Oakland's Air Raiders Threaten To Keep Pace With Ground Raiders

Bret ArmstrongAnalyst IAugust 15, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 13: Quarterback JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders warms up before the preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 13, 2009 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

En route to 456 total yards, The Oakland Raiders passing game was the surprise of the evening on Thursday, racking up 291 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Yes, it is preseason; yes it doesn’t mean much. However, the fact remains that aside from Baltimore’s 23 point shutout of the Washington Redskins, Oakland holds the highest margin of victory in this preseason.

Oh boy, it was impressive, too. JaMarcus Russell and the offense really turned some heads. JaMarcus ended up completing six passes in nine attempts, for a completion percentage of 66.6. He only played for the first quarter, but if we multiplied his performance by four, it would look like this: 24-36 for 200 yards with zero TD’s and zero INT’s. While it’s not super impressive, it is definitely getting the job done. Anytime you can complete two-thirds of your passes against a first-team defense, you are doing well in my book.

Another element Russell showed in the game was that he was not afraid of testing the deep balls. On two consecutive plays, he launched deep passes to Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens.

The Heyward-Bey pass was an under-throw to which Greg Papa said, “He just doesn’t have DHB’s speed figured out yet”

The second pass to Chaz Schilens was thrown while on the run, and ended up being a forty-seven yard pass interference call, thanks to some great adjustments on Schilens’ part.

At the post game press conference, head coach Tom Cable was asked what he thought of Russell’s performance. Cable replied, “I thought he was very aggressive with the football…made good decisions. That’s what I’m talking about with him, when he plays the game at a fast enough speed, that allows him to be on time, and he showed that tonight.”

Cable said he was “excited about how we threw the football…that was the plan coming out, you could probably tell that.”

He continued on to say, in regards to the wide receivers, “we now have a talented group there, and so it’s nice to see…a bunch of guys catching balls and making plays and we need that if we’re going to grow offensively and become a good football team.”

Even the second teams quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, and the third team quarterback Charlie Frye, looked very good.

If the decision were mine, I would dump Jeff Garcia and make these two fellows the back-ups. They actually have a future. The only future for Jeff Garcia is icing his calf, and child-rearing.

Gradkowski threw for 161 yards and a touchdown on 9 completions. That’s an average of 17.8 yards per completion. Assuming that he had played the whole game, he would have had a 300-plus yard passing game, and added two touchdowns.

Frye threw for 80 yards and a touchdown. He completed seven of twelve passes. If Frye had played the entire game, he would have hovered somewhere in the neighborhood 320 yards passing, and 3-4 TD’s.

Now granted, expanding the stats to figure out what a player could have done was highly speculative. If these respective men had played an entire game against the Dallas first team defense, it may have gone down differently. There would likely have been some mistakes made along the way.  Still, I believe, all three quarterback’s performances would be respectable regardless.

I know it’s only preseason, but I read a post from a Dallas fan that stated, “Felix Jones and Sam Hurd looked great. Dallas’ second and third team starter’s looked terrible. God help us if we lose any starters. I just hope they looked that terrible because they weren’t taking the preseason seriously.”

On the contrary Dallas fan, it is the preseason where the second- and third- string players earn their seasonal paycheck. They must take it seriously to survive.

The victory should give Oakland fans hope. Don’t let all the criticism get you down Raider Nation, join me in standing and giving praise to an excellent performance for our squad. They played great the entire game. It was not exclusively the back-ups who played well.

Darren McFadden looked awesome. He averaged 15.75 yards per carry. Even if you take away the 45 yard carry, he averaged six yards per carry. With his six yards per carry average, it would only take him 17 carries to get to 100 plus rushing yards.

With his 15.75 average, it would take a measly seven carries to reach 100 yards, leaving plenty of opportunity for Justin Fargas and Michael Bush to make their mark on a defense, while keep McFadden ultra healthy at the same time. I laugh out loud at the notion of Darren having 112 carries for 1,764 yards this season. It’s so nice to dream.

Michael Huff’s interception was incredible. Just a great read coupled with a fantastic catch along with a gigantic “E” for effort. It’s clear that he is going to bring it this year. He wants to prove himself. It also helps us, the fans, to know that Nnamdi Asomugha said Huff will have a breakout season this year.

The wide outs all played great. Chaz Schilens especially made his mark with 5 catches for 52 yards, plus the 47 yard interference penalty. The Raiders had fifteen different players catch passes for them. Talk about getting everybody involved. In contrast, the Cowboys had nine players catch passes for them.

Let’s take a look at some pointless game stats, shall we?

Raiders: 26 first downs                                   Dallas: 18 first downs

Raiders: 7.1 yards per offensive play                 Dallas: five yards per offensive play

Raiders:  6.8 yards per carry                           Dallas: 4.4 yards per carry

Raiders:  7.4 yards per pass play                     Dallas: 5.7 yards per pass play

Raiders:  four punt returns for 23 yards            Dallas: two punt returns for two yards

Raiders: two Rushing TDs, two passing TDs       Dallas: zero rushing TD, one passing TD

Raiders: 456 total yards                                 Dallas: 274 total yards

Raiders: zero turnovers                                  Dallas: two turnovers

Dallas fans can downplay it all they want. ESPN can analyze and compare it to other Raiders’ preseason’s all they want. Chargers, Bronco’s, and Chiefs fans can underplay it all they want. The bottom line remains that Oakland was dominate in their routing of the Cowboys.

Tom Cable said he was impressed by the team speed. He said they played with good energy and enthusiasm.

From where I was sitting, it looked like the team that finished the last two and a half games of last year, except that they were the new and improved version. The upgraded model, if you will. Even my wife said the Raiders dominated.

You take what you want from a meaningless preseason victory. What I will take from it is that all the improvement speeches the Raiders’ fans have been preaching this year will hold true. I will take from it that this is a team on the brink.

I will take from it that once this team reaches the peak of their capable performance, they will be transformed into winners. Last year, the Texans strove to have their first winning season in the franchise’s history. The Raiders spoiled it for them. This year, Oakland could get their first winning season since 2002; I suspect it will not be spoiled.

Again, you take from it whatever your heart desires. I will pick Oakland as my sleeper team in the AFC this year with a record of 10-6.



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