Thursday's NFL: Raiders give McDaniels happy homecoming, beat Jaguars 27-11

Rob Maaddi
Associated Press

Canton, Ohio — The Las Vegas Raiders gave coach Josh McDaniels a successful homecoming in his debut on their sideline.

Josh Jacobs, rookie Zamir White and Austin Walter ran well on a rain-soaked field and the Raiders routed Jacksonville 27-11 in the Hall of Fame game Thursday night, spoiling coach Doug Pederson’s first game with the Jaguars.

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham (3) celebrates with tight end Jacob Hollister (88) after scrambling for a touchdown during the first half of the NFL football exhibition Hall of Fame Game against the Jacksonville Jaguar on Thursday in Canton, Ohio.

Derek Carr and Davante Adams warmed up but they didn’t get a chance to play their first game together since Fresno State. Carr, the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, and Adams, the All-Pro receiver acquired in blockbuster trade with Green Bay, were among many starters who sat out for both teams.

Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence wore a backward cap on the sideline while third-string quarterback Jake Luton was started.

The NFL’s first preseason game began 40 minutes late due to severe weather that forced fans to seek shelter.

As expected, things got sloppy after the opening kickoff.

Top pick Travon Walker committed a roughing-the-passer penalty on Raiders backup QB Jarrett Stidham on the first play from scrimmage. Walker later registered a sack.

The highlight of the game didn’t count. Jacksonville’s Willie Johnson returned a punt 88 yards for a score on the final play of the third quarter but it was nullified by a holding penalty.

McDaniels grew up in this historic football town and played for Canton McKinley High School on this field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, known as Fawcett Stadium during his time as varsity quarterback.

He begins his second stint as an NFL head coach after winning six Super Bowls as an assistant under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. McDaniels was 11-17 with Denver in 2009-10.

Pederson also begins his second turn as an NFL head coach after sitting out 2021. He guided the Philadelphia Eagles to the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory and three playoff appearances in five seasons from 2016-20.

Pederson has already changed the culture in Jacksonville following a disastrous 2021 season under Urban Meyer, who lasted only 11 months.

He’s tasked with trying to turn one of the league’s worst organizations into a winner. The Jaguars have had one winning season in the last 14 years.

Daniel Carlson connected on field goals of 32 and 55 yards to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. Ameer Abdullah scored on an 8-yard run in the second quarter and Stidham scrambled 12 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-0 late in the first half.

Down 27-3, the Jaguars found the end zone when Kyle Sloter tossed a 5-yard TD pass to Nathan Cottrell late in the fourth quarter. Cottrell ran up the middle for the 2-point conversion.

Colts plot Taylor-made plan

Westfield, Ind. — Matt Ryan first noticed Jonathan Taylor’s natural instincts on Indianapolis Colts game film.

One play proved Taylor is even more impressive in person.

At Indy’s first training camp practice last week, Ryan got a glimpse into this season’s possibilities when his new running back caught a screen pass, quickly turned up the field and left defenders in his wake.

Jonathan Taylor is one of three major college players with multiple entries in the 2,000-yard club and could become the first to do it three times in their combined college and pro careers.

Even Ryan, who has seemingly seen everything over a 14-year career, did a double take.

“He made a cut that you just don’t see and his explosion out of the cut, to me, was an eye-opener,” Ryan said. “You can watch as much tape as you want, but it’s different to see it in person. You think he’s really good, then you show up and you think he’s better than you thought.”

Turning heads, drawing raves and surprising teammates has become an annual tradition for Taylor ever since he won the starting job at Wisconsin in 2017.

The true freshman started 13 of 14 games and finished with 1,977 yards that year before topping the 2,000-yard mark each of the next two seasons. He’s one of three major college players with multiple entries in the 2,000-yard club and could become the first to do it three times in their combined college and pro careers.

Still, Taylor slid into the second round of the 2020 draft as critics warned about his lack of vision, penchant for fumbling and the toll 926 college carries could take on his body.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard, also a Badgers alum, didn’t buy it.

He saw Taylor as a smart, workhorse back, capable of making home run plays and becoming a strong voice in the locker room. It didn’t take Taylor long to make Ballard look like a genius.

Taylor replaced the injured Marlon Mack in Indy’s 2020 season opener and finished the season by rushing for a single-game franchise-record 253 yards as he went over the 1,000-yard mark.

Last season, even with defenses loading up against Taylor, he still rushed for a league-high 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding another 360 yards and two scores through the air – including the 76-yard screen pass he turned into a TD at Baltimore.

The question now is what will Taylor do for an encore?

He’ll continue battling two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry to claim the title of best back in the league and the AFC South. And Indy believes Ryan’s presence could back defenses off the line of scrimmage.

“That’s the thought, but you never really know what teams are going to do,” Taylor said this spring. “So you need to prepare in the offseason to face eight, nine, in your case, 16-man boxes. You need to prepare for those things in the offseason, during camp so no matter what happens – whether we face those loaded boxes or not – we’re equipped and prepared and ready to handle them.”

Numbers and honors don’t motivate the 23-year-old Taylor, though. He’s a perfectionist, always looking for a way to stay ahead of the competition.

During previous offseasons, he focused on refining his pass-catching and pass protection skills. This year, he prepared for a heavier workload than the 372 touches he had last season.

Of course the guy once admitted to Harvard also gets innovative with his workouts.

Yoga became part of his college workout routine and last year he added cold-weather training. This year, Taylor invested in Strive, a technology company that helps athletes achieve and maintain peak performance with workouts based on muscle data. The hope is it will make him more productive and healthier.

“You always prepare, I don’t want to say for the worst, but the most you can possibly do,” Taylor said. “My parents always say better to have and not need rather than to need and not have. So if you come into this building at camp time, fully ready to go for any situation, you’ll be prepared for your workload to increase.”

Taylor would like to expand the schedule to include a championship run.

It’s the one glaring omission on Taylor’s resume. Despite winning two New Jersey state titles in track and field, he never won a Big Ten title with the Badgers, never appeared in the College Football Playoff and still has not won an NFL playoff game.

So while Taylor spent the offseason reviewing game film to see what he could have done better in 2021 to continue improving this season, Ryan was watching to figure out how he could best utilize Taylor’s uncanny talent.

“My brother was up here at practice Saturday and he was like, ‘Man, it was amazing to watch that guy go through the little ropes they run through at the beginning,’” Ryan said. “He’s like, ‘It’s just different, you watch him and the movement is different. Those other guys are doing great behind him but he (Taylor) is another level.’ He’s special.”

Appeal of Watson suspension

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has chosen former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal of the six-game suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Watson was suspended this week by independent disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who concluded he violated the league’s personal conduct policy after being accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women in Texas.

The league, which had been pushing for an indefinite suspension for Watson, wanted further discipline and appealed Robinson’s ruling on Wednesday.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, the appeal gave the power back to Goodell to enact punishment but he instead chose Harvey, currently a partner at a law firm in New York.

In noting his qualifications, the league said Harvey “has deep expertise in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault, and has advised the NFL and other professional leagues on the development and implementation of workplace policies, including the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.”

Harvey has also served as Goodell’s designee in other arbitrations.