It is a well established fact in the NFL that teams use the first two games of the preseason as a diagnostic tool for evaluating as many players as possible from their 80 man rosters to start preparing for who will remain on the final 53. Then, on week three of the preseason, NFL teams play most of their starters for 3 quarters and they actually install a game plan for the offense and defense.
The 4th game is where many of the veteran starters rest and get ready for the regular season opener and teams play to avoid injuries and to make any final evaluations of the remaining "bubble" players before the final cut down. I bring this up because the first two preseason games for the Raiders, like the rest of the NFL, are more for "individual" evaluations not "unit" evaluations. NFL teams for those two games tend to play very straight, vanilla type offenses and defenses so that they can evaluate individual players without the complexities of a complicated game plan. When week three of the preseason comes around, then there will be some actual vision of "unit" play with some of the complexities of the typical regular season game planning involved.
So for the Raiders, this upcoming week 3 preseason game against the New Orleans Saints will serve as a better barometer for the quality and readiness of the team unit play in preparation of the regular season opener. We have to remember, for the reasons stated above, that this is the preseason and to not get too alarmed about how the "team" that is carrying 80 players is looking with their unit play. There will be many around here that will harp on the "unit's" run defense. There is some validity for the concern, but it is way too early to make a judgment there yet. If the Saints run all over the Raiders defense next week during the first 3 quarters, then we can start being concerned. I expect that the Raiders will install a sound game plan for the Saints game and will defense the run adequately enough to show progress in that unit's department.
With that being said, let's look at some of the positive and negative "individual" play from last night's game:
- JaMarcus Russell: Nothing brilliant, but playing error free and showing marked improvement in his fundamentals is quite encouraging. His footwork was much better then last season at this time and his decision making is coming together, the Paul Hackett factor seems to be working.
- Oren O'Neal: Just the fact that he is on the field after that serious knee injury is great news for the Raiders offense. His showing as a lead blocker and blitz protector will make the release of Lorenzo Neal more palatable.
- Brandon Meyers: The rookie 6th round pick out of Iowa was supposed to be just a "blocking" tight end. Well, Meyers can catch the ball too and that's a big bonus for the Raiders. Meyers not only made the roster with last night's performance, (4 receptions/75 yards and a TD) he may well have locked himself in as the #2 tight end behind Zach Miller.
Louis Murphy: It's not just the TD that he got (really due to blown coverage), but his poise out there, not being intimidated and not looking like a rookie. He will advance quickly and somewhat soften the blow of Chaz Schilen's absence.
- Ricky Brown: Brown played with high intensity and energy that had him all over the field. He was in and around just about every play, displaying great hustle and showing that he can be and wants to be a starter. With Morrison's injury, Brown will likely be the open night starter at MLB.
- Cornell Green: Another red zone penalty from the right tackle. How many more of these costly penalties are we going to have to endure from Green. Hurry up and get back Khalif or step up Pears, otherwise this will be a long season with Green.
- Nick Miller: He was probably trying too hard, but that 4th quarter fumble had to hurt his chances to make the team.
- Kirk Morrison: dislocated elbow is not that serious, but Captain Kirk is needed on the field and now he won't be for a few weeks.
- Injuries: Nnamdi, Rashad Baker, Mario Henderson and Fargas all with some minor injuries in addition to Morrison. God, I hate the preseason for this reason and for a team with as little quality depth as the Raiders have, every injury is meaningful.
Two "meaningless" preseason games in the books and the 3rd game approaching where we should see some signs of improved unit play. What are your post game thoughts Raider Nation?