Oakland Raiders vs. Detroit Lions: Preseason Week 2 Game Preview
The Oakland Raiders are coming off a disappointing debut to their preseason. After bringing in a lot of big-name veterans and adding an impressive group of rookies in the draft, the team was noticeably better during camp than it had looked at the same time last year. Unfortunately, none of that potential materialized in 10-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Detroit Lions put on a similarly underwhelming performance while eking out a 13-12 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The performance is partially explained by the fact that the starters didn't see too much action, but the team as a whole still left a lot to be desired, especially in the turnover department. There were no interceptions, but the team did have three fumbles, losing two.
For the Raiders, the biggest disappointment was the play of quarterback Matt Schaub. Still, Schaub has continued to look good in practice, and he needs to figure out a way to bring this performance to the game. Per the Manteca Bulletin:
Matt Schaub has impressed his new coaches and teammates with the Oakland Raiders with his sharp performance during training camp practices as he looks to turn the page from a disastrous finish to his career in Houston. His first game action in the silver and black was nowhere near as promising.
After another week of practice—one that included some intense joint sessions against the Dallas Cowboys—Schaub will have a chance to prove that last week was an aberration, and he is in fact the quarterback the Raiders thought they were getting.
Oakland Raiders Week 1 Recap
After weeks of hype and several promising performances in camp, the Raiders were itching to see just how well this reconstructed roster could perform.
To put it simply, Oakland's preseason opener left a lot to be desired.
For all of the positive signs that the team showed during camp, the Raiders didn't impress in any area against Minnesota. The offense was ineffective, the defense was unable to stop the Vikings' first-team offense and they even had a field-goal attempt blocked.
Oakland underperformed all over the field, but nowhere was this more alarming than at quarterback. Schaub's on a new team with a whole new cast of weapons, something that could've contributed to his lackluster performance. But there's no single player on the roster who the Raiders are depending on more than him.
It was only the first preseason game, so it wasn't the most accurate assessment of the team. The offensive play-calling was kept fairly simple, and a lot of different players were given an opportunity to see the field as the coaches tried to assess everyone leading up to roster cuts.
Some of the players expected to be major contributors were given a chance to make an impression, but they weren't given a lot of time to do it in. This included Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, who combined for only five touches, and Schaub, who only threw seven passes.
This will change against Detroit as the team will continue to take shape, and key players will see more playing time.
The first game was always going to be a learning experience for a team like Oakland with so many new faces. Now that the first game is out of the way and with another week to prepare, the Raiders need to show they are beginning to develop cohesion as a team.
News and Notes
Denarius Moore making a comeback?
Heading into Oakland's first preseason game, it was already known that Moore had fallen on the Raiders' wide receiver depth chart. But the extent to which the coaches had lost faith in him wasn't known until ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez noted that Moore wasn't just fighting for playing time:
Moore started 35 of the 41 NFL games in which he's played, including 10 of 13 a season ago. His playmaking ability should separate him from the rest of the Raiders receiving corps. But being listed third at a receiver spot, behind Andre Holmes and James Jones, not only put his starting position in jeopardy, but also seemingly places him squarely on the 53-man-roster bubble.
The questions about Moore's dedication have been around since he entered the league, and they were still present this training camp. However, last week's performance suggests that he might finally have turned the corner. He was one of Oakland's best wide receivers against Minnesota, and he's continued to impress in practice. If he keeps this up, he could once again find himself challenging for a starting spot.
Raiders show unity
With so many new faces on the roster, one of the biggest concerns was how quickly the team would be able develop cohesion. This was evident during the Oakland's first preseason game. According to tight end Mychal Rivera, per CSNBayArea.com's Scott Bair, the joint practices against Dallas, specifically the fights that ensued, might have been just what Raiders needed to build this unity:
We’re all brothers here, and you learn that when things get competitive like they were the past couple days. We were all fired up, and we had each other’s back every step of the way. You need that support throughout the course of a season.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio expressed concerns regarding the fights and the involvement of some fans. Fortunately, the situation never escalated beyond a training camp skirmish. As for Oakland, it seems to have brought the team closer. Bair notes that when a fight broke out, Raiders were quick to come to the aid of a teammate.
It might not have happened in the ideal way, but if this is what it takes for Oakland's collection of players to become a team, the Raiders will take it.
Raiders suddenly very thin at tight end
Leading up to training camp, the Raiders looked like they might have a group of tight ends—Davis Ausberry, Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa—ready to surprise the league. That idea took a major hit when Ausberry went down with a knee injury he still hasn't returned from. Now, it looks like the team will have to do without Kasa for all of 2014, per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk:
Allen said that preliminary tests show that Nick Kasa tore his ACL during Tuesday’s joint practice with the Cowboys. The injuries leave the Raiders with Mychal Rivera and not much else at tight end, which may necessitate a roster move.
Ausberry could be back for the first week of the regular season, but as CSNBayArea.com's Scott Bair reports, he's still "out indefinitely." As for Kasa, the diagnosis hasn't been made official yet, but it's likely he does in fact have a torn ACL, so he'll be out all year.
Kasa wasn't considered a threat as a receiver, but he did have value as a blocker and on special teams. With Ausberry's injury, he had moved up to second on the depth chart and was certainly going to have the opportunity to prove his worth as a pass-catcher. That'll no longer be the case.
For now, that leaves only Rivera as a reliable option. Another tight end currently on the roster could step up, but that hasn't been the case so far in camp. Oakland now finds itself scrambling to fill the mostly nonexistent depth chart at the position.
|Nick Kasa||Tight End||Knee|
|Justin Ellis||Defensive Lineman||Concussion|
|David Ausberry||Tight End||Knee|
*All injury statuses from Rotoworld.com.
The Raiders managed to stay mostly injury-free through the summer, but that's quickly changed in recent weeks.
The least worrisome of these is Nix. CSNBayArea.com's Scott Bair tweeted back in June that Nix would be out following a knee procedure. Nix was never going to challenge for a starting job, and he is listed as the fourth right guard on the depth chart.
Already on the roster bubble, he needed to be healthy just to keep a roster spot. That was unlikely, and he wasn't looking to get much playing time in the preseason anyway. The team won't feel his absence.
Hayden was expected to start this season, but he's been out since June with an ankle injury. The Raiders could certainly use him, but they've been without him all camp, so he's essentially a non-factor at this point.
Head coach Dennis Allen noted, per the Contra Costa Times' Jerry McDonald, the importance of Hayden getting reps this preseason. For now, Oakland has to take a wait-and-see approach, as there's still no timetable for his return.
Ellis left the game against Minnesota with a concussion, and he's currently listed as day-to-day. This doesn't appear to be a serious issue, but his return will be determined by how quickly he can pass the NFL's concussion tests, something that doesn't have a predetermined time frame.
He's slated to be a rotational defensive lineman this season, which means the team needs to figure out the best way to use him. It would've been interesting to see how he did against players like Dominic Raiola, Travis Swanson and Larry Warford. Oakland will likely have to wait at least another week to continue Ellis' evaluation.
The real issue for the Raiders is that they're now thin at tight end. Ausberry was expected to start. He's going to be out yet another game, leaving Oakland to continue to wonder just what it is that Ausberry's capable of.
Ausberry's injury meant a suddenly expanded role for Kasa, but now he's lost for the season. Rivera is now sitting alone atop the depth chart, followed by a collection of unknowns. Somebody has to play when Rivera sits, which means Brian Leonhardt, a second-year player, and rookies Scott Simonson and Jake Murphy will now get serious looks out of necessity.
Leonhardt had been seeing some more reps, but he suddenly finds himself as the team's second tight end. Simonson and Murphy, who were just trying to make the team, are currently in a battle for the third tight end spot.
Oakland is likely to bring in another tight end soon, but for now, the team will have to go with what it has against Detroit. Leonhardt, Murphy and Simonson now find themselves with a golden opportunity to make a favorable impression.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
Matt Schaub vs. Detroit's Defense
Schaub needs to show that his performance against Minnesota was an aberration. Oakland needs him to take the talent on offense and turn it into production.
His play last week could be blamed on everything around him being new and it being the unit's first real action together. He doesn't need to completely dominate, but he at least needs to show he can be effective.
Schaub will likely play about two quarters. In that span, he needs to lead the offense to at least two scores while consistently generating first downs and establishing some control over time of possession. The offense under Schaub was completely lifeless in the preseason opener. Against Detroit, he needs to provide some proof that he can successfully lead this unit.
Another three-completion performance by Schaub and the Raiders will find themselves with a very real quarterback controversy on their hands whether Derek Carr outperforms him or not.
Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown vs. Detroit Wide Receivers
Rogers and Brown were brought in for their experience and for their past success. The idea was for them to provide reliable, effective play while the younger cornerbacks adjusted to the NFL.
So far, that hasn't been the case.
The first-team Vikings offense got pretty much whatever it wanted against Rogers and Brown, comfortably moving the ball down the field while it was out there. Both cornerbacks were ineffective overall.
Against Detroit, they both need to show they can be relied upon. Neither is expected to be a shutdown corner, but both were expected to at least be solid. They need to prove they can handle the responsibility. If they struggle again, the Raiders will spend the next week shuffling players around to try and find a combination that works.
Rogers is in a more precarious position. Chimdi Chekwa has played well. This, combined with another lackluster showing from Rogers, could see the veteran relegated back to his original role playing exclusively in the slot.
Raiders X-Factor of the Week
For all the attention that wide receivers like Rod Streater, Andre Holmes and Denarius Moore have been getting, the most impressive receiver against Minnesota was forgotten second-year man Brice Butler. After finishing with more receptions (four) and more yards (44) than any other receiver on the roster, Butler is right in the mix for a roster spot.
While he'll have a hard time getting significant playing time, the game against Minnesota showed the Raiders are anything but settled at the position. He's currently way down on the depth chart, but if he continues to produce this way, he'll be able to secure a spot on the final 53-man roster.
The Raiders and Lions both finished their preseason openers unsatisfied. Neither team played particularly well, and both understand they need to come out in this second game and set a positive tone for the rest of the preseason.
Oakland can take some consolation in the fact that it didn't play near the level it's displayed throughout camp. Obviously, there's a major difference between practice and game day, but the drop-off for the Raiders between the two was huge. They will certainly provide a much better showing in this game.
Detroit is once against considered a dark-horse contender prior to the season, something that seems to have become an annual tradition in the NFL. Until the Lions show they can take all of that potential and turn it into actual results, they have to be considered an average team at best, which is what they looked like against the Cleveland Browns.
The Raiders will have the added benefit of this game being their preseason home opener. The team has inspired a lot of hope in the fans with the overhaul of the roster it went through this past offseason, and the crowd will certainly play a role in this one, at least early on.
With so many new faces, Game 1 for Oakland was more about breaking the ice. This game against Detroit will provide a much clearer assessment of what this Raiders team actually looks like. Schaub will be efficient, and the defense will show it can consistently pressure the quarterback.
It won't be a shootout, but Oakland will do just enough early to take the lead, then hold on late.
Prediction: Raiders 17, Lions 14