The Raiders traveled to Dallas for the first preseason game of the year. It was the Cowboys' second game of the preseason as they had already played the Bengals in the Hall of Fame game last Sunday. But for the Raiders and their fans, it was the first game played since last season.
Seeing the Raiders take the field for the first time in 7 months is very exciting. Seeing those glorious Silver helmets that make the Cowboys silver domes just look kinda sparkly. The Raiders also came out with nearly a full starting squad while the Cowboys were pretty banged up from last week's game. Even so the 'boys had their star offensive players Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Jason Witten and Marion Barber III. And even so, the Raiders defense stood strong.
The Raider offense is still getting on track however. Understandably of course, they have a lot of young players as well as a new starting quarterback. But Ballers & Busters is not about "all things considered" so with that in mind, here are those guys who proved their worth, a few that need some work and a few that may have moved closer to the unemployment line.
A few people may have been a bit surprised to see him in the starting lineup. Then he went out and showed everyone why he deserved it. The Raiders seem to be playing personel at certain positions based solely on the teams' strengths. This may seem like a no brainer but that isn't usually the case with the Raiders. They moved Seymour inside to DT and Tommy Kelly over so they could start both Lamarr Houston and Shaughnessy at the ends. Shaughnessy's fantastic play is the primary reason why. Cable knows the Raiders are better off with him on the field then as a backup. He ended the Cowboys third drive of the game on it's 2nd play. It was John Kitna's first pass attempt and Matt sacked him a few inches from a safety. The next play he held his gap causing a run stuff for no gain for a three and out and a punt from the back of their own endzone. On the very next Cowboy possession, he had yet another sack; this time on first down. The drive would end two plays later. Then again on the very next Cowboy possession he had a run stuff at the line on first down. A few plays later that drive would end with the Cowboys going for it on 4th and 1 and failing that led to a turnover on downs. This was just before halftime and he was replaced in the second half. But he did plenty of damage in his half of football.
As I mentioned a moment ago, he lined up opposite Shaughnessy at defensive end. He was a three technique defensive tackle in college at Texas and many folks questioned the Raiders moving him to defensive end. I am going to say at this moment, that move has proven to be the right one. On the Cowboys very first possession, with all of their starters in the game and fresh, Houston had two sacks. Let me reiterate: TWO sacks on ONE drive. This in his first ever NFL game against an offense that has been picked to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this season. And make no mistake, the Cowboys have a few injuries but not on their offensive line. So these were the real starters he was facing. He then came out on the next possession, still against the Cowboy starters and pressured Romo into a thrown into coverage that fell incomplete. He played more than most the starters because he is a rookie but he didn't look like a rookie when he was blasting through the Cowboys' veteran offensive lineman.
Two plays in a row on the Cowboys' first drive Nnamdi defended 'his' side of the field well. The first time he showed them they aren't to try and run at him as he quickly shot to the line to smack the Runningback as he attempted to get through a gap. The next play, he showed yet again, just how truly awe inspiring his coverage skills are. He ran Roy Williams route for him and was in position to make the interception if it weren't for Roy Williams alertly turning into the defender and batting it down. Otherwise Nnamdi would likely have taken it back for a touchdown. Two plays later, Romo was looking to his area of the field and saw his prospective receiver was so blanketed that he couldn't throw it. The time wasted gave Lamarr Houston a chance to come in a sack Romo. Nnamdi and Tyvon Branch get a little credit for their coverage on the sack by Houston. Yes, folks, the aptly named "coverage sack." As usual, Romo didn't test Nnamdi again-- not even in a preseason game. And with Cable and co. not needing to see much more from Nnamdi either, he was out after a couple series to give Routt some extra work in relief.
He is proving to be the primary key to this team showing 3-4 looks. His coverage ability and speed are truly remarkable. His one sack of the day was a big one too. It ended the Cowboys first drive. He was moved up to the line into a 3-4 LB/DE set and shot into the backfield to sack Romo and force a fumble. The Cowboys would recover and counted themselves lucky they escaped with a field goal. On the next Cowboys possession, they tried a tricky pitch play. Stanford Routt read it correctly but was juked into a football follies worthy 'ankle breaking' type moment. Scott was right behind him though to nail the runner for a minimal gain. He was taken out in favor of Thomas Howard a drive later.
Michael Bush was replaced in the game by Rock Cartwright in the second quarter. And while Cartwright had some success, it was Bennett who really tore up the Cowboy defense. He came in on the Raiders second drive of the second half and immediately began picking up large chunks of yardage. His first run went for 9 yards and he pushed through the line for a 1st down on the next play. Then he ran to the right and showed he still has a lot of speed as he got the edge and took the ball for 18 yards. Two plays later he picked up another short first down. On the next play, however, Brandon Myers couldn't handle his man on the block causing a Bennett to be caught in the backfield. Two incompletions later, the drive stalled. But not until after Bennett had 31 yards rushing and three first downs. A couple possessions later he had a 14 yard run on a drive that ended with the Raiders only offensive touchdown as well as the Raiders first score. The next Raider drive turned out to be their last and it was almost all Michael Bennett. After a short completion to Jonnie Lee Higgins, Bennett either ran or caught every single play the rest of the way. He had 43 yards on the drive including a 33 yard screen catch and run. He finished with a run in which he fought off two defenders in the backfield to turn negative yardage into a short gain. It set up a field goal to put the Raiders ahead of the Cowboys 10-9. He finished the game with over a hundred (101) total yards along with 68 yards rushing on 12 carries (5.7 ypc). Cartwright did some things to help his cause as well but Bennett really shined.
Boyd obviously makes this list for his huge interception that he returned 50 yards for a touchdown to seal the Raider victory. But he was also very solid in this game prior to that. He has a couple of run stuffs to start the 4th quarter and he was flawless in coverage as well. But oh man, that interception for a touchdown was really something wasn't it? It would only have been better if the Raiders were at home and he leaped into the Blackhole afterward. He continues to prove that how much of a find he was as an undrafted free agent last season.
Another guy from the 2009 undrafted free agent class for the Raiders who just continues to impress. And he too was a guy who had one really great play that earned him a spot on this list. He took a well placed, but extremely difficult pass into the corner of the endzone from Kyle Boller and made a truly amazing touchdown catch. Leaping in the air and coming down with his feet barely inbounds to give the Raiders their first score and only offensive touchdown of this game. What might be more remarkable than his play on the field in the fact that this guy slipped out of the draft and into the Raiders' laps last year.
I know this list is getting long but there was too much good play to leave some of these guys out. Goethel was drafted by the Raiders in the 6th round out of Arizona State. He played outside linebacker there but the Raiders had ideas on changing him to middle linebacker. That is kind of backward from the usual transition. Middle linebacker is far more demanding than outside linebacker. But Goethel looks pretty good so far. He came in in the fourth quarter after McClain had started much of the game and he was releived for a quarter by Ricky Brown. He had two run stuffs in the Cowboys first drive and aided in the Cowboys going three and out on their next possession. On the Cowboys final two drive attempts he showed his coverage skills when he had a tip pass that was nearly intercepted and later had a pass defended. He keeps this up and the Raiders will find a place for him at any linebacker spot they can.
I have been very hard on Figurs since he arrived. In practice he has drops and doesn't seem to have soft hands at all. But in this game he not only looked good in the return game, but he had three really nice catches. One was a high pass along the sideline that he leaped up and came down with while toe tapping inbounds. Another of them he used his speed to shake his defender and hauled in a comebacker for a first down. On his punt return he split two prospective tacklers and then juked a few more and took it for 16 yards. It was the only significant return of the day by the Raiders.
He didn't do anything spectacular in this game. And most of his passing yards seemed more a product of a guy making a tough catch or simply breaking wide open. But he gets credit for his timing, finding the open man and not making any stupid mistakes. The touchdown pass to Miller was a tough catch to make but Boller put it where only Miller could catch it. He also had a very well executed screen pass to Michael Bennett that went for 33 yards. He finished going 12 for 21 for 148 yards (12.3 ypc) a TD and no interceptions.
All he had to do was fair catch a punt. And he couldn't handle it. I kinda feel bad for the guy really. This may be his last shot to make an NFL roster and he fumbles a fair catch. He may have just written his ticket out of Raider camp and perhaps the NFL. The muffed punt return gave the Cowboys the ball inside the Raider 20 yard line and with the Cowboys already up 6-0, they were able to go up 9-0. Luckily the Raider defense was able to hold (are you sensing a recurring theme here?) and keep it from being 13-0 at that point. Athough, the mere fact that a guy who muffs a punt is top Buster is pretty good news.
On the first play of the Raiders second possession he gave a weak block attempt on a run play that caused Michael Bush to be stuffed at the line and the drive would end with a three and out. On the Raiders next drive, and one that started out looking rather promising, Satele was just looking as his blocking assignment ran by him to sack Jason Campbell for a 9 yard loss. The drive ended on the next play. He was replaced shortly therafter by Chris Morris but he had done enough damage. Speaking of which...
No wonder the Raiders are trying former standout offensive tackle Jared Veldheer at center. With Morris in there, I fear greatly for the Raiders. On his very first series in the second quarter, he was tossed aside by his man and gave up a tackle for loss that had the Raiders backed up at their own goal line. Then after a short gain gave the Raiders some breathing room, he was called for holding. The Cowboys declined the penalty because it was third down and the Raiders were forced to punt out of the back of their own endzone.
Yes, three offensive lineman in a row. Offensive lineman are supposed to be invisible for the most part. Most people only really notice them when they mess up. Langston's first mistake was a false start on third and short that turned it into 3rd and long causing the drive to die. Then a couple drives later, which was his last of the game, he gave up a tackle for loss on Michael Bush. It may not seem like much but you average these out over a whole game and it looks pretty bad.
He should only get better from here. He got off to a rough start on his first pass. The very first play of the game, he stared down Darrius Heyward-Bey and tried to force a ball to him that was nearly intercepted. then after a couple of very short dump passes, the drive ended. Two possessions later he began the drive by not leading Louis Murphy on a long pass attempt that was knocked down by the defender. If he had led Muphy at all, it would have been a long completion as Murphy had his man beat. A few plays later Murphy had his man beat again along the right sideline and Campbell threw it wide and out of bounds. Yet again Murphy had his man beaten and had he been led on the throw it would have been a huge gain. The next drive Campbell had his first two decent completions to Murphy for 13 yards and Todd Watkins for 11 yards. But on 4th and 1 he ended the drive by throwing a pass that was way too high to his receiver. That would be his last play of the game. His line was 7 of 13 for 49 yards which is just 7 yard per completion.
His first play of the game he gave up a 9 yard catch. A few plays later he was burnt badly by Sam Hurd and gave up a 32 yard completion. That was enough to put the Cowboys in field goal range of which they converted to go up 6-0. He held his own for a while after that until he gave up a first down catch on 4th down on a play that would have ended the game had they been stopped. Luckily for him the game ended two plays later anyway with Boyd's interception touchdown.