The Quarterbacks: Anyone who claims they can accurately scout Matt Schaub in his limited work in two preseason games is either better than me or lying. I wanted to get a better idea of what kind of quarterback Schaub would be versus the Lions, but came away frustrated because the offensive line struggled to keep even the semblance of a pocket around him.
Even with all of the pressure on him, Schaub was the only quarterback of the three that completed over 60% of his passes on the night with 2nd string quarterback Derek Carr completing 56.2% and 3rd stringer Matt McGloin completing a mere 46.6%.
Of course, Carr to an extent and certainly McGloin had lesser receivers to work with, they also had the benefit of playing with substantially less pressure going against the 2nd and 3rd string defenses, respectively.
Schaub didn’t look great but he didn’t look bad, to me, either. On the first drive, alone, he had consecutive completions of 13, 6, and 18 yards before a pass to James Jones was played very well by a defender, popped up, and was intercepted.
Schaub ended the night completing 8 of 13 passes for 87 yards, no touchdowns, and the one interception. Over a full game that projects to about 29 completions in 47 passes for 319 yards, which is respectable. Schaub also did lead the team to a scoring drive although it took a 12 men on the field penalty against Detroit to give them a fresh set of downs from which to drive.
Over all, there were definitely some things to like about Schaub and there are still many questions. He looks substantially better than did Matt Flynn a year ago and the team should easily be better with him under center.
Behind Schaub, Carr had a good showing as did McGloin. Each was able to throw a touchdown but neither were so remarkably better than the competition around them as to make me believe they are not in the correct spot at this time.
I like Carr and I advocated for the Raiders taking him in the second round when it became clear he would fall out of the first. However, I think he can benefit from more time learning the position and continuing to focus on his mechanics. I think the future is bright for Carr but he should wait and learn before being pushed into the starting role.
As for McGloin, he’s an ideal backup. He’s fiery and competitive and he prepares himself well. He doesn’t have the physical tools that others have, but he’s overachieved at every other spot along the way to the NFL and he can be a good to great backup quarterback. If needed, he can start, although I think Carr would easily start before him. I do not read too much into the fact that he brought the Raiders back against the 3rd string Detroit defense – if he’s good enough to start, he should definitely good enough to do that.
The offensive line: The day after the game, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was asked about the offensive line and he expressed confidence in the line saying, “I know probably to the naked eye it looked like there might be some pressure,” Allen said. “Anytime the quarterback gets pressured, the common idea or the common theme is, ‘Oh my gosh, the offensive line.’ Well, there’s a lot of other elements that are involved in that.”
He added, “I thought the offensive line was solid in protection.”
Allen is correct: to my naked eye, the Raiders offensive line, especially the interior, looked terrible. The first team line gave up numerous pressures and didn’t do a good job of handling the Lions defenders. Allen said that part of that was that the Raiders didn’t really game plan for the Lions due to their scrimmages with the Cowboys over the last week and that is probably part of the reason. The other part is that the offensive line just didn’t look good against the front 7 of the Lions.
Whatever the reason, the offensive line is key to the Raiders’ success this year. If the line doesn’t gel, the team is going to be in for a long season because the line is supposed to be the teams’ strength, not a liability.
The secondary: Another big area of concern was the secondary, which once again got torched. In week 1 versus the Vikings, the Raiders had a hard time stopping Minnesota’s offense. Over practices at Oxnard, the Raiders struggled against the Dallas offense.
Versus the Lions – and Detroit playing without All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson – the Raiders defense allowed 22 of the 30 attempted passes be completed – a whopping 73.3%!
The first pass that Detroit QB Matthew Stafford threw was a touchdown, in fact – a 28 yard pass to a wide open Golden Tate who had used a double move on starting cornerback Tarrell Brown that left Brown in the dust.
Brown, who was supposed to be a quality veteran presence, has struggled mightily his limited exposure on the Raiders team. If Brown does not improve quickly, opposing offenses will look to target him as he has not made many plays and has been rendered ineffective by opposing quarterbacks. There is time for him to improve but the window is fast closing.
Penalties: The one area where the Raiders definitely improved over the course of the week! On Friday, Oakland was flagged 7 times for 65 yards. The Lions had more flags, 11, and a few more yards, 74. However, most of the Raiders’ penalties came late in the game with players who are less likely to make the final squad where as many of the Lions’ penalties were committed by the starting units.
The Raiders will need to be a hungry and disciplined team if the want to get more wins this year against a brutal schedule of opponents. The lack of first team penalties was a silver lining in an otherwise fairly dark preseason week 2 cloud.
Thankfully, the preseason games don’t count and the Raiders have time to keep improving and work towards winning against the Jets in week one of the regular season. The Raiders training camp has been much improved from this time a year ago. I have every reason to believe that will eventually carry over onto the product on the field.