LOS ANGELES — Chris Warren already established a strong first impression this preseason.
His second one was even better.
The rookie was the Raiders’ only running back to see a carry in Saturday’s 19-15 exhibition loss to the Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. While Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, fullback Keith Smith and the entire starting offensive line rested, Warren rumbled to 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
In many ways, he is still raw. He is still developing.
But with the potential shown, he is the front-runner to be the Raiders’ fifth running back behind the aforementioned backs and Jalen Richard. DeAndre Washington, Warren’s primary competition for a job, did not touch the football after pregame warmups.
Warren logged 13 carries for 86 yards in his NFL debut Aug. 10 against the Detroit Lions.
“He’s a good back, isn’t he?” Gruden said Saturday. “I mean, he’s run for almost 200 yards in two weeks. And I know he’s not playing against the regulars, but he’s not playing with the regulars, either. He’s a big, powerful back that’s taking care of the ball. He’s got to get better without the football — that’s what it’s all about with him.
“We know he can run. We know he’s powerful and fast and elusive. But he’s got to get a lot better without the football to be an NFL back.”
Warren agreed that he needs improvement in the passing game.
That’s only natural, however, given the early stage in his development. Warren, listed at 246 pounds on a 6-foot-2-inch frame, not only went undrafted but also was unsigned after the free-agency frenzy that follows the NFL draft. He signed after competing at rookie minicamp in May on a tryout basis.
“It’s true,” Warren said of Gruden’s comments. “It’s coming along better than it was two weeks ago, three weeks ago. But it’s definitely true. That goes for any running back in the league. You’ve got to get better at whatever it is you’ve got to get better at. Pass protection and getting out in routes are (two) of the things I really need to get better at. …
“I believe that I’m showing that I’m capable (of being an NFL back), but I don’t believe I’ve proved anything yet. I still need to go back out there and prove some more stuff.”
■ Undrafted rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro did not travel to Saturday’s exhibition. He recently “tweaked” his groin, Gruden said. Pineiro was seen Wednesday walking off the field with an athletic trainer before practice. It was the Raiders’ final practice of camp. Mike Nugent made the team’s only field-goal attempt from 31 yards.
■ Twenty-one players missed Saturday for reasons believed to be purely rest-related. Fifteen were on offense. Aside from the offensive line starters and running backs, the list consisted of quarterback Derek Carr, wide receivers Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant, and tight ends Jared Cook, Lee Smith and Derek Carrier. The defense was without end Bruce Irvin, nose tackle Justin Ellis, linebackers Tahir Whitehead, Derrick Johnson and Emmanuel Lamur, and cornerback Leon Hall.
■ Wide receiver Seth Roberts did not make the trip. He suffered a concussion Aug. 7 but returned to practice Wednesday.
■ Wide receiver Griff Whalen caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, cutting the Raiders’ deficit to 16-15. Gruden confirmed suspicions on why the team attempted (unsuccessfully) a two-point conversion. “I was going to do everything humanly possible to avoid overtime, yes,” he said.
■ Quarterbacks Connor Cook and EJ Manuel more or less alternated quarters. Cook finished 6 of 12 for 49 yards. Manuel was 10 of 16 for 89 yards and a touchdown. Both lost a fumble.