive dip when you crave a T-bone steak smothered with onions. Carr has thrown zero touchdown passes in the preseason. He needs to get past the hors d’oeuvre level.

The Raiders allowed Carr to start the third quarter. It’s unusual to leave the starting quarterback in for the third quarter of an exhibition game. Arizona didn’t. The Cardinals mercifully ended Palmer’s night at the half. But the Raiders gave Carr another shot for a touchdown, to decrease his personal EF.

And he was doing well, he really was. He drove his team downfield like a champ, got the Raiders to the Arizona 14. Then he performed a nifty move. One of his specialties. He ran left, spotted Rod Streater and threw the ball. It was an awkward way to throw the ball — across his body — but Carr is a good athlete, what you call awkward-crafty. He can complete throws like that.

The pass had touchdown written all over it, and you knew Carr’s preseason touchdown draught was over. Except he threw directly to defender Cariel Brooks who made a nifty grab and ran 81 yards for the touchdown. That’s what specialists call a Pick Six. Monumentally embarrassing to Carr.

Despite his overwhelmingly good intentions, Carr did not reduce his personal EF. He may have increased it. And that, as the texters write, is OMG. Or is it LOL?

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