Moving right along, the Raiders have played a game in the palace of football opulence and have had two practices since.
While all teams, especially teams as young as the Raiders and featuring a new O-coordinator and QB, are a work in progress--they are beginning to form an identity. The seeds of strengths and weaknesses have cracked open. While they are still fragile sprouts, they can quickly grow into a field of lame football.
I find my opinions and feelings on the offense and defense of the Raiders soaring in opposite directions with the acceleration creating a potentially fatal amount of G-force.
Where to start? The good...or the bad? Well, as John Wooden used to say, "Always make your last shot," so...let's look at the offense. After watching the game a couple of times, I find myself treating thoughts of the offense with my full and quite impressive, if I do say so myself, powers of procrastination. Here's why....First a shout out to the men watching the men in the trenches: McDonald and Tafur and Gutierrez.
The only positives the first team O managed to generate against the Cowboys first team D was the lack of negatives. The Raiders only managed one first down against the first team D. The line wasn't blocking, The WR's weren't getting open and Campbell was not hitting his targets.
Cable seemed to feel the same way, which is why he sent the O back out for a series more than he intended. Cable:
The rhythm thing was most important. I did not like the second series very much. It just felt like we were going to put the line and the quarterback back out there together and see if they can kind of put some cohesiveness together which they were able to do a little bit. The thing I am encouraged about is it was a guy here or a guy there that were breaking down. I look for us to be better this week.
It’s a guy here and a guy there. It looks to be probably a little better than what I thought last night after the game, so I think we can fix it, and fix it rather quickly.
Cable guy is right, of course. It was just one preseason quarter and it was against a very good defense. But was the lack of success all a function of the Cowboys stellar D?
The lack of precision cannot all be attributed to the opposition, but maybe it could be attributed to the young season, the new faces and the need to build chemistry, but here is where this weekend comes in like a sickening and gray storm-front or as we know it in my Washington neck of the woods: Every month that doesn't start with the letters A-U-G-U-S-T.
The reports from practice this weekend talk of a passing game that looks to be regressing. Hue had to stop practice a few times to vent over the drops, Cable has had to stop plays to have Mario Henderson do extra push-ups and DHB seems to be following his zero catch performance by disappearing in practice.
It is not all doom and gloom for the offense. Todd Watkins was reported to have had a nice weekend of practice, Chaz is looking good and should be on the field on Saturday. Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford haven't practiced, but both have been running and look to be on schedule to play on Saturday as well. And Zach Miller is still Zach Miller.
It is a long season and it is silly to get worried over performances that happen in its infancy, but what I want to see and hear about are signs of progress. I think the Raiders would be a little more considerate. As a Raider fan, my hopes have been abused into a glass ball like fragile state. Give me baby steps over two steps forward and one back. Back is frightening.
When it comes down to it, if I had my choice between watching a dominate Raider team led by the defense or offense, I'd pick the defense. So in times of fright I travel to my happy spot via the defensive side of the ball.
The D looked great in the game and nothing has changed in practice. In fact, the D is even taunting Hue "Action" Jackson after they make plays or the offense fails to make plays. It's possible that Hue is having as big of positive impact on the D as he is on the O. Thanks to Hue and the infusion of the young play-makers, the level of intensity and accountability appears to be rising.
It was impossible to miss LaMarr Houston in his pro debut and it wasn't because he got into a fight; he was making plays. He doesn't seem content about it either. He learned from the game and he is ready to improve himself based on that. Houston:
I think the NFL is a lot different because all these guys are really technically sound. Nobody slacks and everybody has good technique. That's what makes the NFL a better game.
Houston is clear on what he wants to work on. Houston:
Technique. Technique, technique, technique. Just seeing how I can finish plays, or make a play.
While the defense looked great, there were a couple of break downs in pass coverage, but like the days after the game seemed to solidify my worries about the O, it has eased them on the D. Nnam was only in for the first series and the only pass to his guy was incomplete.
The completions, except for Witten's, came on CJ--who found himself one-on-one with Austin. And while his coverage wasn't bad, he did get beat, but the sting of this is eased in the fact that it looks more and more like Nnam is going to be unleashed to follow the team's number one WR or to wreak havoc in any other ways they see fit.
The practices following the game have found Nnam playing almost exclusively on the left side instead of his customary right side. Cable had this to say about it:
Some of it is just being able to get him comfortable on both sides because of all the slot formations. And some of it has to do with him maybe lining up on the best receiver.
Works for me and probably more importantly, for everyone except me, it works for Nnam. Asomugha:
We're doing more things, and I love it. I've been playing all over the field pretty much. And that's great. It gets me more involved.
Finding Nnam on the field is now going to be a tick inside the brain of opposing QB's as they walk up to the line.
Another interesting note to come out of this weekends practices:
- Mike Mitchell took some snaps at FS. Mitchell has had a solid camp and played a solid game. The coaches are looking for ways to get him on the field more and that can only be a good thing.
- Rolando McClain had a solid, but less spectacular debut than his fellow rookie and has since missed practice due to what is being unofficially reported as a family illness. Good luck and best wishes, Ro and his family.
- Bennett and Cartwright continue there battle for the #3 RB slot. Cartwright's versatility seems to have given him the edge as he got carries before Bennett in the game. Versatility or not, Bennett looks to me like he is earning a spot. I don't think Cartwright's special teams play is enough above average to keep Bennett off and when it comes to RB skills, I'll take Bennett. That's why I'd like to see him get some run with the first team. Let's see what he can do with the big boys.
Stanford Routt seems to get burned often in practice. This really isn't news to any of us, but it is still sucks and sucking even further is Walter McFadden has missed practice since the game, because of shoulder issues. While it is not serious, McFadden does have a history of missing time due to injuries.
- Unexplained by the coaches was Stevie Brown getting some reps with the first team at FS.
- SeaBass got the weekend off. Ahh the life of a kicker.
- Charlie Frye's illustrious tenure with the Raiders may be ending. His hand isn't really healing and Boller has looked solid. Frye is going to see a specialist about his hand.