Finally, Raider football! The result of this game didn't really matter to me, I was just happy to see how our starters and backups played after being famished of anything pig skinned and not played in an arena. As you would expect, our starters played much better than our back ups, which both raised my enthusiasm for our starting core and my alarm for our overall depth at certain positions. There is only so much you can take away from a preseason game without being overly confident or worrisome, but alas, here is what I saw out of preseason week #1.
A good showing from our starting offense considering they were without their two biggest weapons, being DMC and Jacoby Ford. The offensive line wasn't spectacular, but pass blocked pretty well, which is all I was hoping to see improvement on from last season. Khalif certainly looks like the weak link, but a couple of false starts in the first preseason game shouldn't throw him on the chopping block. Jason Campbell looked sharp, and even DHB caught a pass (look it up if you don't believe me!), but our red zone offense needs to be worked on a bit (keep in mind, DMC and Jacoby would have both been big targets down there). Obviously Hue Jackson and Al Saunders aren't going to reveal their game plan and key plays in a preseason game, but I felt that the play calling on offense was a little too simple. There were far more passing attempts than I expected, considering we are a run first team, but that is to be expected when your star RB is out of the game (and we could use all the passing practice we can get).
The starting defensive line looked absolutely ferocious, and I couldn't be more psyched about the pressure those guys are going to bring to QB's, even on a 4 man rush. Our starting LB's looked much more equipped to stop the run, and didn't look too shabby in coverage, Quinten Groves aside. Hopefully we can replace Groves with Tatupu or Banta-Cain from New England, or Goethel if he makes the transition to OLB, otherwise we are going to see a lot of plays going to Groves' side. The starting secondary was decent, with Michael Huff making a nice read to stuff a quick dump off to the RB for a loss. However, unless Sterling Moore can keep up his quick progression I don't have a lot of faith in our nickel CB. And I don't even want to think about what we will do if CJ/Routt go down from injuries.
As for our 2nd and 3rd stringers, I saw some areas I really liked, and some areas I wanted to give an Extreme Home Makeover to. Our defensive line is incredibly deep this year, with Jarvis Moss and Big John Henderson both making big plays. Travis Goethel was very impressive, and I really hope we can move him to OLB and replace Groves, because I don't see him replacing Ro McClain anytime soon (barring injury). Goethel was probably the only back up LB I was impressed with, which could be cause for concern if Wimbley or Ro go down. Kyle Boller was so-so, but I don't expect much from him this year. Trent Edwards was a nice surprise, making some good, accurate throws and scrambling for a big gain late in the game. He seemed to stray from moving up in the pocket whenever he felt pressure coming, but he played fairly well for how little talent he had surrounding him on the field.
The backup secondary was, to say the least, face-palming. DVD is nowhere near ready to start in the NFL, but I don't think any of us (realistically) expected that this year anyway. Ware and Walt McFadden were atrociously bad, and if it wasn't for the severe lack of depth we have at CB, I would want them cut immediately. Sterling Moore was the only beacon of hope from our backup CBs, especially on the CB blitz (remind anyone else of Charles Woodson on that play?), and I would love to see him develop into a starting #1 or 2 CB on our roster. But, that will likely not happen this year, so c'mon Kelvin Hayden, it's beautiful in Oak Town this time of year! Hiram Eugune looked like he suffered a serious injury, but if Huff can stay healthy (and that's a real hopeful if), we should be fine. Michael Bennett and Rock showed some promise as a possible 3rd down bruising back, but Louis Rankin looked ugly and had better start impressing soon. Denarius Moore had a solid night overall. A couple drops (primarily due to poor throws), but showed some real promise as a PR. A return duo of D. Moore/Jacoby could be fearsome so long as they stay healthy, new kickoff rules be damned. This in turn means the likely departure of Nick Miller, and my eyes will be good and dry as I go to sleep knowing that. Bodiford, Ausberry, and K. Brock all looked promising tonight, and provide great depth to an already talented group of receiving targets. Chad Jackson however, looks like the same old bust that he was in NE. I would be surprised if we see him by the regular season as even a back up WR, but he showed some real potential as a DB with that pass deflection late in the game (kidding...but he's still probably better than Ware or Walt).
All in all, a fun game to watch. Jano showed us all that he can actually make a game winning FG against Arizona (assuming our 3rd string D would have manned up), but at this point he should be expected to make those big kicks. Before the game I felt that OLB was the biggest concern for our roster before the regular season started, but it now seems painfully obvious that we need to sign Kelvin Hayden. There is always the possibility that we trade for an equivalent CB (Asante Samuel, anyone?), especially with all of the extra depth we have at WR, TE, RB, and DT/DE to use as bargaining chips. Tonight was a tough loss, but it was essential in addressing what our biggest needs are. And I sure think it did. Go Raiders.