Focal Points: Raiders vs Bears

The Bears come to town this week for what should be a good game. It will pit the Raiders’ newly high-powered offense against the Bears’ tough defense. The Bears and Raiders were rooting for each other last week and neither were disappointed in the result as each beat the other’s division rival. But while last week it was a case of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” this week it will not be so friendly.

McCann is double trouble… for the Raiders

The Raiders signed Bryan McCann less than two weeks ago to replace the injured Jacoby Ford in return duties. Then last week Denarius Moore injured himself and he will likely not play. Running back Taiwan Jones would normally fill in on return duties but he too is injured. This means McCann will be returning both kicks and punts. That may not be good news.

McCann has only one full season as an NFL player, and in the last half of 2010, he was a fumbling machine. He had six fumbles on 23 returns for the Cowboys in just nine games. That was two fumbles on 23 kick returns and four fumbles on 8 punt returns–a fumble on every other return.

The Raiders can’t afford to give the Bears any extra opportunities off of turnovers.

If you want some good news, McCann did have one punt return touchdown of 97 yards. He had two other returns over 20 yards. Those big returns will only mean something if he can hold on to the ball, though.

DHB is feeling fine

Not a week after Darrius Heyward-Bey was carted off the field on a stretcher in Minnesota, he was back at practice. It appears as if he might play on Sunday. He was hit in the head with a knee and the collision took his helmet off. He was taken for examination and the results were negative for any serious damage but he was said to have suffered a concussion from the hit.

With new rules regarding concussed players, they often are forced to sit out a week. However, if it is deemed a mild concussion, the player will be monitored throughout the week and re-tested. If the results of the tests are that he is recovered, he can practice and usually play as well.

DHB had limited practices on Thursday and Friday and is officially listed as questionable for the game.There is a good chance he starts. If he can’t go, the Raiders would field just three receivers. There is also a possiblity he would be used in a limited capacity or available only if needed. We won’t know for sure until game time.

Introducing Mr Hanie

The Raiders had a Caleb Hanie crash course this week. The three year quarterback has never started an NFL game. The most tape the Raiders have of him since his college days at Colorado State was the fill-in duty he had in last year’s NFC Championship game, in which he led two touchdown drives and threw two interceptions to the Packers.

The Raiders won’t get as much of a surprise as the Packers had facing Hanie. They had no idea the third string QB would be getting into that game and didn’t know what to expect. The Raiders have at least had a week to prepare for him. A week is plenty of time for most quarterbacks. But most quarterbacks have more than a quarter of football on which to focus.

“We know everything about this young man,” said Hue Jackson. “We know what he eats, we know where he sleeps, we know exactly what he does. Because it’s important for us to know… we know who this man is. We have a lot of respect for him. He is a good player, he is going to be their quarterback, and he’s a guy that we have to defeat this week.”

This means the Raiders will be hoping something can be gleaned from Hanie’s preseason games and perhaps his college tape, though going back four years to college ball seems less likely to yield accurate results.

Air on the side of Carson?

The Bears have the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL. This would lead many to believe the Raiders will air it out against them. But not so fast. The Raiders have committed to running the ball of late. Michael Bush has been handed the ball 60 times in the last two games. Last week it was against the Vikings who hadn’t allowed a 100 yard rusher this season and are also one of the worst pass defending team in the league (28th).

The Raiders have taken to the air more times than not this season, but many of their wins have come on the ground. They are 3-0 in games in which they had more rushing yards than passing yards. They are also 5-1 in games in which they had less than 200 yards passing. The one loss was the disastrous six interception loss against the Chiefs.

They have discovered that the Raiders win on the ground. That is the reason why Hue Jackson keeps handing the rock to Bush time and time again. The Raiders have the offensive line to do it and the grind-it-out back in Bush as well.

The Bears won’t be a pushover in the run game. They have the 11th ranked rush defense in the league and we know they have some of the best linebackers in the NFL.

No rest for Veldheer

Last week Raiders’ second year left tackle, Jared Veldheer, faced off against the NFL sack leader Jared Allen, and held Allen without a sack. It was the first time Allen had been held sackless in eleven straight games stretching back to last season. But just when Veldheer thinks he has seen his toughest competition, the hits just keep comin’. This week he squares off against All Pro defensive end Julius Peppers.

Peppers has six sacks this season which is about on pace with his season averages. He has 95 sacks in ten seasons earning him a trip to the Pro Bowl six times and All Pro three times including last season. He is showing no signs of slowing down and will present Veldheer with yet another tough test along the left side of the Raiders’ offensive line.

So far this season Veldheer has given up just one sack, on a play in the Chargers game in which Palmer escaped the pocket when Veldheer was blocking for him to step up into the pocket. Basically I am saying that Veldheer has played some of the best left tackle in the NFL. If he can stand up to Allen and Peppers in two straight games, there should be no way for the Pro Bowl voters to ignore him.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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