After the oh-so-long offseason of mini camps, OTA's and training camp, the Raiders preparation for the 2009 NFL regular season gets underway for almost real, this coming Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at the Coliseum against the Dallas Cowboys. I say almost real, because, as you all know, it's just a preseason game right?
Well for Raiders fans its a bit more than that. After the last six years of losing, poor and undisciplined play, the Raiders seem to have bought into the culture change that Tom Cable is installing. So while this first preseason game is"meaningless" in most respects, it has meaning in the way that we are going to get a preview of the product that will be the 2009 Oakland Raiders.
For one, we are going to see how this team performs against someone other than themselves, with unrestrained hitting and a new enthusiasm and intensity from players that want to be here and want to be Raiders.
Here are a few of the things that I am looking for in this first game:
- Attention to the fundamentals: Yes, it is preseason and there are 80 players on the roster vying for a spot, however, the new coaching staff's attention on teaching, execution and discipline should be evident even in a preseason game. Tackling, blocking and avoiding stupid penalties are right at the top of my list.
- JaMarcus Russell: Much has already been discussed about our expectations from Russell this year. I am looking more for a progress in his mental game and in his fundamentals, such as footwork and ball handling. As I have believed all offseason, Paul Hackett should be having a major impact on Russell in those areas and that should appear in Russell's play in this first game. Not looking for stats, but looking for confidence, leadership and his maturation in his understanding of the game.
- Darren McFadden's involvement in the offense: McFadden's rookie season was limited due to his various injuries and bizarre under use in key game situations. Cable has stated many times that McFadden will be on the field a lot in multiple formations and be a major part of the offense. I for one, want to see that he has fully recovered to the player we think he is and that he will be properly used in this offense.
- Standout new players: We have been hearing about some top performers from some of our new players from free agency and the draft during OTA's and camp. I would like to see DHB, Louis Murphy and Nick Miller bring what they are doing on the practice field to this first game. Is Greg Ellis the answer in replacing Burgess? Does Matt Shaughnessy look like he will be the real deal or will he go the way of another Raiders previous 3rd round pick at DE, Quentin Moses went?
- The Mike Mitchell Hit: Well, so much has been stated about Mitchell's ability to "lay wood" and how he has had to hold back his hitting to avoid taking out his own teammates. Now, the gloves can come off and he has the chance to silence his critics for the Raiders taking him in the 2nd round and layout a Cowboy. Based on what I have read about from Mitchell, it can almost be certain that he is going to get at least one big hit in this game. After years of underwhelming play from Raiders safeties it will be great to see a Raider safety bring some intimidation back to that part of the field.
Those are just some of the things that I am looking for from this first Raiders preseason game. What are you looking for from the Raiders from the in this first game? I have intentionally left out of the poll, injuries, as that is an obvious point that doesn't need to be stated.