With the Raiders first pre-season game in the books, TFDS looks at what good and bad came from the game:
We’ll start with the play of the game, a 30 yard finger-tip TD snag by rookie WR Brice Butler that gave the Raiders the go-ahead points. Butler had had a good drive even before the long TD. He had caught a deep pass on a crossing route and been able to shake his man to get down field for a 40 yard catch and run on the first play of the drive. The TD, however, was an entirely different level of concentration as it required him to lay out for the pass and grasp it with his fingertips. It was a very impressive play.
Butler has been coming on strong in training camp. He was the most surprising player I saw because he stood out with fluid routes, being able to create separation and for his solid hands which allowed him to come down with balls thrown in his vicinity.
-new offensive wrinkles:
As complicated as last year’s offense was vanilla, the Raiders came out with shifting formations and a variety of different looks on offense. Last year’s offense tried to be simple but effective. It achieved the first, fell short on the second.
Today’s NFL requires a more complicated offensive philosophy. NFL players have become so good at what they do, that it’s important to have misdirection in all phases of the game. If you signal what you’re going to do to your opponent, it’s likely that he’ll be able to stop you. If you, however, provide confusion as to your plan, even a momentary hesitation can make the difference.
Another big improvement from last year, this year’s special teams unit looks respectable. Last years’ was one of the worst units in recent memory in almost all facets. We didn’t get to see much of presumed starting PR/KR Josh Cribbs who only returned one kickoff for 23 yards. However, even that pedestrian return was higher than the Raiders averaged in 2012. The team only managed to average 22.3 yards per kick return in 2012.
Cribbs backups fared even better. Multi-purpose special –teamer Taiwan Jones took a ball 5 yards deep into the endzone and still crossed the 24 yard line, good for a 29 yard return. Rookie WR Greg Jenkins did even better, getting solid blocking with the third-team and taking the ball 51 yards down the field on his only attempt.
Other parts of the special teams unit fared well, too. The Raiders were able to block a field goal early in the game. Starting SS Tyvon Branch got a hand on the ball to bring it down and starting MLB Nick Roach was in the perfect position to catch it. He tried to return it for a TD but wasn’t able to get up the field fast enough. Still, the play stopped the Cowboys from getting 3 points and it showcased Roach’s ability to contribute to the team in a variety of ways.
After the game, Branch gave credit to Tracy Porter, saying that Porter had almost blocked the first field goal and he thinks that the kickoff unit shifted some attention Porter’s way on the second kick which left a weakness up the middle that he could exploit.
Greg Jenkins also had a good heads up play as a punt returner. The ball was punted short of his position but it was bouncing down the field for a good Dallas bounce. It came right to him and he plucked it out of the air and ran up the field for a quick 11 yards.
Finally, the Raiders came up with a turnover on a punt in the mid fourth-quarter where the returner looked to have lost the ball slightly and muffed it when it came down.
Last year was a big improvement for the Raiders after having an historic, record-setting number of penalties in 2011. In their first game in 2013, the team was penalized only 4 times for 35 yards.
The Raiders had two turnovers, which is two too many. The first, a strip sack of Matt Flynn, was due to either a very well-timed blitz or a missed blocking assignment.
The second was a poor decision by Terrelle Pryor, who was rolling to his right, to try to throw the ball back across his body which resulted in an interception in the end zone.
If the Raiders are going to be competitive this year they are going to have to do it by winning the turnover differential because they do not have the play-makers to succeed without being very careful with the football.
The rookie 4th round pick looked out of sorts and nervous when he finally got onto the field with slightly over 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter. He had a rocky start, too, throwing well behind receivers and going 3 and out on his first series. He was given an immediate second chance when the Dallas punt returner muffed a punt from Marquette King and he failed to impress in the second drive as well.
Wilson looked like he wasn’t comfortable in the pocket. He locked onto his receivers instead of looking them off and throwing well timed passes. He too frequently threw to Travionte Session instead of spreading out the ball more. In all, it was an inauspicious beginning for the rookie who has dropped to 4th string on the roster.
-The offensive line:
The Raiders hope to be a run-oriented, play action offense with McFadden pounding through their power blocking scheme and allowing Flynn time to dissect the defense with his veteran knowledge of NFL coverage.
They looked far from ready on Friday night with the first team offensive line unable to open any holes for McFadden and also allowing a blitzer coming in to sack Flynn in the first series. They were okay on the second series in pass protection but still didn’t do well creating lanes in the running game.
The offensive line is a big key for the 2013 Raiders and if they don’t improve and soon, the Raiders 2013 season will be every bit as poor as 2012.