The Raiders head into Chicago to face the Bears in their second game of the preseason Saturday. The starters for both teams will be playing well into the 2nd quarter this time after getting just a couple of possessions in the the first game.
The Raiders had a great game on defense last week and will look to keep that play up this week as they face off against the new Mike Martz vertical game. Last week against the Chargers, the Bears' first team looked quite good. They will have a tougher challenge in the secondary with the Raiders first team. But the rest of the Raider defense will hope to look better than the Chargers starters did against this Bears offense.
The Raider first team offense was lacking last week against the Cowboys and will face an even tougher challenge in the Bears defense. The Raiders will be out to show that they have jelled as a unit and are continuing to get better.
The first test for the Raiders will be Julius Peppers. He is arguably the best defensive end in football and will be giving Mario Henderson all he can handle protecting Jason Campbell's blind side. Many of the best offensive tackles in football have not been able to keep Peppers out of the the backfield. If Peppers gets a sack in this game and a couple pressures, no one would be at all surprised. However, if he gets nothing, if Henderson keeps him under wraps, that would say a lot about the progress that Henderson is making. He has been a good tackle in his young career but he has been very focused this offseason on proving he can be in an elite class. If he can shut down Peppers, that would speak volumes.
During his time with the Broncos, Jay Cutler proved that he is capable of making big plays. Now he has an offensive coordinator that knows all about it. Mike Martz led the Rams "Greatest show on turf" on their run to win the Super Bowl. All he needs is the right pieces and the first piece is the quarterback. There is no question Cutler has the arm for it. Last week he gave everyone a little preview of what he could do in the Bears offense. He was only on the field for one series. He threw two passes and had two completions for 47 yards. That is over 23 yards a completion. The key will be getting a solid pass rush on Cutler to not give his receivers enough time to get open down field. And when the pass rush fails, Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff will need to be ball hawking to cover anyone who get past the corners and breaks open deep.
As good as Cutler appears to be functioning in the Mike Martz offense, after Cutler the Bears have nothing. Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie went down in the Charger game and is lost indefinitely and the only healthy backups are rookie Dan LeFevour and Matt Gutierrez, who has been with the team just four days and has thrown a total of 2 passes in the NFL. The Raiders 2nd and 3rd teamers should tee off on these backups during the second half.
Not only did Cutler have 2 completions for 47 yards, both of those completions went to the same guy-- Johnny Knox. He surprised a lot of people last season as a rookie out of Abilene Christian. He is very fast and has great hands. He would line up on the right side against Chris Johnson but CJ is hurt at the moment. This means that Stanford Routt will get his shot. CJ takes some flack from Raider fans about his coverage abilities. He doesn't deserve such negative criticism in my opinion. He performs his duties better than a heck of a lot of corners in this league and he does it all while getting the vast majority of passes coming his way. The best corner in football is covering the other side of the field so teams are not throwing over there. CJ is also the 2nd best option on this team. Routt, despite working very hard this offseason, just isn't the quality corner Johnson is. If Routt has indeed improved, it hasn't shown up in practice. He will have his chance to showcase the rumored improvement Saturday. He will have a tough assignment in Knox. Nnamdi Asomugha has been working on moving around to cover the best receiver but I don't think the Raiders will turn him loose until the regular season.
The Raiders primary focus this offseason was on defense. And more specifically on fixing their longstanding problems with stopping the run. They opened some eyes in the Dallas game when they shut down their running attack the entire game. Bears running back Matt Forte is a talented runner who will offer as much a threat to the Raider run defense as Dallas did and more. He runs with authority and does not shy away from a hit. The Raiders got a lot bigger overall at defensive end with the new combination of Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy. Richard Seymour and his run stopping prowess have been moved inside after Gerard Warren was let go. But most important is new strong side linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and middle linebacker Rolando McClain. The front seven will look to keep Forte from getting through but if a hole opens up, Wimbley and McClain are the ones handed the task of plugging it. The Bears running attack went nowhere last week against the Chargers and the Raiders will look to do the same.
Jason Campbell has proven in his career as well as his short time with the Raiders that he loves the short passes. In particular, he loves his tight end. Played in this case by Zach Miller. The Bears like to have Lance Briggs out there covering the running backs if they come squirting through the line or the tight end if he comes off the line looking for the ball. Briggs has made a fine career in that role too. Zach will give him all he can handle on routes but you can bet Briggs will make Campbell life difficult when he attempts his little dump passes and screens. Campbell will have to open up the playbook a bit more or just tuck it and run it if Briggs has his number.
The flip side
The Bears will be without safeties Major Wright and Craig Steltz in the game. This means Danieal Manning will be starting at Strong Safety. Manning moves over from free safety and has never really distinguished himself at any position enough to retain the starting job. He will likely not offer a lot of help down low on Zach or any running back looking to catch a short pass.
BONUS: Threat #6
Sure the Bears will have a rookie throwing passes as early as the 2nd quarter, but he will have a starter to throw it to. Devin Aromashodu is listed as a starter for the Bears but long after the Bears take out their first team offense with Cutler, Knox and Devin Hester, Aromashodu will remain in the game. And if LeFevour can get him the ball, he has proven that he can go get it and knows what to do with it. He had 4 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown in the Charger game. And with Nnamdi Asomugha will be taking a seat with the rest of the starters and Routt may stay in a bit longer. But after that it will be up to one or two of the young hopefuls at corner such as fifth round pick Walter McFadden to cover Aromashodu into probably the third quarter. He presents the most immediate threat in the second tier of players. And we already know the flip side is whether their inexperienced backup QBs can actually get him the ball. I would hope that the Raiders depth in the pass rush as well as the secondary are good enough to keep these guys from having success against them. If they can't, then the Raiders will have at least have a better idea of what they have depth wise. Luckily Asomugha won't be covering Aromashodu or that would likely cause Greg Papa to suffer from a tongue sprain by halftime.
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