Still think you can’t tell anything about a team from the preseason? For the past two weeks, I’ve studied game film of the Raiders upcoming opponents and made pretty accurate assessments of the teams based solely on their preseason film. For example, I told you the Raiders would have a good test for their passing offense against a weak Bears’ passing defense and prior to that, I told you that the Dallas game would be all about defense. Now, just for the heck of it, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that both of these teams will be defined by these attributes this season. Dallas will win games because of their strong defense. They are playoff caliber on that side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Bears will lose games because of their pathetic passing defense, they will finish the year close to the bottom of their division.So where does this information put the Raiders? I’d like to provide some insight based on the mistakes they made Saturday night versus the Bears.
The first thing that should be pointed out before I start analyzing is that the Raiders held out several key players including Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson, Richard Seymour, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Darren McFadden, and Chaz Schilens. That is six potential starters or guys who will see a lot of playing time this year. These guys are all potential playmakers that would’ve made the dominance in Chicago look even worse than it was with them watching from the sidelines.
Now that I’ve made my point on that front, let me break down the three key mistakes that made this score look closer on paper than the game was on the field. The Raiders made three key mistakes in this game that led to 14 of the Bears’ 17 points.
Matt Forte to the House
Ugh, when I think about this play I want to vomit in my mouth a little. It brings back horrible memories of the days when the Raiders couldn’t defend the run. Now, let me just clarify, I took some heat in my last article for blaming a missed tackle on Michael Huff when some folks thought the blame should lay at the feet of Rolando McClain for overrunning the play from the get go.
It is true Rolando McClain overran the play. It’s true and it’s completely obvious that the first mistake belonged solely to him. However, the safety is the last line of defense and it is his fault that the play went 89 yards for a touchdown. This was a problem for the Raiders at the end of last year too; if you’ll remember the long Willis McGahee run during the Week 17 Baltimore Ravens game. If you don’t remember, then watch:
McGahee just absolutely abuse Hiram Eugene and Matt Forte torched Michael Huff in much the same way Saturday night. Of Course, in the Huff case, he never even got a hand on the ball carrier. But the bottom line is this, McCain is not going to get everything right this year and on some plays, he may only be responsible for taking out a blocker. However, the safety, in this case Michael Huff who is a veteran at this point, cannot allow a blown assignment to go 89 yards for a score. He absolutely has to make the tackle, or at the very least slow the runner down and help his teammates. Michael Huff needs to attack the ball carrier and instead, he got on his heels and allowed the runner to go right by him without contact.
The Center-Quarterback Exchange
A lot of folks want to discuss the center position as a spot of weakness for the Raiders. But you see what happens when Samson Satele leaves the field?
The problem here is obvious: Jason Campbell and Chris Morris need to get more work with each other. It’s quite apparent that:
- 1. Jason Campbell doesn’t do much work with anybody other than Samson Satele, and
- 2. Chris Morris has not been get the same amount of reps at center with the Raiders trying out Jared Veldheer at center so much
The problem here is that Veldheer was already in for Mario Henderson who left the game early with a yet unknown issue. Veldheer was not available, so the Raiders went to the versatile lineman, Chris Morris who actually started in Week one last year. Samson Satele probably won’t miss much time with his injury, as he got up and walked off the field under his own power, but the Raiders should definitely consider getting Campbell used to taking snaps from different people.
Jeremy Ware’s Blown Coverage
Right after the fumbled snap, the Raiders forced Jay Cutler and the Bears into a fourth-and-seven from just outside the Raiders 25-yard line. At this point in the game the Bears had already missed a field goal that Sebastian Janikowski could make in his sleep and an extra point after a touchdown. Needless to say, they were not in the mood to let their special teams unit on the field.
So they picked on a rookie. Now, I couldn’t tell you if there should’ve been safety help, but what it looked like to me was that Ware was concerned about the scrambling ability of Jay Cutler and crept towards the line of scrimmage when he saw Cutler getting into trouble. When he did that, he lost track of the receiver and Jay Cutler looked up and saw a wide open man in the endzone.
Jeremy Ware is young, and it is still the preseason, but Ware has to learn to stick to his assignment rather than trying to make a big play. A big hit means nothing if you miss the tackle. If Ware had kept track of the receiver, then the Bears may have converted the first down with Jay Cutler’s legs, but there is no way he was going into the endzone on his feet on that play. Ware needs to learn to stay at home, but since preseason is all about learning from your mistakes, it’s safe to forgive him this time.
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