Writing about bad losses are the hardest pieces to write because there is little to accentuate except the bad. And, unfortunately, there was a lot of bad in the Raiders 28-20 loss to the Saints.
To start, the score is misleading. The first half ended with the Saints up 23-7 and even that score makes it seem better than it was as the Raiders weren’t able to get on the board until 31 seconds before the end of the half.
When writing my preview of the game, I highlighted four areas that the coaching staff would look to improve. Unfortunately, the Raiders struggled in all four and regressed from the Dallas game in most.
The first area was the offensive line, which had its’ second poor outing. Some regression was expected because the O-line was missing it’s best player, Jared Veldheer, who had surgery yesterday.
The offensive line was also without starting RG Mike Brisiel. Veteran Andre Gurode took Brisiel’s place as first-team RG for the game.
There is a possibility that the line will improve once it’s solidified. Most every practice features a new player at one of the positions, it seems, and it’s difficult to get consistency on the line when you aren’t used to the man lining up next to you.
Look for the Raiders to solidify their starting lineup soon and having those players work next to each other day in and day out to learn each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. If may not be too difficult to settle on the starting lineup soon – it may come down to the last 5 men able to suit up!
The Raiders are now desperately short at offensive tackle after losing Jared Veldheer earlier this week and UDFA John Wetzel suffered a knee injury that may cause him to miss some time.
The Raiders currently have only 3 healthy OTs on their squad of 90 – last night’s starters Alex Barron and Khalif Barnes and backup Willie Smith. They will almost certainly sign another tackle this week – for depth if nothing else.
Instead of improving over the week, the offensive line seemed to devolve instead. QB Matt Flynn, who played the entire first half, dropped back to pass 22 times and was sacked on 5 of those play. He would have had another sack but was able to scramble forward for a 4 yard gain on one of the plays.
The offensive line struggled to make any adjustments to the blitzes that current Saints’ and former Raiders’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan threw their way, letting blitzing players come in unblocked , at times.
Other times, the Raiders offensive linemen just lost the battle at the line of scrimmage like when new starting LT Barron was beat around the edge in a one on one matchup, allowing Flynn to get hit well behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.
Review of the available tackles find that there are no good options on the team. So be it, the team is clearly in rebuilding mode anyway. The team will definitely sign another OT or two to have some depth but don't expect any saviors to come in. The offensive tackle position is likely as good as it's going to be this year.
The Raiders are going to need to find some consistency and get better about identifying blitzers and assigning protection if Flynn has any hope of getting through the season healthy.
The first team defensive line looked poor for a second week in a row but the hope is that it’s mostly due to only having only one of the projected first team defensive line, DE Jason Hunter, on the field for the second week in a row. The other three projected starters, DTs Pat Sims and Vance Walker, and DE Lamarr Houston, haven’t played together in weeks.
The backups had up and down days. Second-year DE Jack Crawford struggled early but came on strong later in the game and was downright dominant against the second team offense.
Second-year DT Christo Bilukidi also had his moments – he dropped into coverage several times and showed fluid hips. He also made some plays around the line of scrimmage, ending with 3 tackles and one pass deflected.
Rookie DT Stacy McGee has had his moments in camp but he was abused on a play in which Drew Brees had a whopping 12 seconds in which he could move around slightly and scan downfield to make a throw. McGee was easily handled by the LT, who only used one hand at times to keep the DT at bay.
Lamarr Houston practiced some last week and Vance Walker should be back any day now, as well, so game three should have more pass rush with those two playing.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has also been playing the pre-season fairly vanilla considering his reputation is for exotic blitzes. I suppose this makes sense because the last thing he wants to do is tip his hand as to where the blitz is going to come from when it doens't matter - hopefully Tarver will spice things up a bit when the points really start to matter.
First team offense
Speaking of spicy, the first team offense scored a TD against the Saints first team defense but it’s hard to feel too elated about it because it was when the Saints were rolling up 23-0 and they had started to take off the pressure on Flynn on blitzes. Only when Flynn had time to scan the field was he really able to make any plays.
The TD itself was a thing of beauty, a great pass over the defender and into the hands of Denarius Moore in the L corner of the endzone.
Much has been made about Flynn’s lack of arm strength and he certainly doesn’t have one of the best arms in the game but he showed on a number of throws last night that he can place the ball pretty well downfield as long as the throw is within 30 yards or so. It’s not ideal, but it’s sufficient at this point.
For some reason, right after the TD throw I had a sudden hankering for hot sauce. Plus, I really wanted to hurt my dear mother. I can’t imagine why…
Nice piece, but surprised you didn't mention Flynn totally missing the open receiver for a TD on that first drive. I found that incomprehensible on many levels - Flynn scanned the field, the guy was running wide open, he was in a lane where the QB has a clear view - nothing. That drive was also disconcerting in the way it ended - a lame handoff into the line that New Orleans obviously dominating after 3rd down failed. Allen (or whoever is calling plays) has to be more creative than that.
The big problems I saw were the O-line, which has been a problem from day 1. Last year we wasted our first pick on a WR that's not even starting when we already knew we needed the help on both lines. The Saints weren't even slowing down - 4 out of the first 6 drives in the first half were 3 and out. A lot of plays Flynn didn't even have time to look for the receiver they were on him so quick. He made the one TD throw that was nice - but other than that it's easy to see why this guy hasn't been starting. I actually felt more comfortable with "Run First" Pryor in there.
The other problem was D-line. Holy cow. The only time I ever remember seeing a QB stand back in the pocket flat-footed that long was the Art Shell / Gene Upshaw days when the Snake could have a cup of coffee and a doughnut before finding Biletnikoff or Branch somewhere downfield. The last Brees TD was ridiculous. Our DBs (kudos to them) did a great job - they had everyone covered a good 10 seconds or so - but NOTHING from the rush. Brees was about as comfortable as a QB can be back there - he might as well have been wearing the red practice jersey considering how many times we got our hands on him.
Agree with a lot of this but FYI our first pick last year was on an OT not a WR. And Reggie is a best player available guy so it's not about need, it's about building a team of great players.
@RaiderDoc So it was - I misremembered that one - thanks for the correction. I think my mind was trying to block out the bad memories of last year's draft.
Disagree on Reggie though. We picked Hayden first this year (wait - let me google that... yes - it was definitely Hayden)... that was a need pick. Some people didn't even have him rated as the best corner - much less the best player on the board. So Reggie (like a lot of GMs) might just be claiming he's a "best player" guy when it's convenient.
Barnes, Smith, Barron. Wow. Just wow. Has any team ever in the history of the NFL ever had worse OTs on top of its' depth chart.
nice piece...tough game to cover......light at the end of the tunnel on its way.....the starting DL HAS to be better and the playing time our young guys (crawford, bass, robinson,biliduki, Mc Gee) are getting is invaluable. On the OL, we definility need some continuity....lets not forget Watson may be back soon and can play LT till Vehldeer gets back if Barron doesn't pick up his game...Also gotta love how Flynn kept his cool in the onslaught