The Good? We haven't even really seen our first team in full yet, nor has anyone. We don't even know who that will be on the Offensive line, but have a pretty good idea, barring any surprises. The Bad: There exists a significant drop-off in talent when the depth chart toppers exit the field, especially defensively. In fact, it seems that when we don't have our starting eleven, there's almost no one out there to get in the way of opposing offenses moving the ball up and down the field at will, and scoring just as easily. It's really ugly. Without our starting front four, and the rotational guys we'll mix in, we failed to produce pressure consistently against even their second and third units, and don't get me started about when Drew F. Brees was on the field.
A few details after the jump. I'll be breaking most of it down play-by-play which will hopefully reveal some more to be positive about, because this game offered very little to quell our concerns going into the game...
The run defense? What run defense! Our lbs continue to show that only Rolando can read what's going on in the backfield behind opposing offenses' O lines, or maybe he's the only one who can see back there. In fact, it's quite possible the only other backer to make a play in the backfield was Darryl Blackstock, who might not be on the roster at all, but did much to help his bid for a job on our lb-depraved squad. Our safeties and defensive backs gave receivers way too much space, and allowed for hitting guys in the second level to move the chains at will, as if we had zero guys covering them.
And what of the much lauded front four we're supposed to be fielding? Without sending extra help, we failed to create any pressure whatsoever, and do that against a guy like Drew F. Brees or Phillip F. Rivers, and you're in for a long, long day on defense, as witnessed in the debacle yesterday. I have to say, I had much higher hopes for Desmond Bryant, and even considered him to be eventually eclipsing Kelly in performance, but we saw nothing to indicate that yesterday. The defensive tackles also allowed for runs at will for first downs and tds in short yardage all day long. This only adds to our woes of lacking linebackers who possess the ability to defend against the run, and will continue to be a thorn in our sides all season if nothing is done to fix it.
After Stanford Routt, our secondary is sorely lacking, and provides yet another weakness for offenses to blatantly exploit all season. Nothing about multiple weaknesses and liabilities on defense says bully. Nothing. Branch continues to show the inability to cover with any consistency, and lacks instincts in run support as well. DVD is experiencing excruciating growing pains getting thrown to the fire, and though I'm confident he'll grow into something special, it does nothing for the first half of our season, which is key to our coming out of the gates and having a chance to win this division. Two winnable games on the road, and two significant challenges against two of the NFL's top teams in our house to follow. Get healthy, CJ, and fast, and please let Lito Sheppard still have a chip on his shoulder, or we're in serious trouble. Huff was caught out of position often and early for significant gains as well. Mike Mitchell: we need you to be the guy we see on your college tape, like yesterday.
Offensively, it's a night and day difference from last year, especially in the passing game. For the first time in a long time, it appears our wr corps will emerge a strength going into the season, with Denarius Moore and Derek Hagan being key additions, especially in the possession game. The tight ends are sorely lacking too, after Boss and Ausberry, and David can't be a starter until we develop his blocking further. Myers continues to be marginal, and I wouldn't mind if we waived him one bit.
Our backfield appears to have another fine addition in Taiwan Jones, who demonstrated he has what it takes in just a few touches, to be a prolific running back in this game. As a blocker, not so much, but he'll stretch defenses used properly, especially if we can get him on the field with Mike Bush, Darren McFadden, or Marcel Reece on any given down. He demonstrated great instinct, and the ability to make guys miss with his speed and agility, and also uses the stiff arm against secondary extremely well.
Our offensive line is coming together, and this is great news indeed, but I still wouldn't mind the addition of just one more vet. Andre Gurode was waived by the Cowboy's today, and would provide a guy who could compete for the starting job at center, probably at a decent price, and would help our overall situation tremendously. I remain hopeful we'll make a move on one such guy. It was awesome to see Bruce Campbell finally getting some reps, and stepping up to the plate. Stephon Heyer is living up to my expectations to help our tackle situation as well, and it is a welcome appearance.
So, it appears we're still sorely lacking at the OLB spot, and I feel there could be some great talent available with this first batch of cuts, and even from the second or third, but waiting too long will prove detrimental to our defensive unit's development. I'm holding out hope we'll bring in a guy who can lift the performance of his teammates, and boast the ability to smother the run. It'll be nice to find a guy who can cover TEs well too, but I won't mind if he can't so long as the run stopping ability is there. Mr. Davis: THIS IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL IF WE INSIST ON JOCKING THE BULLY ANGLE.
I won't be able to record the parts of the game I missed until super late tonight, so the play-by-play breakdown will have to wait until tomorrow, but I hope it will reveal that some of the absence of defense on our part can be explained by the tape, and that the situation is not as dire as it now appears. Some penalties cost us significantly, and the sack by Bruce Davis was a bad call imo, but that will happen to our Raiders until the cows come home, and we are well aware of that.