Preseason is all about improvement and the Raiders will be looking for their team to do better. Here are some improvements that Dennis Allen and company will be looking for Friday, the Raiders second pre-season game.
-Offensive line improvement
The Raiders first team offensive line struggled to open holes for Darren McFadden, who got only 5 yards on 3 carries, averaging only 1.7 yards per carry, and his backup Rashad Jennings who did slightly better in his first series, running behind the first-team offensive line, with 12 yards on 4 carries for an average of 3 yards/carry.
One change on the offensive line may be newcomer and former Pro-Bowler Andre Gurode may start at first-team RG after Mike Brisiel is out for injury. Gurode looks to be healthy in camp and showed well as the second-team RG against the Cowboys.
The team may be without Jared Veldheer, however, who is still bothered by a triceps injury and is going to get another MRI to see if they can find why the injury keeps nagging him. If he is unable to go versus the Saints on Friday then Alex Barron, who has had a very solid camp after not playing in a regular season game since 2010, would start in his place at LT.
-Defensive line improvement
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line struggled to put any kind of pressure on Tony Romo last Friday and will look to improve on their pressure this week. Their best defensive lineman, DE Lamarr Houston, returned to practice today and his presence will likely help.
Another starter who is likely to return by the Friday game is DT Vance Walker, who has been out about a week on paternity leave. The team will likely have him come back soon to get involved with the preseason and make sure he’s ready to go for the start of the season.
The team may also promote UDFA DE Ryan Robinson who stood out against the 3rd team offensive line last week and may have earned some snaps with the second team.
Neither the first-team nor second-team offensive units were able to get into the end-zone last Friday and both will be looking to get a TD this week.
Both QBs had their strong and weak moments last year with both making some plays to move drives along but both also turning the ball over – Flynn with a strip sack fumble and Pryor with a bad interception in the end zone.
One player that may contribute to the first team’s chances of scoring a TD is rookie receiver Brice Butler, who played with the first-team some today, with Jacoby Ford and Juron Criner currently out with injury.
Butler has been one of the biggest standouts in camp. He was also the receiver that scored the lone Raiders TD last week versus Dallas. If the offensive line can improve over last week, it’s much more likely that the Raiders’ first-team offense will be able to see the end zone versus the Saints.
-Will the real starting TE please stand up?
None of the tight ends on the roster have seized the starting position like Dennis Allen is looking for. Richard Gordon and David Ausberry are still running as the first-team tight ends and if you could combine their skills, you’d have a great starting tight end.
Unfortunately, each is limited to his own specialty – Ausberry is a good receiver but poor blocker and Gordon is an okay blocker but poor receiver.
The two rookies each show more promise but is the team ready to hand the starting job to either of the unproven first-year players?
A dark-horse option is Jeron Mastrud, who’s had a very solid camp. He’s a solid blocker and has made some plays in the passing game as well, mostly working with the second-team.
If the Raiders can make even a few of these improvements in week 2 of the preseason, it will make Dennis Allen and the Raider fans feel more comfortable with the team’s 2013 prospects.