Football is back people, and not just football, Raider football! We just finished up the first of four preseason games and you know I've got a lot to talk about. Like every exhibition game there was good, bad, ugly, and of course; we still have to take everything from it with a grain of salt. I'm psyched to talk football, and a lot about offseason.
You know I hate the long intros so let's get right into it after the jump. After all, I've had a whole offseason of thoughts built up just ready to let it loose.
But let me first say, this was again an exhibition game off an offseason with little camp and no OTA's or minicamps. A lot of teams are far from regular season form. Heck they might be in preseason form when the regular season starts. Things are very far from set in stone. Also, the Raiders did just play the Cardinals who are legitimately in the running for Andrew Luck despite paying and trading a ton for Kevin Kolb.
Raiders passing game- I won't flood with you stats. Let's just look at things as they are. The Raiders passing game looked very solid out there. This without Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy. The pass blocking was good, with the obvious exception of Khalif Barnes. Good news though, I fully expect Barksdale to start at RT as I have since he was drafted.
However, they did play against a secondary that was terrible last year even with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who himself was pretty bad). The Cards also have a pretty terrible pass rush. However! The Raiders first team played like they should against such a terrible pass defense. Campbell I don't believe ever got sacked. The Raiders receivers got open consistently and didn't drop too many passes.
Despite lockout offseason rust, the Raiders passing game played the Cards terrible pass defense just like that, as a terrible pass defense. A huge positive when you consider that at times the passing game looked only average against bad pass defenses. I can finally say Oakland has a legitimate passing game.
Raiders running game- Aside from a couple nice Michael Bush runs I was really disappointed here. Sure Darren McFadden didn't play, sure this is the first time the running game is running plays from handoff to tackle in a game situation, etc. Michael Bush is one of the hardest backs to stuff in the entire NFL. It's almost impossible to keep him from gaining 4 or 5 yards at least, on every handoff.
However, he ran for a little over 3 YPC going 5 for 16. Add in that one 7 yards run and he's now running on 4 for 9. This isn't Michael Bush, this is the offensive line and Marcel Reece. I know the line's chemistry is next to nothing, but if they don't step it up by the time the regular season rolls around, I will be very worried. If we could just barely manage 3 YPC against the Arizona Cardinals, I shutter wondering how we'll fare against some of the teams on the schedule.
Of course things are from set in stone once again, but it's hard to look at the first team's performance and not be legitimately concerned.
Raiders pass defense- Demarcus Van Dyke is terrible, DVD sucks, horrible pick, bla bla bla. Everyone just calm down. He was playing against Larry Fitzgerald. I'd be more shocked and upset if Fitzgerald struggled at all against a rookie nickel/dime corner. The fact he was getting beat against a deep Cards receiving corps who no matter what has always been a 4 man deep unit for a while now in the preseason in his first NFL action means next to nothing.
The only thing we learned about DVD is what we all should know by now. He's going to struggle against and get manhandled by the bigger more physical receivers in the NFL. He's going to struggle in his first year because it is just that, his first year. He's a developmental guy and I really doubt he'll such much action this year in all honesty. Why?
Let's just go ahead and anoint Jeremy Ware the nickel corner spot. Walter McFadden and DVD are nearly identical in that both are developmental projects who should be manning the dime spot, and rotating in against small speedsters in the slot. Ware is more apt to the big physical receivers, and the more well-rounded complete package guys. Jeremy Ware has shown more and played more and deserves the spot. If he doesn't get the job then I'm going to be severely questioning the status of Hue Jackson. Just another puppet perhaps? If DVD gets the nickel spot this year I will have to answer yes. Luckily, I'm leaning towards Hue putting Ware at nickel.
The Raiders pass rush will still be incredibly dominant this year. That Cards line might be the worst in the league, and the Raiders once again played like they were playing a bad line. Their O-Line was like a plastic bag caught in an Autumn Wind.
Lastly, I told you so once again. Routt and CJ handled themselves extremely well. I was expecting one of them to let up something to Fitz because I assumed they would struggle against that type of receiver. It was only one series, but then again I was expecting a touchdown or big play to Larry Fitzgerald in that one series.
Raiders rush defense- Beanie Wells had a 15 yard run. Outside of that run he was 5 for 7. Yep, this is still the same rush defense from last year. Stuff, short gain, short gain, stuff, big run. However that 15 yarder will likely be more yards and more consistent when it comes time to face actually decent backs. The rush D at the end of the year will more than likely have a bad ranking, but it'll be inflated by a lot of big runs.
Also, we better be praying Tim Tebow does not start in Denver. Oakland still struggles to stop QB scrambles thanks to pure man coverage and four man rushes (we blitzed a lot the past couple preseasons and we know how that changed come the regular season). This was also Kevin Kolb. He can run and is decently mobile, but he's not exactly one of the great scramblers in the league.
Overall- The team looks exactly the same as last year because it is largely the same team as last year. The running game struggled but last year it was rushing attack that got better as games wore on and defenses got tired. Expect much the same this year.
The good thing with this team looking the same as last year's 8-8 team is just that. They already look like that 8-8 team this early on. Last year the team looked like another 5-11 early on. We're already looking to be in 8-8 form with key players missing from this game. It'll be interesting to see though if that 8-8 team lingers around, or finally steps it up.
Now then I have a couple thoughts on how this team should look when the regular season starts and I'll start with the WR depth chart. Here's my thoughts on how and why the chart should be early on:
- Chaz Schilens- When healthy he's the best wide receiver on roster. People forget that he ran I believe a 4.5 and oh by the way, has the best hands of the receiving corps. He's a complete package player and is a legit #1 type receiver in the NFL. He should be #1 when healthy no matter what. He's simply the best on the team, and the most experienced.
- Denarius Moore- I told you so. When people said, just another speedster, I said this guy was going to challenge for a starting spot and was a complete package. Sure he dropped a pass in his first ever NFL action with only two weeks of true team workout and camp time. I'm surprised that under those circumstances he didn't do worse. He's another all-around well-rounded package and should definitely be starting if he keeps this up. If you want Moore of my thoughts (lol pun), check my draft impressions post.
- Jacoby Ford- First off this isn't to say Ford shouldn't play with first team. He'll of course be rotated and subbed in, and when not if Chaz goes down, he'll start. He's a dynamic burner who can make some highlight reel catches and is a HUGE mismatch. But he's like 5'9" or 5'10". He's just not big enough in my book to be starting on the outside. Use him in the slot to make the most of his speed and the mismatch.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey- He had a pretty good game last night, and has had a pretty good camp. We'll have to see how things go come regular season. If he does breakout this year, then he should start over Moore. If he does, I told you so. I told all of you so. 3 year learning curve anyone? I've been saying it all those 3 years. However, I don't expect him to. I just don't. Something about him I just can't say, yep this is the year he becomes a legit starter in the NFL. Luckily I did say 3-4 year learning curve. He should definitely rotate in a lot and get a lot of work in the slot and outside.
- Louis Murphy- Overrated in my book. The guy's hands are pretty bad and he just hasn't shown me any reason to expect him to be better than the other four. He might however be the best #5 receiver in the league.
- Derek Hagan- Tough veteran possession receiver. No one else on the team like that. There's plenty of guys with Nick Miller speed though. Hagan should make the team.
Notice there I said should at the beginning. However my honest prediction which makes me incredibly mad is:
Moore is better than DHB though I'll say he is equal to Ford, just Ford works better in the slot and in rotation. Moore will probably get pushed down to #4 WR duties which includes occasional slot rotation and only showing up in the 4 wide receiver looks which Oakland doesn't really like to run.
Hagan>Miller and it's not even close.
Here's my quick prediction on the O-Line and I believe this also the best line.
LT Jared Veldheer- He's the best LT on roster, though that's not saying much. Wish we could have gotten someone better so he could play the spot he's right for, RT. Still a solid guy on the left side though.
LG Stephon Heyer- Apologize if misspelled. He came in for only a couple snaps here and blocked on the only two Michael Bush runs that made me happy. That's good enough for me. Also I think his starting experience gives him a sizable edge over Daniel Loper. Heyer is a physical guy who should have been playing inside his whole career. i think he'll be a solid LG.
C Samson Satele- Again, I told you so. Satele may be smaller than the typical power blocking C. However, he looked good late in the year last year. Coincidentally we went to an almost all power blocking offense late last year too. Hmm.....maybe there's something to why Satele played so well late last year when power blocking really kicked in.
RG Stefen Wisniewski- He's too good not to start somewhere. His best years in college were at RG, he's not intelligent enough nor does he have the grasp on the game or the savvy to be center at this point, but he'll make a heck of a RG.
RT Joesph Barksdale- Normally I would oppose both right side spots to be manned by rookies, but Barksdale has been playing this scheme, with this type of run heavy offensive philosophy, with yearly powerhouse LSU. He's a very physical run blocker and is the best RT on roster. Though I can't wait for Wis to become the center of the future so that Joe can become the RG of the future. Till then, I'll think he'll surprise some people at RT.
General NFL offseason thoughts-
- The Eagles elevated an already top-10 pass defense and in the process made an already average rush defense even worse. Good luck in that run heavy division. I'm sure the Giants will love it.
- Seems the Andrew Luck contest is in full swing as the Bengals, Dolphins, 49ers, and Cardinals seem hellbent on becoming the worst team in the NFL. The only problem is the Dolphins were the only ones who didn't throw a ton of money or high draft picks towards QB. I don't think the others know how to play the game.
- New England is probably still going to be the best regular season team in the AFC and I'm gonna say Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter are the only two moves that play any significant part in it.
- Zach Miller is already regretting playing Seattle. It only took a pass thrown way too high to Miller from Tavarris Jackson on a middle seam that set up Miller to get his ribs speared by Bob Sanders in the preseason. Have fun with the year Miller. Hope Tavarris Jackson doesn't get you killed. And that's not an expression either, he could literally get you killed.
- How long before Adrian Peterson requests a trade out of Minnesota? My guess, not soon enough.
- How long before Chris Johnson requests a trade out of Tennessee? My guess, way to make them give you a huge long-term deal (most likely). Definitely not soon enough.
- Tim Tebow will eventually start over Kyle Orton at some point this year despite Orton probably playing a lot better. Tebow will probably finish with a losing record only beating bad pass defenses and get heralded in the media for the second straight year.
- My surprise playoff team comes from the AFC South. That's right. The one we've all been waiting for and that everyone keeps predicting every year. Yep, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Oh wait, you thought I meant Houston? Sorry folks. Whether it's Blaine Gabbert or David Garrard, the Jags have a good enough quarterback to manage the game for Maurice Jones-Drew who finally has a backfield buddy in Rashad Jennings. They have perhaps the best linebacker corps on the NFL. And their division is practically begging them to make playoffs. In a division built to stop Peyton Manning (and failing miserably), the only competent rush defense is the one in Jacksonville.
- I'm not buying the Lions hype. The D finally looks good, except the secondary sucks. And the offense looks good, except the QB can't stay healthy and the running game sucks. But guess what, I say they finish second in the division because.........
- The Bears are going to fall hard this year. How they were the #1 seed in the NFC last year is simply beyond me and they've done nothing to inspire confidence otherwise. Hellbent on having the worst group of TE's in the NFL, moving the worst RT in the NFL in pass protection to the LT spot, not doing anything to notably improve their secondary, and making their wide receivers even worse by most likely starting Roy Williams has got me saying the Bears will go 6-10. They got worse than they did last year when I already couldn't understand how they weren't 6-10 last year.
- Neither the Bucs nor the Cowboys will take the Bears playoff spot. Instead it'll be, hold onto your hats folks, the New York Giants. Did everyone forget they were one game from taking the Packers spot in the playoffs or that they did get better this year simply from getting guys healthy (sound familiar Green Bay?) and drafting, in my opinion, the next elite corner in Prince Amukamara. "But Osi Umenyiora will cause a distraction." Yes, an average and highly overrated defensive end who barely contributed last year will be a distraction. The Giants mentality won't let that happen. They'll be just fine.
- I still hold the firm belief that Kansas City is better than San Diego. KC got even better, those young guys are getting even better, and Connor Baldwin is my bet for the Mike Williams award of rookie WR in the second round who makes a huge impact. Don't worry my Raider brethren, we'll still beat KC this year. Though I'll only say once.
- The Jets won't make the AFC Championship game. They're worse then they were last year. However, I did say the exact same thing last year.
- Ernie Sims is still incredibly overrated. PFF's worst linebacker of the past three years is still starting. Oh wait I already said the Eagles rush D would suck.
- The Saints are going to be incredible this year. No way around it. They are going to be simply incredible. 14-2 anyone? The only thing holding them back is sucky linebackers, just like Philadelphia. Unlike Philadelphia though, Jonathan Vilma is still pretty good and the Saints D-Line is going to kill the run. That 14-2 comes with heaping, and I really mean heaping, helping of Aubrayo Franklin.
- This might be my longest post ever.
- Jerricho Cotchery to Pittsburgh immediately gives the Steelers the deepest receiving corps in the NFL.
- The West divisions are still the worst in football, which means we'll still never stop hearing about ESPN's East Coast darlings.
- The Panthers will improve to 6-10 if Clausen starts. If Newton starts then add them to my list of teams hellbent on getting Andrew Luck who already spent a ton of cash or high draft picks on QB. At least when Oakland was hellbent on getting J-Russ they did it right. By being cheap and giving themselves the need with Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter.