Raiders preseason game 3: Ballers & Busters


As is always the case, the third preseason game is the first team offense’s primer for the regular season. This is supposed to be the game that is the most telling as to what we can expect from the team this year. The story in this game was a sad one, as the Raiders were doubled up by the Saints 40-20. If being the most telling game of the preseason holds true, the Raiders are in big trouble.

They just don’t have the personnel necessary to compete. The good news, if you are looking for some, is there were some key injuries affecting this game, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour and starting cornerback Chris Johnson being the two who are the most sorely missed. A few other important pieces missing were DT John Henderson, RB Darren McFadden, safety Mike Mitchell, and top wide receivers Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, and Jacoby Ford.

But in Hue Jackson’s “next man up” philosophy, that would suggest the Raiders have the talent behind all of these injured players to step up and start in their absence. Let’s see how that worked out, shall we?

Ballers

Derek Hagan

Hagan came to the Raiders in the middle of training camp unheralded. He was among a group of newly signed players and was seen initially as a camp body with the Raiders already stocked with receivers. But since day one, he has done nothing but show why he deserves to be on this team. Sunday he took his game to another level. He caught six passes on the day for 121 yards and a touchdown to lead all receivers. That’s over 20 yards a catch — and he got most of those yards after the catch.

On the first offensive series, despite not starting, he got the ball twice. The first catch was a 12 yard grab on third down that gave the Raiders a first down to keep the drive alive. Then he had the final catch on the drive. It was the last catch because he stiff juked and stiff armed his defender and took it 35 yards to the house. The next catch he had was also the last of a drive. It went for eight yards, which was just enough to get in field goal range where Sebastian Janikowski hit a 57 yarder.

Next drive, he had a huge 22 yard catch and run to give the Raiders a chance to score just before halftime. Just like before, he shook defenders and broke tackles all the way. When the Raiders came out of the locker room, they had a nice drive going, and the biggest play on the drive was Hagan with an amazing 31 yard catch. The Raiders would score a touchdown two plays later on a 22 yard Taiwan Jones run that was made possible by a fine block from Hagan. The TD would tie the game 17-17.

Hagan also had a 13 yard catch and broke another tackle on the next drive to help set up another Janikowski field goal for a 20-17 Raider lead. Just when you thought his day was done, he made a tackle on a punt return. Playmakers just make plays. That’s all there is to it.

Taiwan Jones

Speaking of playmakers… Jones made the Raiders look like geniuses in this game, and a few other teams may need to fire some scouts. As if his blazing speed weren’t enough, he has incredible instincts. Just when defenders think he is going to simply try to outrun them, he changes field and completely fools them. He executes cutback runs to perfection and goes between tackles as well as he takes the edge. His hands out of the backfield are equally impressive. He runs through swing passes and passes in the flat, which has him at near full speed before he even gets the ball in his hands. This is the equivalent of a receiver being hit in stride on a slant pattern. With his speed, the defender is hard pressed to catch him at full speed. The result was 99 yards of offense on 13 carries and two catches with a 6.2 yards per carry average.

He came in the game in the second quarter and was responsible for 28 yards of the 43 as the Raiders moved down field to set up their first field goal. Jones might have had more, but a big catch he had was negated by a penalty. The next drive he was given the ball on all but one play, the last of which was a 22 yard run for a touchdown to tie the game at 17. Then to start the fourth quarter, he finished his day with an 18 yard catch and run followed by a 12 yard cutback run. It was quite a debut for the local kid who had 30 friends and family in attendance to see his first ever NFL game.

Rolando McClain

This was one of the best games I have seen him play, believe it or not. He got things started on the second play of the game with a pass defended. Then he started the next drive with a run stuff at the line for no gain. He had another nice run tackle a few plays later and followed it up with a second pass defended when he hit the receiver as he caught it to knock the ball loose. Next drive he came flying in on a disguised blitz to pressure Drew Brees and force an incompletion. Two plays later, he tackled on a catch that was short of the first down. It would have been a punt but Jarvis Moss was called for being offsides. McClain would take the field for one more series that resulted in a three and out and he was done for the day.

First team Offensive Line

I give them all the credit for their work in this game. Last week Hue Jackson said that the offensive line was the weakest part of this team but he had his mind changed in this game and struck an entirely different tune in the post game press conference. The line protected Jason Campbell superbly and opened some nice holes for Michael Bush to run through. Stefen Wisniewski, Cooper Carlisle, and Samson Satele all had great run blocks on the Raiders’ opening drive for a touchdown. Campbell also had plenty of time to work thanks to the protection from Jared Veldheer and Khalif Barnes. The one hiccup was Wisniewski being called for holding in the second quarter, but with that being the only real mistake, that is pretty good. Especially considering the line’s play in the first two games.

Michael Bush

If you thought Taiwan Jones’ stats were impressive, consider that Bush had an even higher yards per carry and he was going against the starting Saints defense the entire time. He was given just five carries for 32 yards — all of which came on the Raiders’ first drive that resulted in a touchdown. That gave him a 6.4 ypc (Jones had a 6.2). Bush also had two catches for 24 yards. He proved that he can be the primary back when he needs to be. Darren McFadden will be back by the season opener but even if he does go down with another injury this season, the Raiders are in good hands with Bush.

Sebastian Janikowski, Shane Lechler

This game was televised nationally (except in Oakland) as the NBC Sunday Night game. That allowed the rest of the country to see just how the Raiders have the two most powerful legs in the NFL. Janikowski got things started when he had one of his trademark kickoffs through the uprights. Then after the Raiders’ next possession, Lechler dialed up a 51 yard skyscraper that had a return of just two yards. Not to be outdone, to end the Raiders’ next drive, Janikowski lined up and nailed a 57 yard field goal like he could do it in his sleep. Before Lechler would get a chance to show off his stuff again, Janikowski put another field goal through, this time from 39 yards out. But Lechler would get the last memory as he laid into a punt that sailed 64 yards with a 12 yard return. No troubles in this area to be certain.

Busters

The entire secondary

To be fair, I must begin by excluding Stanford Routt and Sterling Moore from this. They both had pretty decent games. Not Baller worthy but certainly enough to keep them off the Buster list. The others gave performances not worthy of NFL players. Best we just go through this chronologically.

Demarcus Van Dyke was the first to disgrace us with his performance. The Saints’ opening drive went 80 yards for a touchdown and 73 of those yards were given up by Van Dyke. Brees went after him on the first play and did not stop until they were at the one yard line. DVD gave up 37 yards on the first play from scrimmage on a long ball down the sideline in which he never turned around. That catch looked like a replay of the Arizona game. Then he gave up a 17 yarder, a 16 yarder, and finished it off with a 6 yarder to put the Saints on the one yard line.

Next drive Brees decided he actually wanted to look for a challenge so he tried out Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch. The results were similar. Huff gave up a 23 yard catch and two plays later a 5 yard catch with McClain bailing him out. Next it was Branch who didn’t come over to help out Routt high and Brees put it right between the two defenders for a 23 yard gain. Routt gave up the final catch of nine yards to put the Saints at the one yard line again where they promptly punched it in for their second TD to start the game.

The next drive, Huff gave up another catch of 19 yards. A few plays later, Jerome Boyd gave up a 19 yard catch on third down to keep the drive alive. Boyd would finish the drive with good coverage on an incompletion to force them to go for a field goal. That would be Brees’ final play of the game. On the next Saints possession, with backup Chase Daniel in at quarterback, Branch gave up a 21 yard catch.

The third quarter was time for the backups to enter the game. This meant Walter McFadden and Chimdi Chekwa, as Jeremy Ware had gone out in the first half with an ankle sprain. The first pass McFadden saw his way was a zero route that had him standing right in front of the receiver in position to make the tackle. The receiver looked right at him and simply ran around him for six yards and a first down. Two plays later, safety Josh Bullocks gave up a short catch for a touchdown.

The next drive was a nightmare for this group. Chimdi Chekwa started it off giving up an eight yard catch, then Joe Porter gave up a four yard catch for the first down. Next play McFadden blew his cover leaving his receiver wide open. Then both Chekwa and Bullocks missed tackles as he ran for 60 yards on the play. Chekwa nearly gave up a TD on the next play, as his man had him beat, but the throw was wide and out of bounds. Not to worry, two plays later McFadden made up for it by giving up an 18 yard catch to the two yard line. Sterling Moore knocked down a short pass attempt from there which forced the Saints to run it in for the touchdown.

The next Saints possession started with a short field after Trent Edwards fumbled the snap away. They scored on one play. Joe Porter was beaten and looking for help up high from Chekwa and that help never came, resulting in a 39 yard touchdown. The damage was done, but just for good measure, Porter gave up an 11 yard catch and missed a tackle on a ten yard run to allow the Saints to kneel out the clock.

The final numbers were 25 of 43 for 391 yards and 2 TD’s passing. Brees was 15 of 23 for 189 yards. Daniel was 9 of 18 for 191 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 125.0 QB rating. Nine Saints players had at least two catches.

This team is missing Nnamdi Asomugha something fierce. At this point, they are missing Chris Johnson a great deal as well. Even the newly acquired Lito Sheppard would be a breath of fresh air.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Still the starting receiver on this team and still not playing like he is worthy of even a roster spot, Heyward-Bey saw just two passes on the day. One was a drop and the other was a long ball attempt that he, of course, couldn’t catch. The team gave Derek Hagan some first team snaps on the very first drive and Hagan had two catches on that drive for 47 yards and a touchdown. DHB, that is what a wide receiver looks like.
 

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Preseason game 3: Ballers & Busters

This was the third game of the preseason which is supposed to be the most telling game for how a team will perform in the regular season. Raiders fans can only hope that is not the case. The offense played nearly 3 quarters as stated by Lane Kiffin earlier this week. And after three quarters, the Raiders offense had yet to put a point on the board. Granted there was a TD that was called an incompletion and a missed field goal by our fill-in kicker. But nonetheless, there was no official points scored. And that is not good at all.

It would seem to those who watched the game, as well as for those who didn’t, that there isn’t much positive to say about it. And for the most part that is correct. Nearly all of the confidence that was gained in this team’s offense last week was lost this week. And while the Cardinals fans shouldn’t take much good from this game either, for the Raiders, it was a mess. You will notice that there are no running backs on this list. That is in stark contrast to last week in which there were four running backs who made the list. The offensive line is most to blame for this which will become very evident once you get to the “Busters” list.
With that said, Here is my list of Ballers and Busters.

Ballers

Gene Upshaw

Upshaw’s presence was felt throughout the night as his plays on the field and his words off of it were shown at every commercial break and at halftime. There was a great tribute to his legacy as the broadcast began and a moment of silence before the start of the game. He will be sorely missed and his image is one that should make all who don the Silver and Black proud. Al Davis had a few words to say about him and the ones that stuck with me the most were “We loved him and he loved us”.

First Team Defense

I will point them out individually in a moment but for now I really have to put them on this list as a whole. They were truly fantastic. With the offense sputtering and inconsistent, the whole first team kept the Raiders within one score by holding the Cardinals to one field goal in the first half. They held the Cardinals to 87 yards and had three interceptions.

Tommy Kelly

He was a man possessed in this game. I think he was summoning Warren Sapp even though Sapp is retired, not dead. He tipped one pass in the first quarter and shortly thereafter got his hands up which caused Leinert to throw too high for his receiver to catch it resulting in an incompletion. In the 2nd quarter he stuffed the running back at the line and forced a fumble. Then on the next play came up the middle so fast that Leinert had to get rid of the football which resulted in him throwing it right to Rashad Baker for an interception. The first play of the third quarter he blew through the line again to tackle the running back as soon as the ball was handed off. He was called for a bogus face mask but since we know it was bogus and this is preseason, it doesn’t really matter.

Gibril Wilson

How he manages to be up in the hole stuffing the running back so often blows my mind. How he can read the play, get to the hole so quickly and then smack the running back in the mouth is something to behold. I counted at least five stuffs on running backs in the first half alone. Oh GOD thank you for bringing us Gibril Wilson. Oh and I suppose thank you too Al Davis.

Nnamdi Asomugha

It is just getting old putting him on this list every week. He only had one pass thrown downfield his way and he batted it away like a kid trying to reach in the cookie jar. He had two nice run stuffs and blew up Larry Fitzgerald in the open field when he caught a pass in the backfield, for a loss. The rest of the time the Cardinal QBs had enough sense to stay away from his vicinity.

Derrick Burgess/Stanford Routt/Michael Huff

I have to group these guys because they combined for a few really great plays. Midway through the 2nd quarter Burgess pressured Leinert which caused him to throw an interception to Routt. On another play Leinert attempted a long ball but his receiver was blanketed by Routt which allowed Huff to swoop in and pick off the ball. That is team work.

Zach Miller

Yet again he is Russell’s favorite target. And rightfully so. He catches everything anywhere near him and has a knack for getting open. He had two nice catches in the 1st quarter and then a TD catch that was called out. But when watching the replay his knee touched inbounds and as the announcers said “one knee equals two feet” THAT was a touchdown. He also had a nice block as well as pushed the pile on a tough run by McFadden in the 2nd quarter. He is spectacular AND gritty. Gotta love that.

Ricky Brown

Making the list again for his playmaking abilities. He is simply all over the place making tackles. He is equal parts instinct, speed, and passion. He is also the MVP on special teams.

Chris Johnson

Congrats Chris, this is the first (and hopefully not the last) time I have ever praised you for your play. Last week you were always around the guy catching the ball but were never quite good enough to keep him from catching it in the first place. This week, you seemed to have tuned up your game a bit as you defended two passes (one of which was to Fitzgerald) and had a tackle for no gain. For someone I have hated for a while, you seem to have shown why Kiffin saw potential in you. Keep it up.

Javon Walker

He cracks the list with three catches in the game. He still doesn’t look as good as Curry, Watkins, or Schilens but showed the ability to get open and catch the ball. He may be well on his way to returning to his Pro Bowl form.

Busters

The Oline

They are the main reason why Russell could not get set and throw. The pocket was always collapsing, and they weren’t doing very well at opening up holes so the running backs could never seem to get on track. Russell was running for his life all game. The main culprits were:

Kwame Harris

In the first quarter there was a designed screen that he just screwed up. He was supposed to slow down his man before he broke upfield but he just let him run by him and Russell had to rush the throw to Fargas and it was incomplete. He was called for holding shortly thereafter. The half ended with him giving up a sack. Then midway through the third he gave up another sack.

Cooper Carlisle

Was called for holding on the final drive of the first half. Then midway through the third quarter he gave up a sack.

Cornell Green

In the 2nd quarter JaMarcus Russell miraculously escaped being sacked and ran 15 yards for a first down which would have put them in great position to score…if Green hadn’t lined up incorrectly causing an illegal formation penalty. Then after the Raiders picked off the ball and were in scoring position again, he was blown off the line by Clark Haggans which meant the Raiders had to settle for a field goal…attempt which was off the upright. Foiled again.

Sam Williams

First sight of him was whiffing on a tackle of the Cardinals third string running back Chris Vincent for a long run. Then he was floating in space when his man, TE Leonard Pope, was wide open in the end zone for a touchdown. He gave up another catch to a fullback in the 4th quarter. It is window dressing to mention he had a couple of nice tackles at the end of the game. By that point the damage had already been done.

Jay Richardson

He was routinely handled on the block as well as out of position. He was pushed aside for at least two nice runs including the long TD run by JJ Arrington in the 3rd quarter.

Jonnie Lee Higgins

After last week, he needed to come up big to show he could be a valuable asset to this team. He didn’t. He caught a simple short pass in the 1st quarter and had one decent return to the 32 in the 3rd quarter. Every other return, he was tackled by the first man to get downfield or near him. That won’t get it done.

Michael Waddell

tsk tsk tsk. He makes my Buster list again for giving up another long touchdown. This time he fell down. He also seems allergic to hitting. When he is the one who must make the tackle he simply tries to grab on and slow the guy down until another defender can come in and knock him down. He may not be on this team by midweek.

John Alston

Overall he wasn’t terrible. But he was juked by Cardinals third string QB St Pierre who ran right by him for the 1st down. That play all by itself is enough to make this list. Also when the Cardinals got tricky and kicked an onside kick he was nailed when he got near the ball. Only an offsides on the Cardinals kept that from being a successful onside kick for the Cards.

Hard to believe there are actually more Ballers than Busters in a game in which the Raiders lost 24-0 but that just goes to show you how important the Oline as well as one of two defenders are in completely changing the outcome of a game. I am trying to remind myself that Kiffin said he was going to be focusing on the passing game after focusing on the run last week. When the season begins there will be a nice mix of both which will keep the defense on its toes. So with this first team defense playing this well, the offense could settle down and grind it out. Or it could be shades of 2006 all over again (shudder). Let’s not get carried away.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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