One of the big concerns facing the Raiders after our victory over the Cowboys in the Raiders preseason debut was the O-Line. The big question mark of the whole offseason (aside from the over/under on how many days it would be before Russell got canned).
So in the debut we saw one play in particular that was especially discouraging. The play where the entire right side of the O-Line from C to RT was bowled over, leading to a nasty sack on Campbell. Luckily Campbell was fine and we all could take our collective sighs of relief and frustration.
Immediately message boards and blogs ignited in fury over the atrocity that just occurred. And they were further emblazoned when Veldheer and Campbell came in and looked amazing. Many Raiders fans after the game were calling for Campbell and Veldheer to take over.
I'll admit that at first I was in agreement. But after some thinking, maybe it's time we all sat down and looked at this in positive manner. Tough to do when it's in regards to the Raiders O-Line, but I'm here to say it is not all bad.
* Let me first off say that this was one preseason games and that any and all observations from preseason should be taken with doubt. Preseason is far different from the real regular season.
Okay so let's look back at the overall matchup. The Raiders O-Line came into Dallas Stadium with the Cowboys already having a game under their belt (not a big advantage but it's at least notable). The O-Line that for the most part was the same as last year sans Cornell Green. So we can assume that the line was at the least slightly better without Green and with Henderson and Satele being in the system longer.
The line was regarded as being weak and undersized and one that would struggle versus 3-4. The line, that at times, could do great things in the running game, and at other times look lost. And one that never looked better than above average in pass protection.
Now let's look at the Dallas defense, mainly the front 7. Consisting of players like Igor Olshansky, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, DeMarcus Ware, etc. This front seven is considered top-5 in the NFL and the defense as a whole is one of the NFL's elite thanks to great individual personnel, amazing blitz schemes, and a magnificent system. A tough unit to run against and to protect the QB against.
However the first team O-Line only allowed one sack in over a quarter's worth of play and allowed Michael Bush to average over 4 yards a carry. Not only is that a far cry from you would see in games last year, but a far cry from what you would expect against top-tier defense who's scheme and personnel are a nightmarish matchup for this O-Line unit and scheme.
Now while they gave up pressure and were struggling, they were holding their own. Gallery and Henderson in particular played, at the risk of my own credibility, at a Pro Bowl level. Did Satele struggle, yes. Did Carlisle get shoved around, yes. Did Walker look amateur, yes. But this is the Dallas defense. They make the Giants O-Line, in my opinion one of the best O-Lines in the NFL, look second rate.
The fact that we didn't give up more sacks than just one speaks volumes for how far this O-Line has come along. Could they have been better, yes they could have. But i gotta say that I am proud of how well they handled themselves. They looked better than the Bengals O-Line in the preseason opener when Dallas was running rampant on them, barely giving Palmer room to breathe.
So before we go about begging for trading for the still injured Jared Gaither, look once more at this unit. They're a solid enough group who are inconsistent. Going from looking great, to average, to Pittsburgh Steeler bad. However, I can say they are working on their consistency as they only had that one moment of tragic meltdown. Where as last year we would see that at least 4 times a game.
Look at the Ravens O-Line in their preseason opener, they couldn't contain a Panthers pass rush that is missing Julius Peppers. They gave up two sacks to Tyler Brayton. Tyler Brayton people. And we gave up one sack to that loaded front seven of Dallas. Look at Dallas's own O-Line. Houston, a rookie, had a field day out there against an O-Line that's very highly touted.
Am I still worried about the O-Line, you better believe it. We're lucky Campbell took beatings like that daily in Washington or we might have lost him for the year. And though it's preseason and hard to tell if they're as good as they played, IT'S PRESEASON. Even if they aren't that good they have plenty of time to become that good.
If you think that practice can't matter/help that much, it sure as hell can. Especially when they practice against the same front four that had Romo on the turf all game long.
This O-Line isn't great, but I can soundly say it is solid. And for a team that's still growing and is expected to win games because of defense, that is good enough fo me.
Darrius Heyward-bey struggled in the preseason opener for the Raiders, but I'm not surprised. His first time facing real competition since the middle of last season is reason enough for me to have doubts of how well he would have played. Add in the man covering him was Terrance Newman.
Newman is a very good corner in the NFL and is one of the few guys who can keep up with DHB stride for stride. That was a nightmare matchup for DHB who's only in his second year. Before calling him a bust, the learning curve for a receiver is about 4 years. For DHB it'll probably be longer as his own coach said he shouldn't have went into the draft in his junior year.
If I say this is DHB's "rookie" year that's why. Because it pretty much is. I don't expect DHB to be great in the beginning, and i think he'll only be average this year. Anything more is great, anything less is nothing to fret about.
I wanna give a quick shout-out to Rolando McClain and his family and hope things will be alright.