Hall of Fame Game Takeaways: Travon Walker Steals the Show

0 of 5

    AP Photo/David Dermer

    The first NFL preseason game is complete. After an offseason filled with trades and dramatic twists, consuming fresh football felt so good. The Las Vegas Raiders beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-11 in the 2022 NFL Hall of Fame Game on Thursday.

    The biggest names on each team sat this game out to avoid injury. We’ll continue to wait to see if Jaguars building blocks Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Christian Kirk can develop chemistry. We also missed out on seeing the renewed connection between Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Davante Adams.

    That doesn’t mean we didn’t learn something about both the Raiders and Jaguars. We found five key takeaways from the Hall of Fame Game.

    With both teams breaking in new coaching staffs in their first competitive action of the season, every bit of information of how this season could unfold is helpful. Let’s jump into our top takeaways.

1 of 5

    AP Photo/David Dermer

    He only played the first two drives of the game, but No. 1 pick Travon Walker made his presence felt. Walker bullied Raiders backup left tackle Brandon Parker throughout his snaps, logging his first sack and applying pressure on Jarrett Stidham several times. He was called for a debatable roughing the passer on his first play after powering through Parker’s chest to get into the pocket.

    The Jaguars knew they were getting an athletic pass-rusher who could win with excellent power when they drafted him. However, Walker was expected to need time to figure out his hand usage and the nuance of the role considering he was primarily tasked with stopping the run at Georgia. Against the Raiders, Walker showed his developmental curve might not be so large.

    The Jaguars also saw solid performances from Arden Key and K’Lavon Chaisson, while star edge-rusher Josh Allen didn’t play. The rotation of the four athletic defenders could quickly change the identity of this defense. Walker will be a massive part of that effort if this first game was any indication of what’s to come.

2 of 5

    Nick Cammett/Getty Images

    While most starters sat this game out for both teams, the Raiders opted to play all of their running backs despite the field being wet. This included the top two backs on their depth chart: Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. It’s possible it’s not bad news for their roster status, but it’s certainly not good news that either is safe in their role.

    Jacobs was fed five carries and two receptions for 44 total yards despite being a proven talent in his fourth season. He’s also in a contract year. Most starting tailbacks don’t play in the preseason until the third game, if at all, due to the risk of injury.

    Drake is also in a contract year and played enough snaps to scratch your head about his future. He logged five carries for nine yards before leaving the field with an apparent hand injury. He returned later in the game. With Brandon Bolden also on the roster as a plus pass-catcher, Drake’s role could be in jeopardy.

    Head coach Josh McDaniels showed he was unafraid to lose his top two backs.

    Backups Zamir White and Ameer Abdullah looked excellent in their touches. White racked up 52 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards. Abdullah ran for only seven yards on two attempts but had 23 yards on two catches.

    This could be a situation to watch as the final cutdown day arrives before the start of the regular season.

3 of 5

    AP Photo/David Dermer

    The first half from Jacksonville’s offense was an eerie flashback to what the team looked like under Urban Meyer last year. Of course, the Jaguars sat the majority of their impact starters to avoid injury. But the lack of rhythm and flow from the unit on a team led by veteran head coach Doug Pederson was surprising nonetheless.

    The Jaguars only had two fully padded practices entering the game. This certainly was a factor to some degree. However, their decision to roster backups Jake Luton and Kyle Sloter should also be questioned since their level of play was abysmal throughout the night.

    Primary backup C.J. Beathard also isn’t the answer to be competitive in games if Lawrence goes down. If Lawrence suffers a major injury, the Jaguars showed nothing during the Hall of Fame Game for us to believe they’d have a fighting chance to compete on a weekly basis.

    That’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that spent $175.3 million in guarantees this offseason. Pederson must convey how important it is for this young team filled with new pieces to jell before the regular season. If he doesn’t, the Jaguars could be in for a rough start to the year until they find their footing.

4 of 5

    Nick Cammett/Getty Images

    Having a quality backup quarterback can be the difference between winning one more game and making the playoffs or missing the postseason. The Raiders traded a sixth-round pick for Jarett Stidham shortly after McDaniels took the head coaching job. The two had previously worked together in New England since Stidham was drafted in the fourth round in 2019.

    Stidham showed some promise as a strong-armed, athletic passer in his few opportunities. He continued building positive momentum in this game, completing eight of 15 passes for 96 yards. He also ran for a 12-yard touchdown.

    Nick Mullins played well behind Stidham and produced a higher completion percentage. But Stidham also lost a potential deep touchdown when receiver Tyron Johnson dropped a perfectly placed ball that fell into his hands.

    After this performance, the Raiders can be more confident they can win a game if Derek Carr has to leave a contest early or miss a week for any reason.

5 of 5

    AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt

    After using the offseason to add stars like Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, the Raiders’ depth at several positions was still worth questioning. Who their second outside receiver beyond Adams would be was a concern. Their cornerback room lacked an obvious rotation.

    We were able to see both the receiver and corner positions perform well against the Jaguars. The receivers expected to compete for the No. 2 outside job are Keelan Cole, Mack Hollins, Tyron Johnson and Demarcus Robinson. Hollins, Johnson and Cole started while Robinson played into the second half. Johnson stuck out the most thanks to his deep speed and ability to get open. He was one drop away from a perfect showing.

    Cole left the game after being hit in the head on an end-around. Still, the Raiders should feel better about their ability to supplement their passing game after seeing Cole (1 catch, 31 yards) and Johnson (2 catches, 39 yards) play well.

    The cornerback who made the most out of his opportunity was veteran Darius Phillips. With four tackles, Phillips showed great discipline and toughness in the run game. He also forced a fumble that led to a change of possession. Those are the type of timely plays this Raiders defense will need to survive in the difficult AFC West.

Leave a Comment