MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Las Vegas Raiders left some 30 players back in the desert for Saturday’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins — and still had the best starting offense on the field.
That’s a reflection of just how good Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham has looked in his second go-round in Josh McDaniels’ offense.
Arrow up for Las Vegas Raiders QB Jarrett Stidham
Stidham completed 7 of 10 passes for 80 yards in two drives — the first of which was a thing of beauty. He and the Raiders’ offense — which was made up of a bunch of backups — took the opening possession 75 yards on 12 plays — largely against Dolphins starters.
Stidham picked up a third-and-8, a fourth-and-4, and a third-and-4 on the drive, which culminated with a 2-yard touchdown run by Zamir White.
The outing only added to the separation between Stidham and Nick Mullens in the battle for the Raiders’ backup quarterback job. Stidham has now started all three of the Raiders’ preseason games — starter Derek Carr hasn’t played a down.
Stidham’s stats through those three games: 25 of 40 for 244 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions.
While those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, they’re certainly an improvement over the last time he saw the field — the 2020 regular season. In five appearances for the Patriots that year, Stidham completed half of his passing attempts, threw more interceptions than touchdowns, and averaged 5.8 yards per pass.
But McDaniels saw enough from Stidham during their three years together in Foxboro that he brought him to Sin City after getting the top job. Stidham, through three weeks, has rewarded that faith with steady play.
Mullens, meanwhile, completed 6 of 9 passes for 39 yards in limited duty. He has an uphill climb to make the 53-man roster.
Raiders leave a third of their roster at home
Credit the 30,000 or so humans who not only bought a ticket for Saturday’s game, but actually showed up. They didn’t see an NFL product.
No NFL team has more preseason games than the Raiders (four). But the next time their starters take the field in 2022 will be the first time. They’re set up to compete in a loaded AFC West this year, and McDaniels is determined to get them to the season healthy.
Along with Carr, wide receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, pass rushers Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, and really any other player on the roster you’ve heard of got a weekend off in Vegas. They didn’t even get on the plane.
McDaniels has one more chance to get a look at his team before the regular season opens against the Las Angeles Chargers on Sept. 11 — next Friday against the Patriots. But there’s no reason to believe that he’s going to change his approach then if he hasn’t already.
Miami Dolphins’ dicey cornerback situation
Only six teams are spending more on their defensive backs in 2022 than the Miami Dolphins. And yet, Saturday night was a reminder that concerns remain at the cornerback position.
With Byron Jones (Achilles) still on PUP and Xavien Howard unlikely to play until the opener, the preseason has been an audition for the No. 3, 4, and 5 cornerback jobs. It hasn’t gone great.
A week after promising second-year corner Trill Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury, both Nik Needham (hand/wrist) and Keion Crossen (undisclosed) suffered injuries of their own. And the other corner in the mix — Noah Igbinoghene — got picked on basically every time he dropped into coverage.
If there is a silver lining, it’s this: The Dolphins remain optimistic Jones will be ready for Week 1, and Needham returned to the Dolphins sidelines without a wrap or brace on his banged-up hand.
Jaylen Waddle injury update
It’s been 10 days since Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has practiced, and now he’s missed each of the team’s first two preseason games as well.
The Dolphins aren’t outwardly concerned about Waddle’s availability for Week 1, but it’ll certainly be a bit alarming if he doesn’t return soon.
The Dolphins have been tight-lipped about what exactly is wrong with Waddle, but it’s believed to be a minor soft-tissue injury that they don’t want to exacerbate by putting him at risk. Waddle set the NFL rookie receptions record (104) in 2021.
Other Dolphins who got the night off: RB Raheem Mostert; FB Alec Ingold; S Eric Rowe; LB Melvin Ingram; FB John Lovett; TE Tanner Conner; LB Brennan Scarlett; T Terron Armstead; and T Greg Little.