Many of Matt Leinart's passes Monday night were aimed to rookie Rod Streater. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
What’s worse than a meaningless NFL exhibition game?
How about a dull, meaningless NFL exhibition game?
For fans of the Oakland Raiders who stayed glued to the TV through the entirety of Monday night’s 3-0 preseason-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys, there wasn’t much to get excited about.
Just as the game ended, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur retweeted a message from a fan that pretty much summed it up: “Might be the worst football game I’ve ever watched start to finish at ANY level.”
Aside from the chance to watch quarterback Terrelle Pryor actually run around on the field in uniform and throw a few inaccurate passes, there was little of interest to watch on a night when many starters checked out early.
Quarterback Carson Palmer threw just six passes, completing three; and running back Darren McFadden showed he’s healthy again by gaining 20 yards on his two carries, plus he gained 18 yards on one reception.
Yet there were two interesting – and perhaps promising – aspects to Monday night’s game.
The first was the fact that for the first time in a long while, the Raiders were on the short end of the penalty count. While Dallas was committing 12 for 91 yards, the Raiders – the most penalized team in the league last season – committed just five. Yes, it was just preseason, but perhaps all the “discipline” talk of the offseason and the attention paid to not making mistakes by a new coaching staff is sinking in.
The second was the performance of rookie wideout Rod Streater of Temple.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder caught six balls for 66 yards and provides some optimism about a young but perhaps very talented receiving corps. Two years ago, Jacoby Ford made a big splash with an exciting rookie performance; last year, it was Denarius Moore. Could Streater and Juron Criner -- a fifth-round pick from Arizona – add two more talented pass catchers to the roster for 2012? Both have received rave reviews in camps and workouts since April.
Going into Monday night’s game, in fact, ESPN.com AFC West blogger Bill Williamson had written that the performance of the young wideouts would be one of the most interesting thngs to watch.
“Expect rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater – offseason and early-camp stars – to produce in a game setting,” he wrote.
Though Criner had just one catch for five yards, Streater led Oakland in receiving, with many of his six catches coming from backup QB Matt Leinart, making his Raiders debut. In fact, Streater’s six receptions Monday night were almost a third of his entire catch total his senior season at run-oriented Temple (19).
First-year Raiders head coach Dennis Allen has been impressed with Streater since he signed with Oakland.
In June, when Streater moved up in minicamp to work with the first team, Allen complimented his route running, his speed and his hands. While he said Streater is still learning, he told Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee: “From an athletic standpoint, from a skill standpoint, he’s really impressive.”
Streater, in fact, may have moved past Criner on the depth chart with his performance Monday and in recent practices.
This week, however, Streater told the Bee that he and Criner are doing everything they can to make the team. They’re studying the playbook, working hard and asking questions. Every night, Streater says, he and Criner study the playbook and quiz each other, over and over again.
On Monday night, Streater got an “A” on his first pop quiz – even if the game itself deserved a “D” for dull.