Raider Nation Has Yet to See "Raider Ball"...and That's a Good Thing
That was the final score when the Raiders hosted the New Orleans Saints last Saturday. Since that day, Raider Nation has been anything but positive. There has been panic, anger, and even depression...over a preseason game.
A preseason game?
So far what I have seen is a coach that has used the preseason not to practice what the Raiders do well, but to work on what they don't. To see this, one will have to look at every preseason game.
En route to winning 31-10 against the Cowboys, the Raiders rushed the ball 29 times for 127 yards and held the ball for 30 minutes. They also passed 37 times for 280 yards and totaled 457 yards. Not bad, but the defensive line showed cracks during the game, yielding 176 yards.
In the next game against the 49ers, the Raiders rushed only 18 times vs. 27 passing attempts. Even with a 14-3 lead, the Raiders continued to evaluate the passing game, sacrificing a sure win and forcing the defense to play 38 minutes. The defense gave up a gaudy 275 yards on the ground on 47 attempts.
The question that came to mind was: If the 49ers plan to name their QB after that game, why did they choose to run 47 times? Which coach was evaluating the team and which coach wanted to simply win the game?
Last week the Raiders hosted the New Orleans Saints and the result was a 45-7 shellacking, but looking at the game closer, a route was inevitable. The Raiders threw the rock 33 times vs. 11 rushes. Of those 11 rushes, only nine were by running backs. At the half, the score was 31-0 and the Raiders had rushed just four times.
In other words, Cable sent his offense out to have a shootout against 2008's No. 1 offense and against only the second quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 5,000 yards passing mark. Drew Brees was one dropped ball away from breaking Dan Marino's record!
Maybe this will put things in perspective:
Point per game- 28.9 (1st)
Yards per game- 410.7 (1st)
Passing yards per game- 311.1 (1st)
Cable's plan was to pass the whole game to get the timing down between Jamarcus Russell and his young receiving corps. The result was a game of near misses, drops, and miscues. Problems were exposed. Meanwhile, it forced the defense into the undesirable situation of having to fend off the NFL's No. 1 offense for a staggering 39 minutes!
During the Cowboys game, the defense showed many fronts. There were stunts, zone blitzes, and a lot of different packages, and even though they surrendered 176 rushing yards, they stiffened up and yielded only 10 points.
The following week the first and second string defenses yielded six points. It wasn't until the starting rotation was off the field that a touchdown was surrendered and that was without a game plan from defensive coordinator John Marshall, who stated that he wasn't going to send them out with one. Against New Orleans there wasn't anything special going on, other than sending a massive blitz at a pro bowl quarterback with a lightning quick release. That's a no-no.
Before Raider Nation gets too depressed, they need to sit back and reflect on last year at this time. The Raiders had a successful preseason, showing that they could run the ball and get pressure on the quarterback only to get bludgeoned in the season opener by the Denver Broncos. No one expected the Raiders defense to look that bad, but then again, no one addressed it during preseason so there was no time to fix it.
Cable already knows that the strength of this team will be it's stable of running backs. However, with Chaz Schillens getting hurt and Javon Walker having yet to show that he is still effective, the Raiders are left with a young receiving corps that has to grow up in a hurry.
The other thing that has become a revelation is that the defense has regressed under pressure by missing tackles and not being responsible for their assignments. If there were any egos that needed bruised, mission accomplished.
One pleasant surprise was yielded from Saturday’s game. Voices that haven't been heard in a long time began to cry out. Greg Ellis and Ricky Brown spoke up and reprimanded the defenses effort. They accused the team of not preparing and taking responsibility. They put it on the player’s shoulders and not the coaches. Finally! The defensive line and linebackers have a voice.
Now that the weaknesses have been exposed there will be opportunities to fix them. Soon, teams around the NFL will be cutting down to 53 man roster and anyone who hasn’t performed will be cut and replaced by players who just missed the cut on other teams.
Cable has taken the approach that preseason football is there to evaluate players and to expose potential weakness, and unlike last year it is not too late to correct these mistakes. Many good teams have been routed in preseason and go on to win their divisions. There's no reason to think differently at this point.
When the season starts, the Raiders will have a balanced offense, something they haven't exhibited in the preseason. They will be all about ball control and controlling the clock. Raider Nation has to take a step back and realize that they have yet to see the Raider's play their game.
Other teams are doing what they do well in preseason, while the Raiders are addressing what they can and can't do and are fixing what needs to be fixed greatly, like Tom Landry did while he was coach of the Cowboys. He had a notoriously bad preseason record. I, for one, am not panicking because we have yet to see 2009 Raider football.
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