After almost six long months of absence, the NFL is back.
The 2022 pre-season kicked off Thursday with the typical Hall of Fame game curtain raiser, signaling the start of another season of drama, excitement and the highest level of skill imaginable.
And it was the perfect start to life in a new home for Josh McDaniels, the new Las Vegas Raiders head coach who joined in January after a long, trophy-laden spell with the New England Patriots.
His Raiders beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-11, spoiling Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson’s first game at the helm.
It was a homecoming victory for McDaniels, a Jacksonville native, returning to the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium where he once played for Canton McKinley High School, patrolling the sideline where he watched his father, Thom McDaniels, coach for almost two decades.
“Very grateful to have had (the chance),” McDaniels said afterwards. “It’s the first time I’ve played in this Hall of Fame game in 22 years. To have the opportunity to do it with him here and my family and a lot of people who have helped me along the way, I think it was a special night for them.
“You never know if you will have this opportunity again. I really savored it. It was a good opportunity for all of us, and I think we all enjoyed it.
In a game without most of both teams’ starters – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and star receiver Davante Adams sat out as the Jaguars released a list of 21 players who wouldn’t play, including quarterback- second-year fullback Trevor Lawrence – it was up to the most fringe players step in.
And like many pre-season games without the star players, it wasn’t the finest affair.
1 pick in this year’s draft, Travon Walker, was called for a passer-roughing penalty against Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham on the very first play from scrimmage. Walker, however, showed why he was picked first as he picked up a sack later in the game.
There were opportunities for players to flash, however, as rookie running back Zamir White showed, rushing for 52 yards and adding 23 more through the air.
And it was the Raiders’ rushing offense that really tore the Jaguars defense apart, finishing the game with 159 total yards and three rushing touchdowns; one each from Stidham, Austin Walter and Ameer Abdullah.
Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson was also perfect on the field, adding two field goals and three extra points.
Jaguars running back Nathan Cottrell scored his team’s only touchdown of the night, catching a pass from Kyle Sloter in the end zone.
After the game, Pederson praised his team’s effort which many of his starters lacked.
“I think overall the effort was really good,” Pederson said. “We just have to clean up. There were too many little mistakes.
He added: “We made sure that everyone played in this game. As we go along, it will be a bit more of the starters and the guys that we think will be on the 53 list ( -players) as you go.