Back with the weekly analysis of the O-Line, this time focusing on the 3rd preseason game of San Francisco versus Oakland. This week the Raiders faced one of the toughest 3-4 defenses in terms of run stuffing and pressure getting. Let me say, the 49ers defense fully lives up to that hype.
Not only do I think the Niners will win the NFC West, but they might actually win a playoff game. That being said, there was a lot of miraculous, a lot of mediocrity, and a lot of maligned. Read on for the full report of Jared Veldheer's starting debut and the overall review of the line.
If this O-Line could do what it did on the opening drive about 2-3 of the time, we would be a playoff team. No doubts about that. That opening drive Veldheer was punching open holes, the O-Line looked solid in pass blocking, even Carlisle looked average again. Their blocking was great clear down to that 1 yard Michael Bush TD run.
Unfortunately, after that things got nightmarish. Oakland can't rely on running to that right side of the line like they did last year when Walker was RG. Just about every run, regardless of runner, towards the RG was stuffed. Safe to say that if this extends into the regular season, Carlisle will get pulled. Of that I have no doubts.
Now while I do expect the 49ers to do this to a lot of running games this year (have them predicted as a top-3 run defense), the Raiders should have fared better than this. Maybe Hue didn't want to give the Niners too much film, and I very much believe that, but come on. 19 runs for a measly 55 yards? Luckily, we can expect the Raiders to run more in regular season with more power blocking plays.
As for the pass protection. This was like watching a Jekyll-Hyde transformation. Going from stellar pass blocking that allowed Campbell to go a fantastic 6 of 8 for 93 (would have been 7 of 8 if Myers could have hung on to an easy pass), to allowing 2 sacks and getting Campbell injured.
Luckily as I'm sure everyone is aware of now, Campbell suffered a minor stinger injury and has 2 weeks to heal up before the opener.
After Campbell's departure, last year's savior appeared from the sea of black jerseys. Bruce Gradkowski came in, was never sacked, and looked calm and cool even behind the 2nd team. Gradkowski just erased all talk of Kyle Boller being better, doing in one game more than what Boller had done in two.
Bruce showed what he showed us last year. Quick release, razor sharp decision making, and the abiltiy to dance in the pocket to avoid the pressure. Bruce Gradkowski would go 14 of 22 for 202 and 2 touchdown strikes. In response Tom Cable said:
"Bruce Gradkowski was one of the bright spots in terms of going in there and having some efficiency and move the club around fairly well, I think that’s what you want from your backup quarterback and he showed himself very well that way.’’
Yes people, backup. Campbell was having a great game and I think he would have only gotten better. Jason Campbell looks better and better with each game, even in restricted pass heavy play calling. Campbell will be back by opener and should pick up right where he left off.
All in all this O-Line looked great, but they also had major breakdowns that are rather troublesome. Veldheer did look good and I definitely think he should be our starting center.
Youth was on display in ways both good and bad. Darrius Heyward-Bey silenced his critics, reeling in one-third of his whole season in basically 2 quarters. Catching 3 passes for 46 yards, leading all Raiders receivers in receptions.
Rolando McClain had a big outing. Tied with Patrick Willis for the team lead in tackles. McClain had a couple stuffed runs and was our most impressive linebacker in a game of poor linebacker performance. Neither Scott not Wimbley had a tackle recorded in any box scores I've looked through.
But McClain wasn't perfect, allowing a couple bad runs because he was out of position again. Rookie mistakes again and nothing to hound the guy on. McClain looked good in coverage and made some nice run stuffs.
McFadden, oh McFadden. How I wish we had traded thee. Darren McFadden looks great as a receiver, I will not deny that. I wish this team would just move him to WR already so we can keep Michael Bennett on roster. Then again after Michael Bush's broken thumb we probably will.
D-Mac didn't have many holes, but when he did he couldn't do anything with them. As running back, I'm close to calling Darren a bust as he's shown me zero improvement. As a receiver, he could be a very good slot option. Hue could have utilized him better for sure, but we don't need to show our future opponents too much.
This week my shout out goes to Marcel Reece who had 2 catches for 45 yards including a great 34 yard catch and run. I've never seen a fullback with the playmaking ability he possesses. Not only that his blocking has gotten better. Not good, but not bad either. His speed and amazing hands more than make up for it. Teams will be awe-struck to see a fullback with the speed of a starting wideout coming their way.
To Reece, keep it up man. You're doing great things.