Oakland Raiders Showing Past Issues a Thing Of the Past

Justin Smith@smittstylesCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2010

CHICAGO - AUGUST 21: Chester Taylor #29 of the Chicago Bears tries to break away from Kamerion Wimbley #96 and Rolando McClain #55 of the Oakland Raiders and past teammate Roberto Garza #63 during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 21, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Raiders defeated the Bears 32-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I am certainly not a perfect man, and am prone to being wrong on a regular basis, like anyone who has strong opinions.

I wrote an article last Friday voicing concerns that Coach Tom Cable was perhaps being too cautious with our players, holding them out of practices for seemingly benign reasons and putting the pads away in favour of shorts and shells for the majority of practices.

I was concerned that as this team has been terrible at tackling and all the fundamentals that go along with it, it would be prudent to work harder on our weaknesses.

Of course, personnel has changed, but I was still feeling like Cable was erring too far on the side of caution and actually running a camp detrimental to the team.

I was pushing for more padded practices to work on tackling and live-action game scenarios, because I felt that this team has been very weak in that area for years.

I am happy to say that after Saturday's game, these worries seem unfounded or at the very least overblown. As many of you said they were in the comment section of my article prior to the game. So kudos to all of you.

Although I didn't get to see the game, in reading the recaps and watching the highlights, it is patently obvious that fundamental defense is not a major issue for this team any longer.

The pass rush is beastly, with Kamerion Wimbley showing 2008 form in rushing the passer and accumulating four sacks on his own in the first half of Saturday's game. That makes 12 sacks in two games, and coming from a variety of spots; without even blitzing our extremely quick defensive backs thus far.

Even big Tommy Kelly got in on the action on Saturday with a sack up the middle. The speed, strength and pass rushing of this defense is all over the field, ensuring match-up nightmares for offenses throughout the league.

The run defense, with the exception of the 89-yard run surrendered to Matt Forte on Saturday, has been stout, disciplined, and solid. The new front seven is a lot more stout at the point of attack and a lot better at getting off their blockers. Desmond Bryant, subbing for the resting Richard Seymour, had six solo tackles from the defensive tackle position.

Six! That is an impressive body of work for one game.

Take away the Forte run and the Bears gained 85 yards on 24 carries for a 3.5 ypc average. We've always had issues with giving up big plays, and that's something we need to get on top of. But we've got the guys to do that this year.

In short, they don't need the extra work I was clamoring for, and Cable knew it. Good thing he's coaching this team and I'm not. I'm always happy to be wrong for a positive reason, and this certainly qualifies.

I'm still concerned about the offense and the continuity between Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens, but that's only because they've been on the sidelines a lot recently and haven't had as many live reps with Campbell over the last couple of weeks.

But Cable has shown thus far that although you may not agree with his decisions at the time, they usually work out to be the right ones. Erring on the side of caution with three of our most important offensive cogs is  probably the smart and prudent move here.

McFadden and Schilens need to be treated with kid gloves based on their track record, and Heyward-Bey needs to show something this season for the team's success and his own peace of mind, so Cable is proceeding accordingly.

If they'd actually tell us Heyward-Bey is hurt it'd be easier to swallow, but it's easy to infer that he is based on their treatment and tight-lipped approach.

I've been excited about this season since we added Wimbley and then Campbell and had our stellar draft, and the play of the defense in both games has done nothing to disappoint.

Campbell seemed far more comfortable on Saturday, and the offense is coming along. The line still needs to open better holes, but some growing pains are to be expected as they transition from full out zone blocking to a mixture of assignments.

The power blocking was effective on the goal-line, plowing ahead for two short touchdowns, showing this team does have the personnel and capabilities to get nasty.

Thus far the offensive line has allowed four sacks in two games; not amazing, but a definite improvement from years' past.

Campbell's mobility and propensity for taking proper drops and being in the right place at the right time certainly contribute to the OL being able to do their jobs more effectively, and Mario Henderson has shown well thus far this preseason.

If we could just get a solid right side of the line and center, then we'd be set, although Langston Walker is beginning to show his old form a little bit and maul some folks.

Samson Satele may be injured, but Raider Nation has never been high on him and his inability to block big, strong tackles anyhow. Best case scenario is Jared Veldheer being ready for day one at center, despite my initial protests at putting a guy of his size and talent at center.

Center and right guard are our biggest need positions along the line, so anyone who can improve the play is welcome.

Veldheer played quite well in the Dallas game and has apparently made huge strides at the position in a very short period of time. He's quick for his size and has the strength  to keep big, strong tackles out of the backfield. If he can get used to the speed of the game and get his head around the complexity, he'd be a big upgrade in the size and strength department over Satele, and he's shown he's very quick for his size.

Bruce Campbell is coming along nicely but is still some time away from being able to play consistent minutes at right guard. But if at some point this season we had Veldheer at center and Campbell at right guard, and they were ready, it'd be best case scenario for all concerned.

The return game still hasn't shown anything special, but Rock Cartwright's return coupled with his versatility out of the backfield probably edged him up over the more explosive Michael Bennett in the race for third-string running back.

I wish I could have seen the game, because I've been a Wimbley fan since he came into the league and loved hearing he was a force all evening. Four sacks on the heels of praise from Cable for his play against the run in the Dallas game, and some good coverage on the tight ends downfield.

He could be a game-changer.

I know he's done most of his work in practice and late in games, but how about Stevie Brown and his playmaking ability?

He's a ballhawk with considerable size, having been a former linebacker in college, and at this point looks like a lock to make the roster.

With only three days of active camp left after yesterday and today's days of respite, I'm now on board with pretty much everyone else who disagreed with my take last week; that the improvements made on defense have greatly assisted our tackling woes, and that this team needs to err on the side of caution to ensure our most important players are on the field Sept. 12 in Tennessee.

From the reaction I got to my previous article, I was pretty much the only person who felt we needed more pad work. The points made to rebut my article were valid, and manifested themselves on the field for the second straight game on Saturday night.

It certainly seems that Cable knows what he's doing in regards to his treatment of the players and running camp, and my worries led me to panic a little bit and question his motives; but no longer. The rest of the Nation was right to tell me not to worry so much.

Happily, I was wrong, and I am more than glad to admit it.


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