For the Raiders to improve in 2013, they’re going to need good things to happen across the roster.
They’ll need to sidestep key injuries, find a quarterback, get their defense to gel and hope the offensive line can regain the physicality it misplaced in 2012. And, that’s just for starters.
But what will surely help is if some young players can emerge to become playmakers and difference-makers. And Friday night, in the Raiders' first exhibition game of the preseason – a 19-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at O.co Coliseum in Oakland – a few stepped up to indicate they might be on that path.
Rookie outside linebacker Sio Moore was impressive in his pro debut, pumping up the crowd with his aggressive, roaming play – including a sack – and firing up the fanbase on Twitter. Wrote one fan; “Sio Moore, already loving this guy”; added another, “RaiderNation is goin to love this kid for a long time.” After one game, some Raiders fans already were touting him for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But Moore wasn’t alone. Rookie running back Latavius Murray gained 16 yards on four carries. Undrafted free agent rookie quarterback Matt McGloin completed 4-of-7 throws for 78 yards and a touchdown. Marquette King boomed a 50-yard punt (that was muffed and recovered by Oakland to set up a field goal).
And then there was Brice Butler.
The Raiders – who clearly need help at the wide receiver position – saw their seventh-round draft choice from San Diego State have an eye-catching performance in his debut.
In the third quarter, Butler caught a 40-yard pass from McGloin to start a drive, then finished it off with a 30-yard diving touchdown grab in traffic to close it out, giving Oakland a 16-10 lead.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie had said recently that he was high on the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder who drew immediate praise following the draft when he consistently made nice catches in his first Raiders practices.
Now, in pads against professional players, Butler has shown it may not be a fluke.
Though he didn’t go until the seventh round, Butler, according to several observers, has the tools to succeed.
Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc., told ESPN.com in May that he likes Butler’s “speed, size and body control (that can) stretch the field at the NFL level.” Muench also said it was no surprise that Butler has been a pass-catching find in practices. Said Muench: “In terms of his hands, he can snatch the ball out of the air and make tough catches.”
With his diving grab for a touchdown, Butler proved that assessment has so far been on the money.
As one Raiders fan tweeted: “I might have to buy a Brice Butler jersey.”