Normally, a preseason loss ranks right up there in importance with an I Love Lucy rerun on Nick at Night. However, a number of factors combine to have this game screaming "There is a problem." If it was the third and fourth teams completely dominated, that would merit a quick yawn and the justification that those guys will be auditioning for the UFL in a matter of months. However, it was the first team doing the Washington Generals impersonation. Frankly, there is not enough negative superlatives in the Oxford English Dictionary to adequately describe just how dismal the Raiders putrid play really was.
This game serves as the canary in the coal mine because it is the all important third preseason game. This is the one game where the Raiders were supposed to have a game plan to go against the Saints, and simulate a regular season game. (oops!)
The Raiders starting defense supposedly took the field after the Saints returned the opening kickoff. However, eleven guys picked up at Home Depot on the way to the stadium. Drew Brees effectively sliced and diced the Raiders defense as he led the Saints on three touchdown drives in three attempts. Admittedly, he did get an assist on his final touchdown drive by two bonehead pass interference calls on Stanford "I lasted longer than the guy selected in front of me at the same position" Routt.
Nnamdi Asomugha provided the defensive highlight (There's a surprise) when he blasted a Saints receiver to break up a rare pass thrown in Aso's direction. Newcomer Michael Hawkins provided a second defensive highlight when he laid a good hit on a receiver to make a tackle for a minimal gain.
The Saints pulled Brees and many of their offensive starters with ten minutes left in the SECOND QUARTER. Had they stayed in, there is no telling how many negative defensive records the Raiders would have set. According to figures worked out by one of my colleagues, the Saints were on pace to score 60+ points, and gain over 800 yards rushing. There is no excuse for play like that.
The Raiders play against the run has been nothing short of terrible during this recent run of futility. However, the Raiders have steadfastly refused to invest in defensive linemen who can stop the run. The Raiders acquisition of Derrick Burgess in 2005 brought in a pass rusher. Tommy Kelly was rewarded with a rich contract because he was supposed to be able to rush the passer. Gerard Warren is a pass rushing defensive tackle. Trevor Scott is at best a situational pass rusher, but he looks to be starting at defensive end.
The Raiders had a chance to get a potential monster against the run in both the first and second rounds of the draft. Instead they drafted a speedy wide receiver, and yet another defensive back. Wasn't the combined year and a half in Oakland of DeAngelo Hall and Gibril Wilson enough to show that stocking up on defensive backs does not win games.
For the past two years, all through the offseason the I have issued a consistent clarion cry of "ADDRESS THE DEFENSIVE LINE." The Raiders haven't done that, and yet again their defense is on its way to being a sieve once again.
I recently predicted the Raiders would win at least seven games. After that defensive performance 2006 may be freed from its purgatory of worst Raider season ever, and the Raiders will have the top pick so they can get Syd'Quan Thompson as long as he runs a 4.3 40 at the combine. They will once again ignore the glaring problems along the defensive line, and the process will repeat ad nauseum.
On the other side of the ball, the young physical specimens the Raiders have brought in can't hold on to the ball. Darren McFadden who was selected ahead of a promising defensive tackle fumbled the ball and set the Saints up for one of their multitude of touchdowns. Fourth round pick Louis Murphy had two drops and a fumble. Brandon Myers had another drop. Johnnie Lee Higgins dropped a perfectly thrown ball. JaMarcus Russell fumbled on a strip sack. Nick Miller couldn't find the handle on a ball. It was like the entire offense coated their hands with Crisco before they took the field.
Cornell Green should not have been handed the starting right tackle job for the Raiders. Three preseason games, and he has been called for at least one penalty in each of the games. I believe that he has five in three games. This is not new for Green, his inability to not get flagged or the quarterback abused flew under the radar because Kwame "human turnstile" Harris was on the other side. In addition to his penalties, it was his man that forced the strip sack.
Go ahead, tell yourself it's only preseason and doesn't mean anything. The game was so bad that the NFL Network dropped their live telecast in the second quarter to show a repeat of an NFL Films presentation Football Follies. Go ahead and take the justification that the 2006 Raiders went 4-1 in the preseason before imploding to a two win season. However, those preseason wins all had the Raider Nation wondering how the team won those games. There were warning signs. This is a huge flashing warning sign.
Two weeks from Monday, the San Diego Chargers will be coming into the Coliseum. LaDainain Tomlinson, who has been a Raider-Killer throughout his career has to be licking his chops after seeing a whose who of who's that? running all over the Raiders. If the play of the Raiders on that night bears any resemblance to what took place against the Saints, Tomlinson will break Adrian Peterson's single game record.