Certain things are really jumping out strong this year in preseason.
When watching the game the first time, its obvious we have some ability in the running game, although we don't know exactly how great, because we haven't been playing defenses with a very good reputation for stopping the run.
Nevertheless, we certainly do have some real ability there.
At first glance, the quarterbacks do not look too great overall.
The quarterbacks have missed some passes, and don't look comfortable in the pocket, even thought they have pretty good time. They seem like they have a three second clock in there head, and must start running around when the clock goes off.
Not surprisingly, in practice, a loud buzzer goes off after three seconds on every pass play; apparently the goal is to encourage the quarterbacks to get rid of the ball more quickly. So far, in the games, that philosophy does not seem to be helping either quarterback.
Defensively, when I first watched the game, it appeared that the pass rush was non-existent.
Although, we are struggling in that area to a large extent, it did not look as bad on second review.
Second Review: Looking at the game more closely, certain things become more clear.
First of all, Chilo Rachal plays like a poor man's Larry Allen. He is devastating in the running game. In fact, a large chunk of our runs had Rachal pulling around either side.
They were really using him a lot, similar to the way we used Larry Allen a lot when Gore rushed for nearly 1,700 yards three seasons ago. His abilities were certainly worth a high second round pick. Although he struggles a bit in pass protection, I feel it's because he is a little too aggressive, and this is something he can fix.
Heitman is just as good as last year, Wragge looks fairly solid overall, but Staley and Snyder are the real story.
Staley looks improved from last year, looking like he is becoming everything we had hoped for and more. His pass blocking was very good, but what impressed me even more was his run blocking; he was washing (blocking from the side) lineman 10 yards out of the play. H
e was very effective at what they asked him to do, and was another big reason we had so many rushing yards.
Adam Snyder is a player I have always liked. Now that he is getting a chance to focus on one position, he is looking real solid. He is not the most athletic player, but he makes up for it with his fantastic positioning and understanding of blocking angles. He has good size and strength, as well.
Snyder did a good job in the running game, but IMO not as good as Heitman, Staley, and of course Rachal.
If he can stay healthy (knock on wood), he will provide a giant boost for our team.
I'm a little bit worried about the quarterbacks.
Its true that the Raiders have a considerably good pass defense, but there is more to it than that.
Neither of our quarterbacks seem to know how to float around in a pocket. Both of them drift backwards or sprint forward as rushers get washed around them.
Its not an easy job, don't get me wrong, and not many quarterbacks in the league can perform this skill well. But the ones who can do it lead their teams to the playoffs, and the ones who don't... well...
All that is required is to step up in the pocket, while looking down field at your receivers.
I know its not easy, but lets look at this in relative terms.
For example, when watching Ben Roethlisberger, he also has a pocket collapsing around him. He also, has players getting washed around him, he also has players coming unblocked and free at him.
But what does he do? He completes the pass anyway. He breaks tackles, he takes one or two steps forward, he floats around—all the while looking down field for the receiver.
He is perhaps the best in the league at handling pressure, which is why I use him as an example.
Of course I don't expect our quarterbacks to play like him (that hope is long gone), but if they can't simply step up instead of scrambling every single time, then they can't compete with the numerous quarterbacks out there who step up and find a way to avoid pressure.
Just for giggles, I would like to point out that during the handful of opportunities Nate Davis had, he did look “Roethlisberger-like.”
He scrambled away from pressure, yet still made the throw; he stepped up in a collapsing pocket, yet still completed the pass; he had guys in his face, yet still threw strikes.
That was just for giggles, I'm not trying to draw any conclusions, yet...
Gi he gi gie he ye he hee...
Yes, its preseason.
Yes, the line blocked very well.
Yes, Coffee is good.
Yes, Robinson can run with burst.
Yes, Sheets should have been drafted.
Without super analyzing every single run, let's just simply say, yes!
We have a legit backup for Gore. Coffee has good vision, strength, burst, catching and blocking ability. He doesn't really do any one thing great, but he does everything, at the very least, good.
Robinson does indeed, have a burst, he can do most things good, and does special teams great.
Sheets has a burst that can't be taught. He is the one home-run threat that we have at running back. Hopefully, there is a way we can get him on the 53 man roster.
WR's and TE's
Both of our TE's are making plays in very limited action. It looks like they will both be given an opportunity in this offense, just as Raye promised.
Our wide receivers are not used nearly as much as they were in the Martz system. That is to be expected.
One thing that should be pointed out about both our WR's and TE's is their blocking.
Josh Morgan used his strength and size on several occasions to seal the edge and spring Coffee for his long runs.
Davis is still a great blocker. Despite his dancing after every catch (a fan “favorite”), he is truly a blue collar work horse.
Arnaz Battle is a good, solid receiver who can block. If he doesn't make the team after what he has shown in this offense, I will be very surprised.
Among our receivers, someone is going to get cut. Its going to be tough to decide.
My feeling right now is that Bruce, Morgan, Jones, Battle, and Eugene Parker will be our receivers going into the season.
I think our offense is looking real solid. I hate to say it, but it looks like next year is the year our offense has a chance to make a HUGE leap forward.
The 49ers have two first round picks next year. IMO, if we can turn those picks into Sam Bradford—or if we're very lucky, Bradford and a pass rusher—we could be that dynamite team that Singletary has seen in his vision.
Of course, we might not need Bradford if things go swimmingly...
Gi he he hi gi hee hee...
Seeing the length of this article, I will split it into two chunks. Part Two will include the defensive analysis...