There was a lot to like about the first preseason game against Arizona and the excitement among the Raider Nation is building and this second game will see a slightly more serious approach to the game. Starters will be in a bit longer, working up more of a lather. The young guys that did well last time are out to prove that it was no fluke and the players that struggled need to make amends.
The major guys like Mack, Amari, Derek, Crabtree are going to be fine and I'm not really that focused on them.
Here are Five Elements that I have on my mind as we go into this game in Green Bay.
1. Who Replaces Mario?
Mario Edwards Js is a major piece of the Raiders' entire defense. He had a very good rookie season and had more than a handful of "Whoa!"-plays like this one where he showcases his power against Detroit :
I was looking forward to seeing him continue to develop and become the interior complement to Khalil's outside rush.
Bad News : Mario injured his hip and will be unable to play.
Good News : Mario's injured hip will only keep him sideline 4-6 weeks.
Better News : Though disappointing, this allows one of the young players to get enviable reps with the first team.
I'm curious to see who gets that call-up and how he does. Is it too early for Sunshine?
2. Jihad's get off and increased violence
In 2014, I stole a line from former Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou to describe Khalil Mack's hands. "He carries dynamite in those hands" When you watch Khalil engage defenders, particularly on running plays, you see his hands explode into the blockers and then you see the blocker's body shudder. Those are violent hands that define the blocking engagement.
Jihad has strength and power to spare. What will make him effective will be getting some violence in those hands and thundering into would-be blockers.
This play sums it up :
He comes off the ball slowly, the center gets his hands on Jihad first and gets good placement, Jihad has no idea what he's doing with his hands.
Then he sets, adjust his hands and gets a nice grab on the shoulderpads, counter-cocks and tosses the center aside, showing brute power and a natural sense of balance/balance-breaking.
Defensive Line coach Jethro Franklin worked wonders with Mario last year; Mario's improvement was drastic and quick, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with Jihad.
3. DeAndre Washington and the "Sprint G"
The Sprint G is a play designed to outflank the defense and can also be thought of as "Pin and Pull." The design of the play is to have the frontside edge blockers block down and pull the playside Guard. This can also be run by pulling the playside tackle instead and since the Raiders have an athletic center, they can also pull the center in addition to the guard.
It's an amazing play when the blocking sets up. By getting the downblocks and pulling the linemen, the play sets up a broken field much like a punt return and allows the runner to get into space with blockers and just try to make a big play.
Unsurprisingly, this was a Taiwan Jones special.
Bill Musgrave would sometimes call this play with Andre Holmes and Michael Crabtree lined in a tight split, then use a toss to the RB and get the WRs to seal the edge.
DeAndre Washington's natural elusiveness and explosiveness makes this an excellent play for him to run.
Here's Taiwan on the Toss Sprint G with WR Crackbacks :
And then this was DeAndre running the Sprint G without the toss against Arizona (note that there's no WR bunch in the formation either) :
In the first game, DeAndre was not limited to running just this type of play; he also ran the G-Power play quite a bit and from the looks of it, that play may be a "Bread and Butter"-type play for the running game this coming year.
In general, I just want to see more of DeAndre, but specifically, I'm curious to see how effective he can be in the Spring G and see if they work in the toss play to him since he has those natural soft hands. These are all potential big plays and DeAndre's the type of back to take full advantage of them.
4. KO Settling Down
Sometimes when a player gets a big dollar contract, they ease up and get lazy (like Lamarr Woodley), but sometimes a player can get an enormous contract and then put too much pressure on himself to show that he deserves that money. Anyone that has played sports or engaged in skill events knows that "trying too hard" can often result in poor results.
The reports from camp about how aggressive Kelechi Osemele has been and how he just "wants to kill everybody" and he "jumps out of his shoes" sound like a guy who is trying to establish himself and his reputation early.
Kelechi was called for the false start and then later Calais Campbell got the best of him.
Later on, Osemele performed much better and had some really nice blocks, including a strong torque. But those were not against Calais Campbell.
So just keep an eye on Osemele, particularly early in the game.
5. Keith McGill
Taken as part of the 2014 draft, Keith McGill has been a disappointment as a CB. And while it's only his 3rd year in the NFL, it's tough to think of him as a developmental prospect since he's already 27 years old and unfortunately, time is running out.
At 6'3", 210 lbs, he was part of the New Breed of big CBs that became popular because of Seattle's Legion of Boom's success. His struggles as a CB (stuck behind DJ Hayden and Neiko Thorpe on the depth chart) has led to a position change and we will see if this will breathe new life into him.
It won't be an easy transition; the positions are substantially different, but McGill has an intriguing skillset combined with that attractive physique. Ken Norton's diverse approach to using safeties may end up suiting McGill well.
He seemed a step short on some plays, but was seemingly around the ball quite a bit, even coming down with this nice interception (that was negated by a penalty) :
Here's an interesting stat from the Cardinals' game : 24 running plays. 1 from a 2 back set (Murray+Reece).
The running plays were generally with 1 RB + 1 TE (11 Personnel) or 1 RB + 2 TEs (12 Personnel).
Marcel Reece is scheduled to miss the first 3 games and Olawale has been getting some use as a tailback so it will be interesting to see if the trend continues to using H-Back approaches as opposed to traditional "Dot The I" approaches in the run game.
Neither Reece nor Olawale are fantastic inline lead blockers and so the loss of this formation would not be so critical. It does, however, make the loss of Gabe Holmes more starkly felt as he may have been effective as a blocker.
On a side note : It will also be interesting to see if/how much Bill Musgrave calls for 13 Personnel, 1 RB+3 TEs (Smith, Walford, Rivera) and 1 WR.
Pre-season Week 1 was a baseline week for me. Mostly I just wanted to take stock and see where everything was, how the players were doing, and what the rookies and new players looked like on the field. I wanted just to get a feel for how they mesh together and if it looks like they are quickly gelling or if it may be a long process.
Now in Week 2, mostly I'm looking to see what's different from last week. Ideally everyone and everything just gets better and hopefully that's what we see.