Okay, a lot of analysis has been spewed about the Raiders' first preseason game of the season on Thursday. But I can assure you that I haven’t read any of it yet! Before I listened to anybody else’s point of view, or even Head Coach Hue Jackson’s post game press conference, I wanted to make sure I got my spew out there too. So here’s my take on what I saw on Thursday night.
Since the offense revolves around the quarterback, it’s only right to start there. Jason Campbell looked poised and confident. This was great to see in the first preseason game. I also admired the way he looked to spread the ball around and get everybody involved. He tried to hit every receiver who came into the game, which leads me to another plus from his game Thursday – he was very decisive. There was no second guessing, no double clutching, just good old fashioned drop back and pass. The only negative from him that I saw were some timing issues on a couple of passes, one to Marcel Reece and the other to Darrius Heyward-Bey. And those are easy to fix.
The other quarterback, Kyle Boller, actually looked sharp as well, as opposed to last year, when I didn’t want him anywhere near the field. Six of six on his first drive, putting them in field goal range. Nice job by Boller.
As for the guys they were throwing the ball to, how about that double fake comeback route by Darrius Heyward-Bey? Not many people are fast enough to pull that one off. If Campbell had laid it out there for him, that's seven points. I don’t want it to sound like it’s okay that it didn’t happen. But if it is week ten, headed down the stretch toward playoff time, that's a touchdown.
To find some negativity in all this you need only look to the other starting receiver, Chaz Schilens. Schilens is certainly one of the Raiders’ most talented youngsters on the roster. But the guy seriously can’t be tackled once without limping off the field? This is becoming ridiculous. The Raiders will definitely have to consider this when they make their decision on the final 53. Nick Miller actually made some nice catches out there. It would be a shame to see him get picked up by another team and then see Schilens end up on IR with some silly leg injury.
All right, back to some positives. Denarius Moore is a special player. For most of us, this was our first chance to see him on a football field for the Silver and Black and I can tell you that the hype is real. I think he had all three of his catches in the first ten actual (not game-time) minutes on the field. If he keeps it up, we will see more and more of him.
Back to the minuses of the game, and one Khalif Barnes. Barnes had his opportunity to prove that he could be a reliable right tackle. Instead of people noticing the fair job he did in run and pass blocking, I’m sure people will talk about how he false started far too often – three times in one drive, the final one putting a halt to a potential field goal attempt. This position on the Raiders’ line is apparently cursed. It really doesn’t matter who they put over there, there is a "False Start Stigma" attached to that position. Clearly, his nerves got the better of him and I, for one, can forgive him for that as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
As for the defensive side of the ball, there were many positives. Jarvis Moss looked like a former first round pick for the first time in his career. He pushed that tackle he lined up against right into the middle of the field. Along with his run stuffing and block shedding, he also managed an impressive hit on the quarterback. Moss did a nice job of convincing the coaches that if one of the starters should fall to injury, they have nothing to worry about. Certainly he relieved some of the pressure off of last year’s back-up, Trevor Scott, by coming out this year in great football shape with domination on his mind.
Next up is Michael Huff. Nobody has been more critical of Huff in the past than I have. I always admired his personality and his sense of humor, though his play on the field always left me in doubt. But Huff was on a mission during his six plays Thursday night and the assignment was to make people forget that Nnamdi Asomugha ever existed. Huff was so fast to the ball that the offense wouldn’t have stood a chance if they were facing him for four quarters. If he can keep that level of energy and that type of instinct, he could very well have the career year Hue Jackson thinks he is going to have. For those six plays, he looked like Troy Polamolu out there. Raiders’ commentator, Greg Papa, said that he looked bigger than last year and indeed he does look like he increased his muscle mass during the offseason.
Demarcus Van Dyke is still a rookie and that was highly evident. It’s going to take him far longer than a preseason to give the coaches confidence in his abilities as a cover cornerback. Unfortunately, he’ll probably be put on that Al Davis scholarship program list. Walter McFadden was no better, racking up two pass interference penalties during one drive and pretending he didn’t know what he was doing wrong. I’m disappointed by McFadden because I thought he would separate himself as the most likely candidate to take over that nickel cornerback position. With the play of these two, it’s easy to see why the coaching staff has been putting Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch at cornerback in their nickel.
Strong-side linebacker Quentin Groves stayed on the field long after his teammates, Rolando McClain and Kamerion Wimbley, took their leave. This is significant as it could mean the coaches don’t have much faith in Groves at the present time. The rest of the defense got out after only six plays, but Groves played most of the first half. This is going to be one of the hottest position battles on the team moving forward. If Groves winds up the starter this year, it will only be because there is no better option on the team. He has the size and speed to play the position, but he still needs to work on that mental side of the game.
The Raiders looked like a team that is going to continue its growth and development from last year. There were a few troublesome areas and I’m sure I did not address them all here. But the fact that Robert Gallery, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Zach Miller are not on the roster any more doesn’t look like it’s going to affect them as much as some thought it would.
And one more thing -- nice freaking catch, David Ausberry.
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