Greetings, Raider Nation! Raiderdamus the Great and Powerful has spent the last three days glued to his television set, watching as much football as possible like a junkie who hasn’t had a fix in seven months. I was so hard up for football, I sat down to watch the Giants vs. Browns game, a feat unthinkable just a few months ago.
Now that the first week of preseason has come to an end, I have a few observations. Some of these are about the Raiders, some of them are not. But we’ll start with the Raiders stuff.
PJ Hall is a Monster
Before Matt Cassel goes to sleep tonight, he’s going to get a baseball bat and check under his bed for PJ Hall. The second-round product out of Sam Houston State was in the Detroit backfield all night long and absolutely manhandled a pretty good guard in Joe Dahl, lifting him off his feet and shucking him aside before sacking Cassel.
The tandem of Hall and Maurice Hurst provided pressure on nearly every play, and are sure to command attention and double teams this year. The problem is, the Raiders also have Bruce Irvin, Arden Key, Justin Ellis, Mario Edwards Jr., and as soon as he agrees to a contract extension, Khalil Mack. You cannot double team all those guys at once.
The Paul Guenther defense is a breath of fresh air
Is this what it feels like to have competent coaching? The Raiders’ defensive scheme not only provided tons of pressure on the quarterback resulting in four sacks, it also didn’t give up any big pass plays. The double A-gap coverage disguises worked to perfection and the Detroit offense looked anemic all night. We’ll see if that continues against the Rams, but at least this week it feels good that the Raiders’ defense appears to be in capable hands.
Nick Nelson is a star
Late in the game, we saw Nick Nelson do what he does best- drop an interception. Other than that, he totally balled out. He was sticky in coverage and looks like a real ball hawk who isn’t afraid to make a tackle. He was an absolute steal in the fourth round and the Raiders are lucky to have someone of his caliber.
Unlike the Raiders who appeared poised and well-prepared, the other teams in the division were a mess. The Chiefs’ offensive line is going to get Pat Mahomes killed. He’s not afraid to step up into the pocket when he’s facing pressure, but he’s going to have to make a business decision at some point and run for his life. The Texans ate him for breakfast on Thursday.
The first-team Broncos defense, which is the only good thing about their team, was overwhelmed by Kronk Coozins and the Vikings’ first string offense on Saturday night. The boys in purple went up and down the field with ease, rushing and passing. The Broncos provided no resistance whatsoever. Given a full game against this unit, we could see Marshawn Lynch post numbers approaching Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl levels.
Case Keenum was what he’s been his entire career- nothing special. And Paxton Lynch was so bad, he literally got booed off the field. If the Bucs ever bring back their swarthy swashbuckler mascot, Lynch might have a better future painting himself orange and hyping the fans down at Raymond James.
The Chargers were unfathomably bad and gave up three sacks to someone named Cap Capi, whom I understand is a defensive end out of Akron. Capi was a rookie last year and tallied one total sack, but that Chargers’ offensive line had the magic fairy dust he needed to really raise his game. With Philip Rivers not playing and presumably busy making another child, the Chargers were nigh unwatchable, which is what we can look forward to in the future since they haven’t drafted a quarterback in 14 years.
The Raiders can and absolutely should win this division. The amount of suck here is overwhelming.
The Browns might actually be a good team
As I mentioned earlier, I sat down and watched the entirety of the Browns-Giants game. I did so, as everyone else did, to see the battle between Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield, who were the top two picks in this year’s draft. Neither man disappointed, with Barkley taking his first touch for 39 yards. If you are drafting in a PPR fantasy league, consider taking Barkley first overall. He is the new Ladainian Tomlinson.
Mayfield was even better. He showed all the skills that earned him the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma- accuracy, arm strength and great decision making. He threw two touchdown passes and looked to be in complete command of the Browns offense- which isn’t difficult, as the whole scheme can be drawn out on one brown McDonald’s napkin.
Presumed starter Tyrod Taylor also looked great, as did new WR Jarvis Landry. The team cannot run the football at all, but their passing attack alone should be good for six wins. I believe they will win a key divisional matchup against the Steelers and keep them out of the playoffs altogether. Look for Cleveland to become a perennial playoff contender soon.
This QB class could resemble 2004
In 2004 we had three quarterbacks drafted high- Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Between them they have four Super Bowl wins. This class of signal callers, which includes Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson could be just as good as that one was. Darnold looked terrific for the Jets, Josh Allen showed off a cannon arm, Rosen was solid for the Cardinals even though his offensive line was made of papier-mache and Lamar Jackson has been a gadget machine for the Ravens. Luckily for Jackson, his team has an “elite” quarterback so he won’t have to play for a while.
But Mayfield, Darnold and possibly Allen should all take over the starting role for their respective teams at some point this season and I expect them all to do well.
and finally, back to the Raiders for a final thought.
Chris Warren has to make this team
One of the fun parts of the Raiders’ last few preseasons was watching the exploits of George Atkinson III. He would usually go wild on the other teams’ third string defense and we’d all get excited and then he’d be cut, because he isn’t big enough or good enough to keep on the 53-man roster. In fact, he is doing that same shtick again this year for the Jets, and he’s going to get cut again.
But this year we have something a bit different. We have Chris Warren III, the hulking, bruising son of former Seahawks and Cowboys rusher Chris Warren, a vastly underappreciated player who had an exemplary career that nobody watched.
Warren III was an undrafted rookie out of Texas, where he was great on an awful team. But Warren showed his stuff against the Lions on Friday night, rushing for 86 yards on only 13 carries. He was too much for the Lions to handle and it felt like he was a threat to score on every play, as the Lions wanted no part of tackling him.
The Raiders’ starter is Marshawn Lynch, without question. He’s earned that. But the backups are Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Will one of them get cut, or will Jon Gruden elect to keep six backs, including impressive fullback Keith Smith? Whatever Gruden decides, the Raiders have to keep Warren around. He won’t last on the practice squad for more than ten minutes before getting claimed by an RB-needy team (see: Indigenous Persons) and his performance on Friday is exactly the kind of element the Raiders were missing from their backup running backs last season.