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Del Rio happy with Raiders’ penalty-free play

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NAPA, Calif. — The adjectives for the Oakland Raiders’ preseason opener may have sounded like a beer commercial, but was a welcome sight for a fan-base starved for success.

An 18-3 win over the St. Louis Rams was clean and crisp, not terms usually described for a Raiders team in the regular season, not to mention a preseason opener under a new coaching staff.

But that’s what most encouraged head coach Jack Del Rio, even if the result meant nothing and the game plan was largely vanilla. Interim head coach Tony Sparano took over for Dennis Allen last season after four games vowing to stop “Oakland beating Oakland.”

Sparano never accomplished his goal, going 3-9 as head coach with Del Rio getting the job in the offseason.

Most impressive for the Raiders against the Rams was their utter lack of self-destruction. Dropped passes, pre-snap penalties, personal fouls and inability to line up on time — staples of the Raiders over the last dozen years — were nowhere in evidence.

The Raiders had only two penalties for 22 yards, with one offensive pass-interference penalty and another where two special team gunners were a little too aggressive in pushing a blocker out of bounds.

“We knew coming in it was just a start,” Del Rio said. “We knew there would be things to correct. I was really proud of the crisp play. We weren’t penalized a lot. We didn’t do things to beat ourselves overall. I’m proud of the effort.”

A day later, Del Rio wasn’t attaching much more significance to the win other than it was a step in the right direction.

“I just want to keep getting better,” Del Rio said. “I just want to keep playing good football. We had a lot to clean up. I knew there would be, there always is. We’re back at work, back in the camp mode. It’s really about preparing for the season and the fundamentals and basics of what we want to be good at. That’s really what I’m after.”

Quarterback Derek Carr got the Raiders in scoring position twice but came away with just three points. He threw an end-zone interception intended for rookie receiver Amari Cooper and had another end-zone pass for Michael Crabtree batted away.

Yet Carr got both players involved in such a way that the end result was encouraging. The same goes for the Raiders’ defense after a shaky start in which the Rams immediately got deep into Oakland territory and settled for a field goal — their only score of the game.

“I thought they were a little excited to get going,” Del Rio said. “We had some guys that were running some things there early. They kind of settled down and played a lot better as the game went on. I really thought in the trenches, I thought offensively and defensively the line play was really good.”

–Wide receiver Rod Streater, who caught 60 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2013 and spent most of last season on injured reserve, returned to practice following the Rams game.

Streater has been listed on the non-football illness list, reportedly with flu-like symptoms, and was finally cleared to practice. In the meantime, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper have asserted themselves as starters and the roster competition has become intense, with Kenbrell Thompkins, Andre Holmes, Brice Butler and Kris Durham among those in the mix.

“I lost a little bit of weight, but you see me out there,” Streater said. “I’m back in the weight room, working hard.”

–Quarterback David Carr completed 6 of 9 passes for 43 yards and produced three points in two possessions, but was thrilled to get Cooper, the first-round pick out of Alabama, into the mix early and often.

“I knew I wanted to get him some touches,” Carr said. “I want to get him as many as we can in the preseason, that way he gets a feel for it. I thought he played well. Mentally, he’s sharp. We had a miscommunication in the red zone — we’re happy it happened now and not in the regular season.”

In a red-zone situation, Carr’s slant pass to Cooper was intercepted by Trumaine Johnson.

Said Cooper, who has been low key throughout training camp, “I thought it would be different than other levels I played, but it’s just football at the end of the day.”

In two series, Cooper was targeted four times, catching three passes for 23 yards, and also ran three yards with a reverse.

–Running back Latavius Murray led the Raiders with 35 yards on six carries, including a 17-yard run on a draw play. Barring injury, he seems to be the easy choice for a lead back.

“I think we did some good things,” Murray said. “Everyone’s clicking right now and it was good to see that this early. We’ve got three games left in the preseason before we take on our first game but I thought we did really well.”

–Second-team middle linebacker Ben Heeney led the Raiders in tackles, continuing a training camp that looks as if he is ready to play sooner, rather than later. Heeney is a fourth-round pick out of Kansas.

“It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but once I got settled in and got out there, it was better,” Heeney said.

Del Rio has been complimentary of Heeney’s play since camp began, and the first preseason game was no different.

“That’s what we see in practice every day,” Del Rio said. “He flies around. He’s very, very active. His speed showed up.”


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