INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Jimmy Garoppolo wanted a chance to lead the Las Vegas Raiders before the games that count, and Josh McDaniels was happy to give it to him.
Unlike Sean McVay, the Raiders’ quarterback and head coach think the preseason is worth the risk of a few hits.
Garoppolo completed all four of his passes for 39 yards while leading a touchdown drive in his Raiders debut, and Las Vegas went on to a 34-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.
Garoppolo played only the opening series for the Raiders (2-0), who signed the longtime 49ers quarterback in March as their replacement for Derek Carr. The 10-year veteran has beaten the Rams more often than any quarterback during Sean McVay’s career, and Garoppolo didn’t make a significant mistake while leading a comfortable drive ending in Brandon Bolden’s 7-yard TD run.
“Felt good just to knock some of the rust off, get in the game flow with some of the guys,” Garoppolo said. “It’s the little things that we’re trying to work on, and I thought the guys played well tonight. … I wanted to play, so I’m glad Josh let the starters get out there and get a couple of reps in. Guys were operating at a fast pace, which is important in this offense.”
The game was Garoppolo’s first action since last Dec. 4, when he incurred a season-ending foot injury in Miami before Brock Purdy led San Francisco to a victory and quickly became a rising star.
Given Garoppolo’s injury history and the importance of his health this season, McDaniels thought it beneficial for his quarterback to get back into the groove.
“I think every quarterback or player that touches the football that knows once the regular season comes, they’re live bait,” McDaniels said. “They’re going to get hit. It’s always good to get that out of the way, and some of the anxiety about how it feels, because you haven’t done it in a long time.”
McDaniels didn’t reveal his plan for his starters before the game, but most of the Raiders’ probable key contributors got some action at SoFi Stadium. Even star receiver Davante Adams played on the opening drive, although Garoppolo didn’t target him.
“You always go through that conversation in your head every year,” McDaniels said. “We just felt like with the number of new faces, the number of guys that were basically going to play their first regular season game together, that we’d like to go ahead and get that feeling you have in your stomach on a normal game day in the regular season.”
Stetson Bennett went 15 of 24 for 142 yards and rushed for a touchdown while playing the first three quarters for the Rams (0-2). The two-time national champion at Georgia made several sharp throws, but also several mistakes — none bigger than the massive miscommunication with Tyler Johnson that led to a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by Raiders safety Isaiah Pola-Mao in the second quarter.
“Some good learning opportunities and some good bounce-back, but there’s definitely some moments that I’ve got to improve on,” Bennett said. “There was times where it did slow down for me, and there was times when it was going fast.”
Rams linebacker Jacob Hummel returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter on a similarly poor throw by Brian Hoyer, the presumptive backup to Garoppolo.
Hoyer might have some competition from Aidan O’Connell: The Raiders’ fourth-round pick from Purdue played the second half and passed for 163 yards while throwing TD passes to Cam Sims and Kristian Wilkerson on back-to-back drives.
Hoyer, the 37-year-old veteran of nine NFL franchises, has played sparingly in the NFL over the past five seasons. He went 12 of 22 for 144 yards, but underthrew tight end Michael Mayer on Hummel’s pick-6.
O’Connell went 11 of 18 and looked sharp against the Rams’ lowest-tier defensive players.
BACKUP BATTLE II
Bennett and Tyler Johnson badly miscommunicated to create an easy pick-6 for Pola-Mao, the former USC safety who joined the Raiders as an undrafted free agent last year.
Bennett got more action than Brett Rypien, his competitor for the backup spot behind Matthew Stafford. Rypien didn’t play until the fourth quarter, but completed all four of his pass attempts.
No matter who was behind center, the Rams’ offense wasn’t impressive for the second straight week, managing just one offensive touchdown.
“We are very vanilla with things we activate in the preseason,” McVay said. “I was pleased with (Bennett) being able to end with a scoring drive.”
99 PLUS ONE MORE
Aaron Donald surprisingly participated in pregame warmups in his full uniform, but the Rams’ seven-time All-Pro defensive lineman then watched the game in street clothes. Donald hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2016 — the year before McVay took over in Los Angeles.
Afterward, McVay said Donald dressed out because he is staying home from the Rams’ upcoming week in Denver. His wife is due to give birth any day now. That’s
Raiders: LB Darien Butler was shaken up twice in the first quarter, but kept playing.
Rams: RT Logan Bruss left the field with trainers during the first half. The 2022 third-round pick out of Wisconsin missed his entire rookie season after injuring his knee in the second preseason game.
Raiders: At Cowboys on Saturday, Aug. 26, to conclude the preseason.
Rams: At Broncos on Saturday, Aug. 26, after two joint practices in Colorado earlier in the week.