I discuss Pryor and breakdown the offense and defense for the 2011 season on the Football Sickness Podcast. Check it out.
It was 2009 the last time the Raiders played the Saints in the preseason. The New Orleans Saints were still the “Aints” and the Raiders were a team headed into the Tom Cable era without a true identity.
That game-also in Oakland and the third preseason game-was a 45-7 shellacking at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champion Saints. The Raiders would win five games, none by more than four points.
Preseason is usually a time to evaluate individual performances over team performance, but the first half of the third preseason game is the closest we will get to predicting how a team might play during the regular season. The coaches scheme a bit and the starters play at least a full half.
Let’s take a look at third preseason games over the past few years.
2007 first-half score Rams 3 @ Raiders 17.
Rams would finish 3-13. The Raiders would finish 4-12
If it had been any other team besides the Rams, would the Raiders have even won? Both teams were terrible in 2007 and the fact that the Raiders didn’t blow out the Rams was a sign of things to come for both teams.
2008 Cardinals 3 @ Raiders 0
The Cardinals would finish 9-7 and go one to appear and lose in the Super Bowl. The Raiders finish the season 5-11.
This demonstrates how bad the Raiders offense was in 2008. Although the score was close in the first half, the Cardinals would blow the Raiders backups away in the second half and win 24-0. Kurt Warner attempted just four passes and he was the key for the Cardinals run to the playoffs.
In 2009 it was the aforementioned Saints blowout in week three. The halftime score was Saints 31, Raiders 0. Saints win Super Bowl. Raiders finish 5-11. The Raiders don’t want to repeat this performance.
2010 49ers 17, Raiders 14
The 49ers would win six games, the Raiders eight. It was a sign of just how mediocre both teams were in 2010. Did the Raiders have their moments? Absolutely, but everyone could see how mediocre the 49ers were and the Raiders couldn’t put them away at home during the preseason and later turned in a hapless performance in San Francisco during the regular season.
One theme was apparent in just about all of these games. The Raiders could not stop the run and aside from the 2010, the Raiders could not score. Hue Jackson may have solved the offensive woes and if the Raiders can pass more effectively in 2011, they should be more consistent offensively as well.
The questions still remain: Can the Raiders stop the run? Can the Raiders pass protect? Can the Raiders contend for the playoffs?
Those questions may just be answered tonight at O.co Coliseum in Oakland.
Place your attention squarely in the trenches and leave them there for this game only straying to see how the young corners are doing against Drew Brees.
Stefen Wisniewski may win a starting job at left guard instead of center. Samson Satele has played well and Daniel Loper has played terribly so this is a logical move for the Raiders. Pay close attention to how the rookie handles playing guard with the first team.
Bruce Campbell needs to shine brightly tonight to have any chance of supplanting Cooper Carlisle as the starter at right guard. Carlisle has looked solid enough to hold off Campbell so far, but if and when Campbell learns leverage he may get his chance.
The Raiders also haven’t settled on the starter at right tackle. Stephon Heyer is the favorite, but he needs to continue to play well. The Raiders have started using Khalif Barnes as a sixth offensive lineman again, a sign that he may no longer be in the running to start, but will almost assuredly be on the roster. Rookie Joseph Barksdale needs to impress, but is likely headed for a reserve role in his first season. Still, things can change rapidly, pay close attention to who is lining up with the first team.
The Saints are commonly known for their prolific passing game with Drew Brees. This is a very important game for the Raiders young secondary.
The nickel corner job is still very much up for grabs, the Raiders didn’t bring in Lito Sheppard last week for no reason.
Sheppard will not play, so that leaves the young quadruplet Demarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa, Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware to battle for jobs.
The young group will need to hold down a very skilled set of receivers and an elite quarterback. No small task. Sterling Moore figures into the mix as well.
Quentin Groves. Is this guy really a starting linebacker? Will the Raiders rush out to sign a linebacker once players start being cut? Groves needs to show up and prove that the Raiders don’t need to worry about adding depth. The Raiders do need to add linebacker depth whether Groves plays well or not, but Groves can put their mind at ease.
Pressure Brees. The Raiders have a dizzying array of pass rushers. Put the pressure on Brees to give the young secondary a chance.
Have fun watching Taiwan Jones in the second half. He has special speed. If he gets loose he could go for a long one.
Players to watch: Stefen Wisniewski, Quentin Groves, Bruce Campbell
Positions to watch: Offensive line, cornerback
Score prediction: Saints 21, Raiders 17 at the end of the first half.
Everyone likes to win, but this is preseason. It’s the first preseason game of a year which features very little practice time beforehand.
It’s far too early to jump to conclusions about the season or any one player. It doesn’t mean that there is nothing to learn from the game.
1. The defensive line looks even more dominant than they did last year. Matt Shaughnessy looks poised for breakout year. They held up on the goal line.
2. The passing game looks ready to take the next step. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Kevin Boss all looked the part. Moore got snaps with the first team and made the most of them.
Heyward-Bey made a hands catch and then beat a defender deep only to have Jason Campbell under-throw him. Even Kyle Boller and Trent Edwards looked to be effectively orchestrating the passing offense. David Ausberry looks like he could become something special and a weapon in the receiving game.
3. The offensive line blocked reasonably well. A pleasant surprise. Sacks and pressure mostly came as a result of blitzes, something you aren’t really planning for in preseason games.
First team offensive line (left to right): Jared Veldheer, Daniel Loper, Samson Satele, Cooper Carisle, Khalif Barnes.
Second team: Stephon Heyer, Alex Parsons, Stefen Wisniewski, Roy Schuening, Joseph Barksdale
4. Depth players who looked good last night include Sterling Moore, who made a play, which echos what we have been hearing about him in camp. Chances are improving that he will make the roster. Tommie Hill was consistently getting a good push.
5. Jarvis Moss looks like he is in great shape. He’s motivated and he’s energetic on defense. He could become a key player this season if he continues to play with as much speed and strength as he did last night.
1. Depth in the secondary. After the starters left the game it got ugly. Walter McFadden looked the worst and was picked on repeatedly by the opposing quarterbacks. Jeremy Ware was not exposed in coverage, but could have made a play on the game-winning touchdown catch and run and didn’t. Stevie Brown didn’t even look good, missing the defender completely on an open-field tackle attempt.
Demarcus Van Dyke started strong by blanketing Larry Fitzgerald early. Fitzgerald still made a long reception over Van Dyke, but his coverage was good. He struggled with the backups. He was stiff-armed by Beanie Wells and was beat for a touchdown reception. He needs to bulk up and his speed will not benefit him if he isn’t within five yards. It looked worse than it was for Van Dyke, but he certainly has a steep learning curve.
2. An announced crowd under 30,000 means the Raiders will have a hard time selling out games. On any given week the Raiders will have to sell more individual game tickets than they have season ticket holders. The two for one offer starting August 15th will help, but it’s a steep hill to climb to avoid blackouts.
3. Not much depth at outside linebacker. Travis Goethel may end up sliding outside when the season moves closer, even though his best fit is in the middle. Goethel reminds me of Greg Biekert. Quentin Groves was playing with third and fourth string players and you almost couldn’t tell. Besides those three players there isn’t much depth. None of the backups stood out from the crowd. Raiders are rumored to still be interested in Lofa Tatupu. I’m not sure he can play outside, but he’s a quality option.
4. Mental errors killed the Raiders. Khalif Barnes had three false starts. That’s going to cost him snaps and could cost him his job. Trent Edwards had a delay of game penalty after a penalty. Reading Hue Jackson’s lips on the sideline: “You can’t do that! Come on!”
1. Hiram Eugene dislocated his hip. It’s a season ending injury. The same injury ended Bo Jackson’s career when the injury caused a subsequent conditions that resulted in loss of blood flow.
2. Chaz Schilens hurt his knee. Enough said.
3. Many Raiders players tweeted post game that the team had “a lot” of injuries. We’ll find out who had “nicks” when Hue Jackson talks to the press at 5 p.m.
Plenty of things to correct for Hue Jackson, sadly most of it will be on the back of Chuck Bresnahan. It only took one game for fans to lament his bend, don’t break defense.
ESPN has devised a new system to replace the outdated Passer Rating system. Total Quarterback Rating system, or QBR, is somewhat easy to follow and more accurately reflects a quarterback’s skills. While there are some intricate formulas that only mathematicians will understand, we can follow the numbers and basics they lay out for us.
The system takes into account passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles and everything else a quarterback does. In the previous system, a QB would get a higher rating for yards after a pass, meaning the yards the wide receiver got. This has very little to do with the QB and, therefore, is not used in this system. Red zone plays will give him more points than if the same play is run in the middle of the field. Also, points will vary depending on the closeness of the game.
The QBR score is based on 100, which makes it easy to score and follow. Scores from 100 to 75 mean that the QB is an MVP candidate, which takes guess-work out of the equation. 75 to 65 means the QB belongs in the Pro Bowl. A 55-35 rating means that a QB is average. Any QB below 35 may not be a QB for much longer.
ESPN went back three seasons and attached a QBR to each player from all three years. These are the ratings for the Raiders QBs over the last three years: In 2008, Jamarcus Russel was ranked 30th with a QBR of 34.5. In 2009, Russel was ranked last both in the 2009 ratings and the overall ratings for the last three years combined. His score that year was 10.5. When Jason Campbell joined the Raiders in 2010, he got a rating of 43.8, even missing the last few games. In 2009 when he was in Washington, he scored a 49.4 on the QBR and ranked 21st.
The Raiders Future
What this means for the Raiders in the future is that they have a leader to build with. After two years with the worst QB in the league (it’s factual now), the Raiders have a QB who’s near the Pro-Bowl cutoff. In a press conference Campbell said that he feels good about this season. He’s settled in and gotten to know the guys. Hue Jackson has a notoriously hefty playbook, but Campbell has also had a whole year to learn it so he feels comfortable with the plays going into the new season.
Attempt to think back to when the Raiders went 12-4, won the AFC West and led the NFL in rushing. It was the year 2000 when the Raiders did exactly that. With a similar two-headed monster in the backfield of Tyrone Wheatley, the bruiser, and Napolean Kaufman, the speed guy, the Raiders ran all over opponents.
In 2010 the Raiders were second in the NFL in rushing with Darren McFadden, the shifty speed guy, and Michael Bush, the bruiser. The Raiders running game was tough for any front seven to handle, but it may be necessary for the Raiders to improve the rushing game even more in 2011 because of the mediocrity of the passing game and rush defense. If Hue Jackson is going to achieve his goal of “building a bully” and earning a 2011 playoff berth these two areas must improve dramatically.
The key to this season’s offense is improving the passing game. The Raiders ranked 23rd in passing with 3180 passing yards. However in 2000, the Raiders finished with just a middle of the road passing attack, at 15th in the league with 3306 passing yards. Although the yardage was very similar, the discrepancy is passing touchdowns. In 2010, Raider quarterbacks combined for 18 touchdowns through the air, which tied them for 25th with the St Louis Rams. By comparison the Raider threw 26 touchdowns in 2000, tied for 5th in the league.
Had the Raiders had the same success in 2010 passing in the red zone as they did in 2000, they would have been in the playoffs. If they can in 2011, there is a good chance they will be playing in January.
The 2000 Raiders were 5th in the league in rush defense as they gave up 1551 yards on the ground while the 2010 Raiders came in at 29th, giving up 2138 yards. The Raiders have made moves to strengthen the front seven. There have been improvements shown by Quentin Groves and the Raiders having both Trevor Scott and Travis Goethel healthy will make the front seven a lot stronger against the run.
Lamar Houston and Matt Shaughnessey should see more consistent playing time this season and the Raider brought back John Henderson, who lives to stop the run. The mixture of these players in the front seven should hopefully cut 300-400 yards over the course of the season. It is a seemingly small amount, just 18-25 yards per game. That drop off in opponent production would have placed last year’s Raiders in the middle of the pack, and probably in the playoffs.
The Raiders need to steadily improve the passing offense and score an extra touchdown through the air every other week. The defense must cut out about 25 rushing yards per week. The combination of these two should give the Raiders equal to seven points per week. An extra seven points per week in the 2010 season could have made for a staggering 13-3 record as the Raiders lost only 3 games by more than 8 points.
Improving to mediocrity last season may have been just enough to make the Raiders the favorites in the AFC West. If they can take the next steps towards “building a bully” they may indeed find themselves on top of the division.
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