The Raiders face the Chicago Bears in week 3 of the 2013 Pre-season. Here are some of the top keys for the Raiders to feel like the week was a success, no matter the final score:
1. O-line improvement: The offensive line has been just that, offensive, for the first two weeks of the pre-season. The Raiders haven’t been able to run nor has pass protection been in any way reassuring. QB Matt Flynn is probably still bruised after being sacked 5 times in the first half of last week’s game versus the Saints.
There are some reasons to believe that the team will showcase a slightly better offensive line this week, however. The Raiders switched up their lineup, slightly, this week, putting their two promising second-year guards, Tony Bergstrom and Lucas Nix, in at left and right guard, respectively.
This is a positive because both Bergstrom and Nix have bigger upside than starter Mike Brisiel, who has been out the last two weeks, almost, with an injury, and Andre Gurode, who struggled when starting at RG last week versus the Saints.
The lineup that takes the field this week versus the Bears seems to be the best combination the Raiders can field at this point – LT Alex Barron, LG Tony Bergstrom, C Stefen Wisniewski, RG Lucas Nix and RT Khalif Barnes.
If they look anywhere close to respectable versus the Bears defense, it’s time to name them the starters and allow them to have consistency working together for the last two weeks before the start of the season.
2. Start getting to the QB: The Raiders have barely hit either of the starting QBs they’ve faced, Drew Brees and Tony Romo. That has got to change if the team has any chance defensively.
The Raiders will have their best defensive lineman on the field for the first time this pre-season when Lamarr Houston makes his 2013 debut this week. His presence should increase the pressure that the Raiders are able to bring.
Jason Tarver has also played the pre-season fairly straight and may be more inclined to mix in some blitzes this week, too, because the third pre-season game is generally considered to be the dress-rehearsal for the starters to get ready for week 1 of the regular season.
The Raiders will also be looking at some of their younger talent to see who may be ready to see time in the regular season as a situational pass rusher. Possibilities include 7th round rookie DE/LB David Bass, UDFA DE Ryan Robinson and newly acquired OLB Chase Thomas.
3. Keep the momentum going for the first team offense: The Raiders first team offense would like to pick up where they left off at the end of the first half in the Saints game where the passing game suddenly came alive and the offense was able to march down the field.
The team needs to show that they can put points up earlier rather than when they are down by a huge margin, the way they were in the Saints game.
Of course, the success of the offense is largely built on the success of key #1, the offensive line. If the line doesn’t give Matt Flynn the time to throw or open up the requisite holes for Darren McFadden, the offense will continue to struggle to move the chains and put points on the board. Even if the offensive line does do well, Flynn still needs to make sure he has his timing down and gets the ball to his difference makers on offense.
Which brings us to…
4. Get Rod Streater involved: I’ll admit I’m not sure what’s going on with Streater. He looks great in practice and then disappears in games.
There are several possibilities for this. First, it may be part of the game plan to go to other targets since they know what they have in Streater. Second, teams may be game planning to take Streater away and forcing Flynn to go to targets with whom he isn’t as comfortable. Third, and most worrisome, Streater just isn’t getting open against the best CBs on opposing teams.
If it’s either of the first two, that’s not too worrisome because they’ll work themselves out over time. But if Streater isn’t getting open against opposing CBs in game situations, that is a cause for concern because it’s only going to get tougher from this point, on.
Hopefully the team will start to incorporate him, more, because he’s looked like the best receiver on the team in camp.
Through two pre-season games, Streater has been targeted only two times and caught only one ball. This must change as the Raiders start to transition to regular-season mode.