Already I am hearing predictions of impending doom amongst Raider fans for the 2011 season after the 40-20 loss at home to the New Orleans Saints, but despite the eventually lopsided score, there are actually far more positives than negatives to take out of this game.
But because I always like to finish on a high note, I’m going to deal with the negatives first.
Before I do that though, I want you to remember who were the Raiders players who were inactive for this game.
Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, Kevin Boss, Richard Seymour, John Henderson, Mike Mitchell, and Chris Johnson. All starters (apart from Henderson), who would have made a big difference on both sides of the ball.
So, on to the negatives
· The pass defense got shredded repeatedly by Drew Brees & Co. They might have picked on DVD early, but don’t kid yourself that anyone else was any better, because they weren’t. Routt, Branch, and Huff all got abused in one fashion or another. It was bad.
· The Raiders tried some zone defense, and showed why they don’t run it very often as there was constant miscommunication. That said though, it was mostly with the second team.
· No pass rush. Very little push from the front four. If the secondary is weak & inexperienced, the line has bring pressure to help out. It didn’t happen.
· DHB played badly, again. Say what you want about him being a rare physical specimen with a good character and having a ‘good camp’, but he just isn’t a receiver. He can’t catch it short or deep. He’s a bust, plain and simple.
But on the upside...
· Jason Campbell played well, made generally good reads whilst going 12 of 17 for 150 yards.
· Derek Hagan underlined his strong camp showing with a great game, and if he doesn’t get a roster spot on this team I would be amazed. Great free agent pickup.
· Taiwan Jones is the real deal. Blindingly fast, an elusive open field runner, and surprisingly tough to bring down. He may not get that many carries this year, but when he does he is going to do some damage.
· Rolando McClain looked a step quicker, and good in coverage. He made some good run stops, and you can’t expect him to make every tackle on this team.
· Michael Bush was a hammer, I wouldn’t like to get in his way.
My biggest positive of all though is around the offensive line. I thought it was the biggest question mark going into this season and they played well as a group last night.
Stefan Wisniewski is going to start at left guard, and is clearly better than Daniel Loper. Young Wiz might not physically dominate the opposition, but he uses his hands effectively, understands angles and always seems to seal his guy of from the play. He is also tremendous at getting to the second level and punishing those linebackers.
Whoever graded him as a 4th/5th rounder was way out, this kid is a keeper.
In second team duties, Bruce Campbell and Joe Barksdale dominated, showing that this young offensive line is in good hands. Barksdale was particularly impressive, and didn’t seem much troubled in pass protection.
This is going to be a strong running game in Oakland this year.
A last word on DeMarcus Van Dyke. Enen though he got beat a lot last night, his coverage was often tight. Once he learns to get his head turned around and see the ball coming, he is going to be a lot better. Pre season has been invaluable for him, and I do think he has a shot to be a good player for us given a little time.
Needless to say he won’t be starting on week one though.