Christopher Hansen is a Lead Blogger at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisHansenNFL
The Oakland Raiders finally got a taste of live contact against another team. Unfortunately, the team's performance—particularly on offense—was lacking. The Raiders didn't score, but they did hold the Cowboys to just three points.
Had the Raiders made the two field goals they missed on Monday night, it might have even been a victory. Fortunately, the outcome of the game doesn't matter. The Raiders were 0-4 in preseason in 2011 and had two games in which the team scored just three points.
At first glance it was ugly, but as Dennis Allen said after a particularly good training-camp practice, "I think coaches are all perfectionists, so it’s never what you want. I’ve learned over the years when you walk off the practice field it’s never as good as you thought it was and never as bad as you thought it was. Kind of reserve judgment until we get a chance to watch the tape."
I'd imagine the same wisdom applies to a game. It looked ugly, but it probably wasn't as ugly as it looked. The defense obviously had to play well to limit the Cowboys to three points, and there were certainly bright spots on that side of the ball.
A Terrelle Travesty
Terrelle Pryor really needed a good performance to reward all his hard work, but he had one of the worst performances of the day.
Pryor completed 8-of-15 and 50 yards, which is equal to a 53-percent completion percentage and 6.25 yards per completion. It came against the third- and fourth-string defenses, most of whom will be looking for work in a couple weeks. Most of his completions were short, check-down completions.
During training camp, Pryor has had good days, bad days and average days. The bad days resembled Monday night's performance, but those days have been few. More frequently, Pryor will make a great throw followed by a bad throw. He's been very inconsistent, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him come out and light up the Arizona Cardinals on Friday.
Pryor has all the physical talent needed, but he has a lot of work to do. He's not even close to pushing for the No. 2 quarterback job. A player like Pryor needs an offense designed around his strengths, but he's not going to get that in Oakland, and he's going to have to improve as a pocket passer to have a future at quarterback.
Leinart is a Great No. 2
Last season the Raiders' No. 2 quarterback to start the season was Kyle Boller. Boller was so incapable of taking over the team that Hue Jackson was basically forced to make the trade for Carson Palmer to try and save his job.
No such problem exists in 2012. The Raiders brought in Matt Leinart knowing they needed a viable backup and because he is experienced in Greg Knapp's offensive scheme. Leinart is good enough to win games for the Raiders as long as Darren McFadden is healthy. That's the key.
Leinart completed 69 percent of his passes Monday night, demonstrating that he can get the ball to his open receivers. Perhaps the biggest concern with Leinart is that he was checking down a lot. That might be the smart play, but eventually the quarterback is going to have to find a receiver farther than 15 yards down the field.
Few backup quarterbacks come without a wart or two, and it's a relatively minor wart that only becomes a problem if Leinart is pressed into action. The Raider Nation should be happy with Leinart. He's a great fallback option if something were to happen to Palmer.
Built Ford Rough
It was a rough outing for Jacoby Ford on Monday night. Ford dropped two passes, muffed a punt and then stepped out of bounds and was the target on a Palmer pass that was intercepted. The two drops were more of a mental lapse than a problem with his hands. Ford was crunched on the opening kickoff, and it might have stuck in his head a little bit for the rest of the game.
Call it a temporary case of Johnnie Lee Higgins syndrome. Higgins was a speedy receiver for the Raiders who was crunched by Eric Weddle and was never the same.
Ford has had a rough string of training-camp practices over the past week or so, and he's only occasionally been able to break away from the coverage. He's still got amazing speed, but with the rise of rookies Rod Streater and Juron Criner and the likely return of Denarius Moore, it wouldn't be surprising is Ford finds his practice reps reduced in the coming weeks.
If Ford wants to maintain his role as the slot receiver, he needs to perform in practice and in games better than he has recently. He's more than capable of producing, but he might have used up his margin for error.
Ford had a bad night, much worse than his practice performances, but he's likely to rebound on Friday in Arizona.
McFadden is Game-Ready
Perhaps no player is more important to the success of the Raiders than running back Darren McFadden. He's a weapon in the running game and passing game, and the Raiders offense is much more functional when he's on the field.
McFadden looked healthy and explosive in limited action Monday. He's ready to go, and it will be interesting to see how much work he gets the rest of the preseason. The Raiders will be cautious with McFadden considering his injury history, and it's worth wondering if they should shut him down for the remainder of the preseason to be safe.
New Era, New Defense and New Results
The Oakland Raiders had a terrible defense in 2011. The 2011 defense couldn't stop the run and they couldn't stop the pass. On Monday night, the 2012 defense did both. The Raiders were able to hold the Cowboys to three points, which means the first-team defense played well and so did the reserves.
The pass defense held the Cowboys to a 56-percent completion percentage, and the run defense held the Cowboys to 2.7 yards per carry. The defense was more dynamic, sending linebackers on the blitz and playing more zone coverage.
Mike Mitchell got an easy interception because he had his eyes on Kyle Orton. In previous seasons, the strong safety might have had his back turned to the play.
It's Not Miller Time
Lonyae Miller got work with the second-team offense with Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson not yet ready to return from injuries sustained during training camp. Miller had a golden opportunity to put up good tape for other teams and potential to perform well enough to stick if the Raiders continue to have health issues at running back.
Miller averaged 2.7 yards per carry on 15 carries. He did provide something in the passing game, but his performance on Monday was not impressive enough to generate any buzz for his services or for fans to lament the day he's released.
Goodson and Jones will probably return in time for Friday's preseason game, meaning Miller will have fewer opportunities to impress and when he does get them it will be against the third-team defense at best.
Rod Streater, the undrafted rookie receiver out of Temple, caught six passes for 66 yards on Monday night while playing with the second-team offense.
Juron Criner made all the early noise during the offseason program, but his roommate Streater has been getting reps with the first-team offense in three-receiver sets while Moore has been out.
Streater built upon an impressive training camp with a good preseason performance. He's still progressing, and it will not be without a few growing pains. Streater dropped two passes during Wednesday's practice, but he came back to make a diving grab.
If Streater continues to impress, the Raiders will have no choice and will need to find him more and more snaps with the first-team offense.
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