Las Vegas won their second preseason game of the year in as many tries, beating the Vikings, 26-20, at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. The Raiders didn’t dominate as they did in the Hall of Fame Game, but they led all afternoon long.
But McDaniels clearly has a lot of work to do. After the Raiders held the Vikings to just 12 yards on offense in the first quarter, Minnesota roared back, forcing Las Vegas to hold on for the victory.
As always, some Raiders played better than others. Here are this week’s winners and losers as Las Vegas moves to 2-0 in the preseason.
Winner: QB Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham has a solid grasp on the backup quarterback job in Las Vegas, but he still has to perform well every week in the preseason to maintain his status, especially with the experienced Nick Mullens behind him on the depth chart.
Stidham looked in command of the offense for the second-consecutive week, completing 10-15 passes for 68 yards while facing pressure from the defense, as he was sacked three times. Also for the second-straight week, he had a rushing touchdown.
Rushing touchdowns from the QB probably aren’t McDaniels’ preferred way to score in the red zone, but six points are six points, and Stidham made it happen. His solid performance keeps him in the No. 2 spot, despite Mullens having a great day himself, completing 7-of-9 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Winner: WR D.J. Turner
Raiders WR D.J. Turner added some juice to this preseason affair with a lightning-fast 35-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the third quarter. Mullens held in the pocket and hit Turner in stride, and Turner did the rest.
Turner had three total catches for 58 yards, and he added a 26-yard punt return. Suddenly, he appears to be a player to watch in Las Vegas.
Winner: WR Mack Hollins and P A.J. Cole
It was an uneven day for the Raiders special teams. The Vikings’ kick returners gained 118 yards on the day, but punter A.J. Cole got to show off his All-Pro leg with a 67-yard boot in the first half.
What’s more, expected special teams standout Mack Hollins hustled all the way downfield and made the tackle. Ideally for McDaniels, the skill and effort displayed by Cole and Hollins are a sign of what’s to come from the special teams unit this season.
Winner: DE Malcolm Koonce
Malcolm Koonce made an impact on defense for the second-straight week, and this time he notched a quarterback sack, though he had a lot of help on the play. Multiple Raiders, including cornerback Amik Robertson, got near the Vikings’ QB before Koonce finished the job.
Koonce’s pass rush helped lineman Kendall Vickers record a QB sack last week, so it seems that when he’s placed in pass-rush situations, he makes things happen. That could help the Raiders tremendously, as Las Vegas already has two premier pass rushers in Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby.
Loser: Raiders run defense
The Raiders ended the afternoon with more rushing yards than the Vikings, but Minnesota averaged a robust 5.2 yards per carry. In the second quarter, the Raiders started playing some of their reserves at defensive tackle, and the Vikings began to pick up yardage in chunks.
There were multiple players involved, but rookies Matthew Butler and Neil Farrell Jr. appeared to get pushed around a bit.
Mainly, this game was a reminder that the Raiders’ situation at defensive tackle is somewhat unknown behind projected starters, Johnathan Hankins and Bilal Nichols, who are both still on the PUP list. Though it should be noted that DT Andrew Billings had some nice moments defending the run and rushing the passer, providing a bright spot for the interior defense.
Loser: CB Amik Robertson
With the Raiders still thin on cornerbacks due to multiple injuries, Amik Robertson has had a chance to impress. He’s reportedly done so in practice, but he had a subpar day on Sunday at Allegiant.
He allowed WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette to cross his face inside for a 22-yard gain in the second quarter, and he followed that up with a holding penalty. It was a bad sequence for Robertson, though he still appears to be in the mix at cornerback, at least until Rock Ya-Sin, Anthony Averett, and Trayon Mullen return to the fray.
Loser: OT Alex Leatherwood
Second-year offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood didn’t play until the start of the third quarter on Sunday, as Thayer Munsford Jr. got the nod at right tackle and played the entire first half.
That’s quite a development, considering Leatherwood was a first-round pick in 2021, and Munford was selected in the seventh round this year. But the Raiders are scrambling for answers at right tackle. Though this was just one game, it appears the Raiders are unsure, at best, whether Leatherwood can be the solution.
Overall, this was another success for McDaniels. Though there are clearly some areas to cinch up, notably that offensive line, which allowed four QB sacks. But winning is a good habit to get into, and there are still two more preseason games to go, starting Saturday against the Dolphins.