The Raiders were in Jones Mahal for a preseason game against the Cowboys Thursday night. It wasn't a sexy game but much could be learned about the direction of Raiders from the way they played.
The first thing that jumped out at me was that this was indeed Raider football!
The Raiders were pressured Cowboy quarterbacks on defense and featured a power-running game on offense. They also put a scare into the Cowboy secondary with a few shots down the field.
Penalties are the unwanted part of Raider football that also showed up on Thursday night. The Raiders were among the most penalized teams in the league even during their glory years.
Raider football is back!
The defense, as it was in all of the Raider glory years stayed in dark side mode throughout. From first unit to last, they didn't allow much from the Cowboys.
Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston showed themselves to be the beasts that they are. The vaunted Cowboy running game went nowhere fast as McClain was always around the ball with friends.
Houston helped against the run but impressed even more with two sacks in the first quarter. It really doesn't look like Houston will be blockable this year.
Also among the Raider unblockables Thursday night was Matt Shaunessy. He chipped in with a sack himself and was also a part of the Raider's stoutness against the run.
I can't say the words Raider pass-rush without mentioning Trevor Scott. He constantly made himself an unwelcome guest in the Cowboy backfield and got himself a sack.
The coverage was stellar as Nnamdi Asomugha had a near interception the one time they did throw at him. Jerome Boyd sealed the game with a pic six late in the game.
I also felt like Chris Johnson was good in coverage Thursday night. He did give up the big third-down conversion catch to Miles Austin but that was good coverage beaten by better throwing and receiving.
There was a Chris Cooper sighting on this night as well. He pitched in with a sack as he was just one of three men rushing the passer on the play.
Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaughnessy and Houston looked like a murderers row. I don't know how much blitzing the Raiders will do but it looks like they will be able to get there with four this year.
The power-run was also there as Michael Bush started the game running with the authority. From there, an interesting competition for the third tailback spot broke out.
Both Michael Bennett and Rock Cartwright stood out on Thursday night. They both had catches for big yards but Bennett displayed better running skill and peripheral vision in the running game.
Advantage, Bennett so far.
Marion Henderson looked more like the 2008 version while he was in there. I look forward to apologizing to him for my previous articles if he can keep this up.
However,there are two weak-spots on that offensive line that showed themselves on the same play. Samson Satele almost seemed to show his man the way to the quarterback. Cooper Carlisle was beaten on the play as well but Satele's man got to the quarterback first.
Veldheer looked good at left tackle but he is obviously needed at center now. It's also time for Campbell to get more of a look at right guard too.
Did you see the surge Veldheer created on the quarterback sneak.
Louis Murphy was not a disappointment as he had two near misses on deep balls. I said in a previous article that he may very well have the most game speed in the NFL.
Johnny Lee Higgins made a case for himself last night but Yamon Figures made an even better one. They both made some catches but Figures' stood out more and Higgins lost one he should hold on to.
Jason Campbell didn't have a high completion percentage but the Raiders didn't play percentage football. They played pressure football while he was in there.
Campbell was accurate underneath but narrowly missed on two deep balls to Murphy. Murphy especially had his man beat on the second one but Campbell led him just out of bounds.
It was only his first preseason game and Campbell will eventually straighten those throws out. As it was, he struck fear into the Cowboy defense and that allowed the running game to get going.
Speaking of straightening those throws out, that is what back-up quarterback Kyle Boller did. He shook off a rough start to do some pretty good things in there.
He also scared the Cowboys with a near miss deep ball to 2009 preseason star Nick Miller. Boller then found Miller for the go-ahead touchdown later in the game.
Miller is another one of those guys I am excited about for 2010.
With speed and physicality, it appears that the essence of Raider football has been restored.