The Oakland Raiders completed their second preseason game of the 2010 season with an impressive 32-17 victory Saturday night against the Chicago Bears and former rival, quarterback Jay Cutler.
The Raiders bordered on dominance in the first half. The Bears really only had two noteworthy offensive plays in the first half. One was an 89-yard scamper by running back Matt Forte. The other was a touchdown pass where Cutler avoided heavy pressure to buy time while Johnny Knox lost rookie Jeremy Ware in the back of the end zone.
If not for these two plays, the Raiders would have easily taken a two-score lead into halftime.
The second half did not fare much better for the Bears. The Raiders outscored the Bears 19-3. This was an impressive win, even more so considering Namdi Asamougha, Chris Johnson, Richard Seymour and Darren McFadden did not play. But as with all preseason games, the key is to analyze what this means without reading too far into it. Here are a few observations that I found noteworthy while watching the game.
Jason Campbell Can Play
In his second preseason game as Oakland's starting quarterback, Jason Campbell started on fire. In Oakland's first drive of the night, Campbell went 5-for-5 for 89 yards while rushing for a touchdown. The rest of the game, however, did not go so well. Campbell finished the first half 10-for-20 for 170 yards with an interception as the Raiders were unable to score another touchdown.
Should Raiders fans be excited about how the preseason is going?
So what can we take from this?
That first drive really showcased how good Campbell can be. He lead the Raiders down the field with the greatest of ease, making mincemeat out of Chicago's secondary. The rest of the first half showed that he is still young and needs to be get more consistency out of his play.
Taking out Campbell's first drive, he was 5-for-15 for 81 yards and an interception for a QB rating of 24.5. His performance, however, was not nearly as bad as the numbers would indicate. There were at least two dropped passes and the interception was not entirely his fault. Additionally, he had a number of smart plays where he picked up positive yardage, and even a first down or two, once he realized no one was open down field.
If Campbell can start playing every down like he did during Oakland's first drive, then talk of the playoffs would not be a ridiculous notion at all.
The Raiders' Defensive Front Seven is For Real
One of the Raiders' biggest weaknesses last year was its defensive front seven. It was unable to consistently put pressure on the quarterback and allowed running lanes so big a mac truck could drive through them. This year, however, the front seven has looked nothing short of dominant.
The Raiders amassed six sacks against the Bears and if you take away Forte's 89-yard run and the four quarterback scrambles, the Raiders held the Bears running backs to 64 yards on the ground.
Against the Cowboys, the Raiders relied mostly on a four-man rush. Against the Bears, Oakland showed another tool in its arsenal, unleashing Kamerion Wimbley on numerous blitzes that enabled him to rack up four sacks in the first half.
If the Raiders front seven can continue to play this way, the Raiders could have one of the better defenses in the league this year.
Robert Gallery Had a Terrible Game
Many have touted Robert Gallery as Oakland's best offensive lineman, some even going so far as to suggest that he is becoming a Pro Bowl caliber player. However, Saturday's game showed that Gallery still has a lot of rust from an injury riddled season to shake off.
Gallery finished the night with three penalties (two false starts and a hold) and it was his man that put pressure on Campbell causing him to throw the interception. This is not the type of performance Oakland wanted to see out of its best offensive lineman. If the Raiders are going to win this year, offensive line will be the key. Gallery needs to get back to the top of his game and do it soon if he wants to lead this o-line to a good season.
Michael Bennett Needs to Make this Team
Coming into training camp, it seemed Rock Cartwright looked like the logical choice for the Raiders' third running back. He played with Campbell in Washington and has added value due to his skill as a passing option out of the backfield. However, two games into the 2010 preseason and Cartwright looks destined to be cut.
For the second week in a row, Bennett has drastically outplayed Cartwright. Bennett had 12 touches for 68 yards against the Cowboys and 15 touches for 64 yards against the Bears. In the same two games, Rock Cartwright has had 13 touches for 27 yards.
With McFadden's injury issues and Justin Fargas' departure, the third running back position for the Raiders is incredibly important. Throughout the preseason, Bennett has ran harder than Cartwright and showed that he too can be a receiving threat. The fact is, Bennett just looks like he wants it more. Oakland's coaching staff needs to recognize this and ensure that Bennett is on the team this year.
Rolando McClain Still Has Not Impressed
Rolando McClain had a rather average game against the Dallas Cowboys in the first preseason game. He did not make any glaring mistakes, but he also was not the difference maker he is supposed to be ending the game with only one tackle.
In his second game, McClain did not fare much better. There were two plays that really stuck out in terms of McClain's play against the Bears. The first was a short pass that McClain immediately stuffed for no gain. It was the first and only time this preseason that McClain looked like the player everyone has been describing him as. Unfortunately for him, that play was vastly overshadowed by his mistake that led to Matt Forte's 89-yard touchdown run. McClain was in position to make a stop at the line but over ran the play, opening up a ton of running room for Forte.
With Oakland's defensive front seven playing the way that they are, the Raiders do not need McClain to be the game changer that he was touted as. However, as a top ten first round pick, McClain needs to start showing that he can be that game changer when players around him are not having great days.
It is OK to be Excited About this Game
Yes it is preseason and yes the starters were only in for one half. However, the Raiders looked so dominant in the first half, it is hard not to get excited. The Chicago Bears are a good team with a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback. For the Raiders to travel to Chicago and play the way they did, and to do it without some of their best players is a very good sign regardless of the fact that it is a meaningless game.
There is still a lot of work to be done on this team before it becomes a Super Bowl caliber team, but the strides being made this offseason are nothing short of remarkable. Now, the Raiders need to see if they can continue their good preseason then carry the momentum into the regular season. This year is really starting to look like it could be a great one.