Football is back which means it is time for Ballers & Busters. When I first began doing this series, it was to evaluate the Raiders’ young talent in the preseason and hopefully give a good indication of who would make the team and perhaps make some noise come the regular season. So breaking down performances in the preseason is a return to B&B roots.
This preseason game was one that was in doubt for a while with the lockout. But the CBA was done and the Raider players took the field on time so no games would be missed. This first contest was to be the first full contact any of these players would have this offseason. Its purpose was to bridge the gap between non-contact drills and the regular season.
Hue Jackson as head coach and much of his staff made their Raider debuts. A few new additions to the Raiders suited up in Silver and Black for the first time and quite a few rookies put on an NFL uniform for the first time as well.
So as the Raiders dipped their collective toes in the water, we will see who sank and who swam.
He was in for one series in which he had a run stuffing tackle for no gain, a tackle on a pass into the flat, and a near interception on a pass deflection. That is a whole day’s work for some players. It is really no surprise when you consider the level of play Shaughnessy has displayed in practice the past two weeks. He is an unstoppable force that will wreak havoc on opposing offenses this season.
He really shouldn’t have taken as many field goals as he did but that was through no fault of his own. He hit four on the day with the longest one coming from 57 yards out. He kicked it off the dirt and it split the uprights perfectly. If this were the regular season, that would have tied him with himself for top five all-time. He accounted for 12 of the team’s 18 points in the game.
The first team offense was in for two series and on those two series, the longest run went for seven yards: a rush by Michael Bush through a gaping hole that Carlisle opened. Two plays later they set up a screen play in which Reece pulled down a nifty one-handed grab. When Reece turned around, he saw Carlisle lay a solid block to clear space for him to take it for seven seven yards.
Jared Veldheer, Stephon Heyer
Veldheer’s blindside protection gave Jason Campbell all the time he needed to work the Raiders’ offense. The first play of the game was a long sideline bomb in which the Cardinals were called for pass interference. The penalty was good for 40 yards and set up the first points of the game. On the next drive Campbell was able to find Denarius Moore for a 26 yard completion. When Veldheer was replaced by Heyer, the protection was much the same. Heyer gave Boller time to work through the remainder of the first half. He also paved the way for a nice 11 yard run by Rock Cartwright on a drive that resulted in a field goal and a Raider 6-0 lead.
Second team defensive line
While the Raiders only played their first team defense one series, the Cardinals kept their first team offense in two series. This was a good test for the Raiders’ second team defense. The Cardinals were able to take advantage of the Raiders’ backup defensive backs. They drove the ball all the way to the Raiders’ one yard line. But they would get no farther. Big John Henderson and company would stuff the Cardinals’ rush attempts three straight times to keep them out of the endzone and force a turnover on downs. A huge goal line stand.
Goethel has been the Raiders’ utility linebacker this camp, stepping in for every single position in the linebacker corps. This day he came in for Rolando McClain at the middle linebacker spot. He looked very comfortable running the offense, too. He looked like a mirror image of Greg Biekert out there directing traffic from the middle. Goethel also had three nice tackles in the game. The first was a run stuff for no gain. The second tackle had him tracking down the running back who had taken a pitch around the outside for one yard. He was also in on that goal line stand to keep the Cardinals out of the endzone and give the Raiders the ball back. He is a valuable asset to this linebacker corps and the coaches are confident that if he needed to step up and start at a moment’s notice, he could do it.
His 26 yard catch was the second longest gain of the day. It went for 26 yards and most of it was running after the catch. He had three catches on the day but that particular catch showed fans the kind of big play ability coaches and media see from him every day in practice.
Ausberry is another impressive rookie who has raised some eyebrows in camp. The first thing that strikes you is how big he is. You don’t expect a former receiver to be that imposing. The next thing that strikes you is his big play ability. I would compare him to Vernon Davis. He has that kind of athletic ability. He was the Raiders’ final draft pick in round seven. With the Raiders switching him to tight end from wide receiver, the immediate thought was that he was a project destined for the practice squad. He has played his way onto this team in practice. His savvy fade touchdown with toe drag in this game may have cemented that. It was the only Raider touchdown on the day.
The defense in this game from the perspective of the defensive line and linebackers, was superb. The first team defense did their job and made way for the second team. The second team, as I mentioned before, was very strong. Bresnahan dialed up a few timely corner blitzes that all yielded positive results. It was a good start to Chuck’s return to the Raiders.
For anyone wondering why I didn’t mention Walter McFadden in camp reports much, wonder no more. He was the Cardinals’ whipping boy in this game. He came in the game on the second series and quickly gave up a 17 yard catch to put the Cardinals in scoring position. His worst drive came just before halftime. On first down, the small corner was handled easily on the block on a six yard run. A few plays later he was called for pass interference. Two plays after that, he had another pass interference. Two plays after that, he gave up a 10 yard catch. The drive ended with the Cardinals’ first touchdown of the day to send them into halftime up 7-6. McFadden would later give up another 10 yard catch and first down before being replaced by Sterling Moore for the remainder of the game. According to the unofficial depth chart, McFadden is the third cornerback. That is a truly scary thought, and a reason that depth chart is unofficial.
He was in for two series and had four false starts. That is inexcusable even for an entire game. One of those false starts turned a field goal attempt into a punt.
Demarcus Van Dyke
After Wal Mac on the depth chart is Demarcus Van Dyke. He is the highest drafted player of all the backup corners and was out there playing with the first team defense as the team tried to get a good indication of what they have in their backup corners. He was up against Larry Fitzgerald in this game which is a difficult task for even the best corners in the NFL. The Cardinals took DVD back to school. They took a long sideline shot at Fitzgerald and Van Dyke appeared to have good position but didn’t high point the ball or go after it aggressively. Fitzgerald reached up and snatched the ball from him for a 43 yard gain. Two plays later Van Dyke missed a tackle on a 15 yard run. Just like McFadden, the drive just before half was not a good one for young DVD, as he gave up two catches on the drive, the first for nine yards and the second was the drive ending touchdown to give the Cardinals the lead. It was his final play of the game.
Things went wrong before the game even started. The team captains went out for the coin toss and one said defer and another said kickoff. The refs heard kickoff and that gave the Cardinals the option to start the second half. They chose to receive. So if anyone was wondering why the Raiders kicked off to begin the game and to begin the second half, that’s why. On the defensive drive to begin the second half, Hiram Eugene dislocated his hip, ending his season and perhaps worse. Then there was the fact that the Raiders were inside the five yard line twice and opted to kick field goals instead of going for a touchdown on fourth down. This is the preseason, there is nothing to be gained from kicking a field goal. Add in the fact that Jackson has been preaching the importance of limiting the penalties to the point of having referees on the field all of camp — only to have the Raiders commit 10 penalties for 84 yards including five false starts.