Football is back! And that means Ballers and Busters is back for its fifth season. The Raiders came out excited to play their first game of this new era of Raider football. Dennis Allen was coaching his first game as a head coach and general manager Reggie McKenzie would get his first opportunity to see the players he inherited and acquired this offseason.
The game wasn't rife with excitement and the 3-0 score at the end was indicative of that. But there were some positives and as almost always happens when putting this article together, there were a few surprises as well.
Being that it was the first game of the preseason, the starters lived up to their names as they only started the game, played a one or two series and then checked out in favor of the backups and hopefuls. We didn't see much of them on this day but we got a glimpse of the players we can expect to see a lot more of throughout the season. Here are those who played like the best on this team and those who did not.
Entire defensive line
The Raiders first team defensive line was terrorizing the Cowboys' offensive line. Lamarr Houston got things started off when the Cowboys ran toward him and he stuffed it at the line for no gain. Two plays later the Cowboys tried the other side of the line and Desmond Bryant, who was filling in for Richard Seymour, stuffed that run. Then on the next drive, Houston chased down Tony Romo, who was barely able to escape his grasp and complete a pass to his tight end, Jason Witten. Thing is, Witten was two yards behind the line and Rolando McClain was there to pop him down for a loss. The next play, Tommy Kelly was in the backfield like no one was in front of him and this time Romo couldn't escape and he went down for a 12 yard loss. With the Cowboys in 3rd and 25, the Raiders covered for the pass, the Cowboys handed it off, picked up three yards, and punted. That three yards was the only rushing yards the Cowboys had in the first quarter.
The offense got off to a fast start in this game. And I mean, Darren McFadden kind of fast. He was only out there for three plays because that was all the coaches need to see. Then it was like "ok, he's good, we've seen all we need to see." On those three plays, McFadden ran for four yards, caught an 18 yard screen pass, and then ran for 16 yards. After starting at their own 14 yard line, the Raiders were in business in Cowboy territory in no time. If Palmer hadn't thrown an interception on the next play, we may have seen a couple more nice plays from McFadden on that drive. Most likely resulting in a score. It was a nice preview none the less.
He has been saying how excited he is with this new defense and a lot of people just thought it was lip service. He made several nice plays in his limited time on the field. His two combined tackles led all starters. On the Raiders' first defensive possession, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant for a 24 yard gain and Huff came over to stop him from getting any yards after the catch. Two plays later, he had tight coverage to force an incompletion and the Cowboys would get no more yards on the drive and be forced to punt. The first team came out for one more series in which Huff and Dave Tollefson combined to stuff a run on third down.
Ford made enough mistakes in this game for the all 90 players. If he were a rookie trying to make this team, this performance would very likely have gotten him cut. The first drive looked pretty good on the first three plays. But then the Raiders went for the long ball. Carson Palmer thought Ford was going to break open deep and launched one for him. The safety came over and made a nice play but Ford seemed as if he didn't put forth maximum effort to either try to catch it, or ensure the safety didn't intercept it. He didn't. The ball was intercepted. Drive over.
The next Raiders possession, Palmer was looking for Ford again. First he completed one to Darrius Heyward-Bey for seven yards. Then two straight passes to Ford resulted in two straight drops and a punt. Some strong defensive play pinned the Cowboys deep in their own territory and the ensuing punt was to give Ford a lot of room to put the Raiders in great field position. Ford set up under the punt at around the 37 yard line only to have it bounce off him. He tried to pick it up and promptly stepped out of bounds.
All of this happened in the first quarter alone. It's the kind of day that will give a guy nightmares. Or it should. It better.
He played two series going 3 for 6 for 33 yards and an interception for a QB rating of 27.1 although in Palmer's defense, all three of his incompletions were intended for Ford and two were flat out drops. But the third one resulted in an interception on a pass that should not have been thrown. Palmer said after the game "that's what the preseason is for." Sure, in one regard that may be true. But you also have to try and run your offense in preseason and if you are throwing into double coverage, your offense doesn't really get a chance to get reps. Both Palmer and coach Allen say that they had the coverage they wanted and the safety just made a nice play. But Palmer also overthrew the ball which had Jacoby Ford reaching for it instead of stepping in front of the closing safety. The only passes Palmer completed were short ones. His longest completion came on a screen pass to McFadden that went for 18 yards. His other passes went for 8 and 7 yards respecitively.