Six Things to Look for in the Oakland Raiders First Preseason Game
I don't know about you, but I've been counting the days to the 2012 Oakland Raiders season the moment the 2011 season ended back on New Year's Day. The closer we get, the more there is to be excited about.
With the Raiders' first preseason game on Monday night, August 13, against the Dallas Cowboys, what are the most important things to watch for if you want to get a glimpse into the chances for the Silver and Black returning to the top of the AFC West?
While fans have a lot to be excited about and many things to watch for this season, here is a look at my top six.
Terrelle Pryor and the Backup Quarterback Situation
Although a lot of fans would like to see more of Terrelle Pryor in 2012, it's very unlikely that he'll be placed in the primary backup position over Matt Leinart. Pryor has a great attitude and a strong worth ethic, but he's still a work in progress. According to ESPN:
Coach Dennis Allen remarked recently, “I have expectations of him to develop as a quarterback on a daily basis. ’m not setting anything as far as where I want to see him on the depth chart or how many passes or anything like that. I just want to see him get better every day. That’s what he’s come out here and tried to do, and if he continues to do that, at the end of the day he’s going to be all right.”
Pryor is also dealing with some rather difficult emotional stress after the recent death of his father and mentor and he hasn't gotten a lot of reps at training camp. While I'm rooting for him to do well, the most likely scenario for him this year is to get a little more time on the field than he did in 2011. It's going to take some time before he can be a solid backup to Carson Palmer.
I'd expect we'll see him in the game on Monday against Dallas at some point, and perhaps it will give us more of a glimpse on when, and if, he'll be ready.
Who Will Be the Primary Backup Running Back?
Another key position for the Oakland Raiders is at backup running back. One of the biggest factors in a winning season for the Silver and Black is keeping Darren McFadden healthy, which will mean giving him some rest from time and time.
The two major competitors for this position have been Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson. This week, Goodson suffered a scary neck injury, and Jones has been suffering from hamstring issues.
This means that Lonyae Miller is the man who'll get his opportunity to shine in the first preseason game. Miller was a member of the Cowboys in 2010, and he hasn't seen a lot of playing time since coming to Oakland in 2011.
Miller is definitely one to watch on Monday night.
Raiders' Defense and DeMarcus Van Dyke
One of the biggest problems the Raiders had last season was their defense, but with training camp well underway, it looks like DeMarcus Van Dyke is going to be one of the reasons for a Raiders rebound.
Van Dyke has been impressive with the new defense really giving him an opportunity to shine. With Allen being the former defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, and part of the reason for their improved defense in 2011, it appears that he is also making a positive difference with the defense in Oakland this year.
The Raiders have also said goodbye to their most penalty-ridden defensive players, and with the passing of Al Davis, their new defensive scheme will be a big factor in allowing them to return to being the winning team they once were.
The way the defense performs against Tony Romo and the Cowboys Monday is definitely something to watch.
Carson Palmer, Quarterback
There is a lot of division among fans as to how effective Carson Palmer will be in 2012. Now that he's had more time to develop a rhythm with the team, it will be important to see if he's developed into the leader the Silver and Black need him to be. While it's unlikely we'll see a lot of him on Monday night, there should be enough time to see how much he's improved since the start of the year.
How will he fit into the west coast offense?
Penalties have been a huge issue for the Oakland Raiders for a very long time. Now that we've said goodbye to Stanford Routt, will letting go of the most penalty-ridden player make a difference in 2012? Has Dennis Allen drilled the importance of fewer penalties enough to help alleviate this problem?
This is definitely another issue many Raider fans will have on their mind Monday night.
Denarius Moore was one of the biggest bright spots of the 2011 season. Many of us are excited to see what he'll do in 2012.
Of course, everyone has been talking about rookie receiver Juron Criner, who is said to have potential to become another Moore, and Darrius Heyward-Bey was one of the most improved players last season. We'll be hoping that he continues on an upward trek as well.
A New Era
We're all waiting to see if the new era everyone has been talking about will come to fruition. Will the Raiders make a complete turnaround? Do they have a chance at winning the AFC West, or even overcoming all odds and achieving a Super Bowl victory?
The good news is, the season is just around the corner, and it isn't long before we'll all find out.
The Silver and Black will return to excellence and prove the haters wrong. Just win, baby!