Oakland Raiders vs. Green Bay Packers: Preseason Week 3 Game Preview
After two preseason games, the Oakland Raiders have begun to establish an identity. The problem is that this identity has left the team with more questions than answers.
Oakland has gone 1-1 through its first two preseason games, but the team's performance hasn't exhibited the improvement that was expected given all of the offseason additions. There have been some signs of what this team could be, but the performance has been disappointing overall.
Heading into Week 3 of the preseason, several veterans on the roster have a lot to prove.
Matt Schaub was brought in to provide the leadership and reliability the offense needed to become at least efficient, but that's yet to be seen. Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley were supposed to add consistent quarterback pressure, but they've combined for zero sacks through two games.
The rookies have shown flashes, but fifth overall pick Khalil Mack hasn't provided the impact many thought he would. CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair notes:
There’s been little in terms of blitzing or moving around, which Mack will do plenty of in the regular season. But, in terms of winning his matchups, the results haven’t been sterling. According to Pro Football Focus, Mack has pressured the quarterback just once – his sack of third-string Lions quarterback Kellen Moore – in 21 snaps rushing the passer.
From veterans to rookies, the Raiders have a lot to prove.
The third preseason game is the closest simulation of a regular-season game. The starters will see more playing time than at any other point in the preseason, and the team will provide the closest sample of what it will look like in Week 1 of the regular season in terms of personnel, playing time and performance.
Raiders Preseason Week 2 Recap
Oakland's performance in Week 1 of the preseason against the Minnesota Vikings left a lot to be desired. But, given the reconstruction the roster underwent this past offseason, some time to jell as a team was expected. The Week 2 game on August 15 against the Detroit Lions was supposed to exhibit some significant improvement.
Instead, we saw more of the same.
Matt Schaub showed some flashes on Oakland's opening drive, going 3-of-3, gaining first downs and leading the Raiders on an almost five-minute drive. However, Schaub's fourth pass was intercepted, which killed the drive, and the passing game wasn't as effective for the rest of the time he was under center.
Schaub looked better overall, but his level of play was still below what's expected of him. NFL.com's Chris Wesseling reports that Schaub is locked in as Oakland's Week 1 starter, but he's going to need to play much better to maintain his hold on the position.
The passing game couldn't get going, but the running backs continued to impress. Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden are beginning to develop a nice rhythm, which they exhibited on the starting offense's lone touchdown drive. Jones-Drew took a screen pass for 22 yards, and the drive was punctuated by a McFadden 1-yard rushing touchdown.
More alarming than the starting offense's performance was the starting defense's inability to do anything against Detroit's passing attack. For the second week in a row, the Raiders secondary was completely dismantled. In two series, Matthew Stafford went 9-of-10 for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
And that was without Calvin Johnson.
While the starting units struggled, the reserves certainly showed some positive signs. After an up-and-down performance against Minnesota, Derek Carr looked much more comfortable against Detroit.
He led an impressive drive in the third quarter, going 6-of-6 and completing a 38-yard pass to Greg Little, which was followed by a three-yard touchdown pass to Jake Murphy—Carr's first TD in the NFL.
Fellow rookie Khalil Mack is still going through some growing pains, but he did record his first NFL sack. This came against reserves, but it gave him something to build off moving forward.
The Raiders won the game 27-26 in an exciting finish, but the comeback was completed by reserves against reserves. When it was starters versus starters, Oakland exhibited plenty of room for improvement offensively, and the defense didn't look anywhere close to ready for the regular season.
Oakland looked a little better, but it also showed that it has a long way to go if it expects significantly better results than the 4-12 seasons we've seen the last two years.
News and Notes
Leonhardt Making Strong Case at Tight End
The Raiders' once deep depth chart at tight end is now one of the team's thinnest. Of the three tight ends who are projected to see significant time at the position—David Ausberry, Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa—only Rivera is left.
The team needs someone to step up, and so far, Brian Leonhardt has impressed the most. Per Inside Bay Area's Jerry McDonald, Leonhardt was forced to take first-team reps due to the injuries around him, and he's made the most of the opportunity.
The Raiders already have a pass-catching tight end in Rivera, but he's still a below-average blocker. Oakland is looking at Leonhardt as a blocker, and he's ready to embrace the role. He could be the perfect complement to Rivera, providing a solution to one of Oakland's biggest problems.
Ellis Still Out With Concussion
Rookie defensive tackle Justin Ellis has been out since Oakland's first preseason game with a concussion, and CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair reports that he's set to miss the game against Green Bay as well.
Ellis was looked at as a key rotation player behind Pat Sims and Antonio Smith, and the preseason was going to be a crucial time for him as he earned important reps to gain experience at the NFL level.
Bair reports that Ellis has gone through some individual work, but he's yet to be cleared for contact. The longer he's out, the harder it will be for him to get on the field in the regular season.
Hayden Likely Out to Start Season
DJ Hayden's return date has been a mystery since he went down with an injury back in June. He was expected to start at cornerback, and his absence has been felt even more, given the particularly bad performance of Oakland's secondary so far in the preseason. There was hope that he might be ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
Unfortunately, it now looks like Hayden will be out even longer. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweeted that Hayden is likely to begin the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. If this happens, he'll be out for at least the first six weeks of the season.
The Raiders are still depending on Hayden to step in and provide a much-needed boost in performance to the secondary. The decision isn't final yet, but it's likely to come this week. For now, it looks like Oakland will have to survive without him.
|Nick Kasa||TE||Out for season|
Lucas Nix and David Ausberry will miss another preseason game. Ausberry was already expected to miss the entire preseason, so his absence isn't a surprise. As for Nix, he's been on the roster bubble the entire preseason, and it's looking more and more like he'll be gone before the regular season begins.
Hayden has been a non-factor since June, so the team was already prepared for his absence. Reports now indicate that he's likely to begin the season on the PUP list, which means the Raiders will be without him for at least the first six weeks of the season. Hopefully, that'll be enough time for him to fully recover and make a major contribution once he returns.
Per CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair, Justin Ellis continues to recover from a concussion. There's been no word that he'll be available against the Packers. Given the NFL's recent focus on head injuries, the Raiders won't rush him back, but each game Ellis misses will make it harder for him to establish his spot within the defensive rotation.
The exact status of Marcel Reece's foot injury remains unknown, but it doesn't appear to be anything too serious. In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, Reece wouldn't disclose the exact nature of his injury other than to say it's an issue with his foot, but he did express that it shouldn't cause him to miss any significant time, if any at all.
For now, it seems he just intends to play through it. However, ESPN.com's Bill Williamson notes that it wouldn't be a surprise if Oakland plays it safe and holds Reece out against Green Bay. His absence will give backup fullback Jamize Olawale a golden opportunity to impress the coaches.
Raiders coaches and fans let out a collective sigh of relief when it was revealed that Derek Carr's injury wasn't as bad as it looked. He walked off the field holding his ribs against the Lions, and it was later revealed that he had also suffered a concussion. Per Ian Rapoport, Carr has been in practice this week, but ESPN.com's Bill Williamson reports that the Raiders still aren't sure whether Carr will play against Green Bay.
Fortunately, the depth chart at quarterback is already set, so the Raiders could just hold him out as a precaution, which would give Matt McGloin reps with the second unit. He is set as the third-stringer, but he's performed very well this preseason, and this will give him another chance to show he deserves his roster spot.
No one will be more affected by his injury than Brice Butler. While the other injured players already have a good idea of their future with the team, Butler is fighting for a roster spot. Per CBS Sports, he's compiled 118 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions through the first two preseason games.
His absence will give several other players, including Greg Little and Andre Holmes, more targets. It could also provide other receivers on the roster bubble, such as rookie Seth Roberts, an opportunity to shine.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
Raiders Secondary vs. Aaron Rodgers
This game will provide a huge test for Oakland's weakest unit, the secondary, as it faces Aaron Rodgers. The Raiders have been torched by both starting quarterbacks they've faced so far: Matt Cassel and Mathew Stafford. They aren't in the same category as Rodgers, who's arguably the NFL's best quarterback.
The Raiders' starting secondary has had nothing to be proud of this preseason. Given the unit's performance so far, the chances are high that Rodgers will have an easy night. The secondary isn't expected to stop him, but it at least needs to put up a fight. The Raiders need to gets stops, and whatever the receivers get, the secondary needs to make them earn it.
Donald Penn vs. Clay Matthews
Donald Penn was brought in to replace Jared Veldheer, and he's done well so far. But he'll face his biggest test on Friday against one of the NFL's elite pass-rushers in Clay Matthews. ESPN.com's Bill Williamson notes that the offensive line has stability, and the unit continuing to play together will make it more reliable over time.
Given Matthews' abilities, Penn will get help. However, he'll also be expected to go one-on-one in certain situations. This will give him a great opportunity to prove that he can be depended on at left tackle no matter what the defense throws at him.
Matt Schaub vs. Packers Defense
CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair notes that "whether it’s general progress, confidence or arm strength, quarterback Matt Schaub’s game is being dissected with great detail." It seems as if with each pass he throws, the confidence in his ability to successfully lead the Oakland offense dwindles more and more.
Per Bair, head coach Dennis Allen doesn't share the same concerns as everyone else. That's great news for Schaub and his job stability, but he still needs to prove in a game that this confidence is well-founded.
Schaub needs to throw at least one touchdown pass against Green Bay and keep the offense on the field. Green Bay has an impressive pass rush, and Schaub needs to show he can still succeed under that level of pressure.
Raiders' X-Factor of the Week: Khalil Mack
On paper and on film, Khalil Mack has the size and skills to be a force defensively. Unfortunately, that has yet to translate to game day. This hasn't been lost on Mack, who understands that he needs to have more of an impact on the game. He said, via CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair, "I feel like I have to step up on my end and do my job better."
Mack's progression to the NFL has been slower than expected, but he did earn his first NFL sack last week. The coaches have also given him plenty of reps—he played into the third quarter against Detroit—but the stats don't reflect this.
Too often, Mack has disappeared for stretches on the field. He isn't expected to take over against Green Bay, but he needs to be a factor more often. He needs to show that he's able to keep up with the speed of the game and be involved in more plays.
Week 3 of the preseason is every team's dress rehearsal for the regular season. The starters will see at least a full half of action. For the Raiders and their weak secondary, this means a lot of Aaron Rodgers.
Oakland has not performed to the level expected based on all of the additions to the roster, but there have been signs of progress in most areas. The one unit that hasn't shown any substantial improvement is the starting secondary, which has been picked apart in every game so far this preseason.
There's no real hope that Oakland will be able to stop Rodgers, but what the secondary can do is exhibit progress. Rodgers is going to get his yards, but the secondary needs to put up some resistance. Unfortunately, there's been little evidence to suggest this will happen.
Offensively, the Raiders will have their opportunities. The Packers have improved defensively, but they've yet to prove that they can get stops consistently. The Green Bay pass rush, led by Clay Matthews, is going to cause trouble up front, but the Oakland offensive line will be able to hold its own, allowing the running game to get going and giving Schaub some opportunities to make plays.
However, the Raiders are likely to be playing catch-up by the time Green Bay completes its first offensive series. The Schaub-led offense simply hasn't shown that it's capable of engaging in a shootout. The offense will have some success but not enough to keep up.
The game will level out after Rodgers sits, but it will have gotten away from the Raiders by then. Rodgers will lead the team to at least two touchdowns, and he'll likely produce at least 20 points by the time he exits the game.
For the Raiders, this game should be treated as a learning experience. The final score won't look good, but Oakland needs to be more concerned with the 16-week season, not a single preseason game. If there's significant improvement throughout the team, the Raiders should consider this game a success.
As for the final result, it won't be close.
Prediction: Packers 31, Raiders 17
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