Saturday: I had been excited for it, waiting for it, anticipating it for months. A pre-season game that is supposed to resemble real football. And my sweet lord, how I have been feinding for real football.
Saturday also happened to be one of my closest friends birthday and we are close friends despite his incredibly ugly life choice of being every bit the Seahawk fan that I am a Raider fan.
Still, as fall begins to leave its scent in the air, we had a good football centered day planned. We played football in the early afternoon and then BBQ'd at his house with another Seachicken friend while watching a second rate game pitting the Seachickens against that team that Favre plays on.
This is where my internal debate started. Do I just watch this silly action--or, at 6, do I go to his computer and watch the Raiders? I don't get to see my friend as much as I used to and it being his birthday and all I started thinking I'd just catch the replay Sunday night and watch the inferior game with my two amigos. It is only the pre-season after all.
6 O'clock started ticking closer and I began to get the shakes. Everything was turning silver and black. My friends were talking and all I heard was Raiders, Raiders, Raiders.
"You alright?" My friends asked.
"I gotta go watch real football," I said while growing pale and sweating.
"Why put yourself through that? You won't get real football until your dead owner dies."
"Yeah, well Pete Caroll looks healthy. So you guys are fucked." I said while heading towards the computer room.
"Al Davis!" They proudly shout.
"Remember, you are one fragile QB away from the Chuckin' Charlie Honkey-shifter era." The trade for Charlie Whitehurst has been invaluable to me this off-season.
So, I left them with that bitch slap o' truth and got the game up and going. After the first drive I had to wipe my eyes. It was too good to be true. Every play went perfectly and with Rich Gannon precision. Like the considerate friend I am, I ran out to gloat, then returned for more commitment to excellence.
Or so I thought. Ugh...things were changing. The 49ers were getting the better of the Raiders in the trenches, the Raiders were giving up big runs and opposing defenders were flying through un-blocked. They were punching the Raiders in the mouth and the Raiders weren't responding. I was getting anxious.
"It's all happening again. This looks too much like last year," I was whispering to myself in case my friends could hear. This is where the Raiders would start to give up and get blown out.
The 9ers ran a punt back right up the middle. I was sinking and I tried to right my internal ship. "No problem. It's pre-season. Punt coverage shouldn't be a problem in the regular season. The O gets the ball back and can get something going."
Then it happened. Mario Henderson forgot he was playing football and his man launched himself into Jason Campbell...and Campbell didn't get up. The trainers came onto the field. They were holding the sides of his head. My jaw was just hanging open. I was in shock. I didn't move until Campbell did.
I began to feel a little better, but my mood was soured. "Mario Henderson is worthless. Pre-season football is stupid. QB's should wear red jersey's in pre-season. That was a dirty hit. Marion Henderson is worthless! This is dumb." Then finally I came to the rationalization that I should stop neglecting my friends.
And I walked back out and collapsed into a pile on the couch. "What's wrong buddy?" I doubted my friends' sincerity.
"Mario Henderson sucks the devils nipples and pre-season football is stupid."
"We told you not to watch the Raiders game."
"Jason Campbell just got carted off the field."
"Ouch! Good thing you have JaMarcus to back him up. That kid has potential." They apparently thought this was funny, but my friends don't get that it's not funny at all. It's only funny when it happens to the Seahawks.
So, I watched the Favre bowl, which featured a nice TD grab by Javon Walker. That was it--I had had enough. "Football is stupid!" We all decided, turned off the TV and left.
Time heals all wounds they correctly say and football is now forgiven. Upon second viewing of the game, I find myself with a rosier perspective on the Raiders showing. It helps that Campbell's injury is not serious as it initially looked. Although it came out that he is having his throwing wrist examined.
If it's possible, Saturday's game brought me down to earth while at the same time reaffirming my hope. This is not the same team it was last year, but it is only a few months removed from that team. And it is a team that has changed mostly by the insertion of young players. The ills will not be erased overnight.
So, the things that illed this team from last year, other than one blubbery non-prepared exception, reared their head in this game. We saw, as KA1ZR pointed out, spotty line play resulting in hurt QB's, multiple drops of catchable balls, lack of discipline by LB's resulting in big run plays, and less than stellar tackling.
But as I said, I saw some positives. So...
What Has Pulled Me From Football Abyss:
- What I liked and what changed my feeling about this game more than anything was the Raiders response. As I said, they were getting punched in the mouth by the 9ers and it looked like the all too familiar seeds of a blow out. Well, call me Adrian, 'cause this team showed they got a little Rocky in 'em.
- The shot that caught Drago and cut his eye came when Louis Murphy caught a bubble screen and then pulled half of the 9ers D for a couple of extra yards. He was not alone; the team had his back. Henderson got flagged on this play for getting a little extracurricular, but I thought that was a bogus call and the 9ers needed to get popped back.
- That's right, I said bubble screen and it worked. I like what I have seen of Hue's offense. It is a great mix of long and short throws and the screens look effective and they are a great way to slow down a pass rush.
- They quickly followed that play with the long strike to Murphy for the TD. What a sight that play was. The O-line picked up the blitz, Hue had the perfect play call in, DHB demanded the faster corner to follow him leaving the safety to get torched by Murph. This left Grad to make one of the easier throws a QB will have. The post to the inside guy and Grad drilled it.
- The Raiders kept fighting and when the starters left, they left with the lead.
- Except for some key drops, the passing game looked fantastic.
- The guy playing in Stanford Routt's jersey: He is awesome! Read Sons excellent in-person analysis on Routt and others.
- DHB was in the house. He is still letting the ball get into his body, but he was running crisp routes, getting open and moving the chains.
- The reduction of pre-snap penalties. Still, not perfect, but much better.
- Bruce Gradkowski is back! It is a luxury to have this guy as a back-up. The Raiders last offensive play sums up everything I love about the man. He was hurried, ran up in the pocket to create time then started to get pulled down--so he awkwardly, while flat-footed, heaved a 40-yard pass that hit Watkins in stride for what would've been a game winner.
What Still Bothers Me
- Mario Henderson's inconsistency is looking awfully consistent.
- Kick Return Blocking: It doesn't look any better.
- The drops. Brandon Meyers drop on Campbell's 3rd down pass is a butterfly. Go back in time, squash that butterfly and witness an entirely different future unfold.
- The battle for the last WR roster spot: No one is grabbing the captain's hat.
- Running to the right side of the line: I hope they look to run to the left side more than the right once the season starts. KA1 documented these woes well.
- Jason Campbell's wrist.
- Michael Bush's thumb: While it is said he will likely be available for Week One, I worry about the impact his thumb will have on his catching and blocking.
Interesting Things in the Neutral Spectrum:
- Desmond Bryant got pushed around too much on running plays. I thought the D looked way better with Henderson in. In the end though, it's good training for Bryant, Seymour will be back and Bryant can be that energy, rotation lineman.
- Jared Veldheer: While he is way, way, way, ahead of where I expected him to be, his lack of awareness scares me. He proved his physical tools, now he just needs to continue his already rapid acclimation to his new position.
- Satele will be back practicing this week and Cable was non-committal about the starting Center spot. Cable:
I want to look at it. There were some things from last night’s game that I was not pleased with but there were also a lot of good things at the center position. I think the fact that Samson is ready to go is the most important thing right now.
- Marcell Reece: He is a wonderful weapon in the FB position, but his blocking--while improved--is still not great. He looks like he is going to be the starter, but with Bush's broken thumb limiting his blocking skills and the obvious need for a RB to pick up a block now and then, I am a little nervous.
- Darren McFadden: Overall, I was pleased with his performance. It is easy to knock him for his yards per carry, but the guy didn't have a chance. He had one run where he once again let gravity make the tackle, but he also had a nice run on a pitch when he actually got a chance to get going. Not surprisingly, he looked great catching the ball.
- While the 9ers got 5 yards per carry and racked up 165 yards this is way better than the 5.9 YPC and 275 yards they got in Week 2 of the pre-season last year.
- Since we are comparing pre-seasons, last year's game 3 was the debacle against the Saints. Compare the two and you'll see how much this team has grown in a year.