Oakland Raiders' Blowout Loss to Saints Is Nothing, Health Is Everything
Doom and gloom is all you hear from the media as the Oakland Raiders lose another preseason game. If you want to go by the preseason, the Washington Redskins are going to be Super Bowl contenders in 2011.
"The Raiders finally started heading in the right direction and don't bring Tom Cable back."
"The Hue Jackson era has begins at 0-3."
"The Raiders can't win this year without Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery."
They really need to relax.
Jackson's era hasn't started yet as he gets to know his team.
But I did have concerns with the way the Raiders played with their ones in the game in San Francisco. After seeing what the Raiders did when the majority of both team's ones were in Sunday night, I think they will be just fine.
They just need to get healthy.
Let's take a closer look.
Pass Defense Will Be Fine
Losing the best corner in the NFL doesn't make your pass defense better, but the Raiders will be fine in the department. Drew Brees carved up the Raiders' secondary but that was absence of Chris Johnson killing them.
People forget that he played through injuries last year was still a top five corner in burn percentage. Stanford Routt is now the Raiders' No. 1 corner as he tied Asomugha for second in the NFL in burn percentage in 2010.
The times Brees tested Routt, Routt defended but they abused rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke. Van Dyke has a good future ahead of him, but isn't ready because he hasn't learned to find the ball yet.
That will come in time but No. 1 and No. 2 receivers will feast on him until he can play the ball better. Johnson is expected to be back Week 1 and the Raiders have acquired veteran Lito Sheppard.
Then you have Tyvon Branch, who still looks like he doesn't cover very well in man or zone, getting to the ball too late in cover two. He and Jerome Boyd were the usual suspects giving it up to whomever they guarded.
Mike Mitchell showed that he could cover last year at strong safety but he is now injured. Also keep in mind that Brees was mighty comfortable in the pocket as the Raiders got very little pressure on him.
I think the absence of Richard Seymour had a little something to do with that.
Run Defense Getting Better
The Raider run defense is going to be fine, at least much improved in 2011. Most of what the Raiders have given up on the ground this preseason has been when the twos were on the field.
Rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain is much improved, finding the ball and running to against the Saints. Quentin Groves in just his second year with his hand not in the dirt looks like he's much improved, too.
The Raiders gave up a couple of 12-yard runs last week but looked good against the Cardinals and Saints. Remember, last year, the ones gave up touchdown runs of over 40 yards in two of four preseason games.
The Raiders gave up one big run this preseason and were gutted but the ones were sipping on Gatorade.
Boy, was I wrong about Jared Veldheer!
He has protected Jason Campbell's blind side like his life depended on it this preseason. I have clamoured to get another left tackle and move Veldheer to the right side but he has shown me that left tackle isn't the Raiders' concern.
This offensive line is going to be built around Veldheer, Stefen Wisniewski and Bruce Campbell. Samson Satele will keep the center seat warm for Wisniewski while Wisniewski starts at guard until the Raiders find a "bully" for that position.
As far as right tackle goes, the future is now.
Joseph Barksdale looks good there as Khalif Barnes struggles in the run game. Stephon Heyer is looking like a starter but I think he should go to left guard, moving Wisniewski to center.
Satele was good okay against the Saints but he also didn't see Aubrayo Franklin.
He never has been able to handle guys like that.
A New Gem at Running Back in the Stable
After watching him run Sunday night, I see that Taiwan Jones is the best No. 3 back in the league. In fact, Darren McFadden's eye socket just got a little better and there probably won't be an injury he can't play with in 2011.
This Jones kid isn't just fast—he's quick and had great vision. He's not much of a blitz picker-upper yet but so far he looks good with the ball in his hands.
He really looks to me like a poor man's Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.
I expect Marshall Faulk-type numbers from McFadden this year, but the Saints didn't have to see him. The combination of Michael Bush and Jones was bad enough on them but imagine how much things change when McFadden is in the game.
A healthy McFadden makes three running backs that can hurt you.
McFadden is kinda special, too.
Jason Campbell to Take That Next Step
Jason Campbell looked good against the Saints after being indecisive and missing opportunities against the 49ers. Campbell was accurate, going 12-of-17 for 150 yards, one touchdown and one pick in one half.
The interceptions was a shot at the end zone that you have to take in the closing seconds of a first half. He also did a good job of managing the game, checking out of bad plays and into good ones for the Raiders.
But he did make a mistake with a delay of game penalty.
The receiver corps is going to be better than it has been in years.
Campbell has to be given a little more credit because he hasn't worked with his starting receiver corps yet.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is listed as No. 1 on the depth chart, but do you think that will last?
He has gotten better but not enough to hold the rest of this talented crew back. Heyward-Bey had a drop in the game which I won't get down on him for but he didn't adjust to a deep ball he had a chance to make a play on.
Earlier in the play, Heyward-Bey didn't make a move at all before just running down the field. A jab step or move could have created just enough indecision to give him a step ahead of the defender.
Opposing defenders know about his speed so they are ready for that. Jacoby Ford, Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy were Campbell's guys last year anyway.
Neither have played this preseason and Murphy is the only one of the three that's expected to miss opening night. But I was really happy to see the depth behind them in Derek Hagan and Denarius Moore.
Hagan had six catches for 121 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown on the night. Aside the newly found depth at receiver, keep in mind that tight ends Kevin Boss and David Ausberry are also injured.
The Raiders' passing game is going to take off when everyone gets healthy.
Do not buy into the doom and gloom, Raiders fans.
Being winless in three preseason games isn't reason to hit the panic button at all. Injuries have forced Jackson to look at different guys a little longer than he normally would have so far.
In fact, he's really not even trying to win.
If he was, you wouldn't have seen so much opposing teams' ones on Raider two and threes this preseason. What he seems to be looking for the most is the right combination on the offensive line.
The offensive line will be set once Campbell is in the starting lineup and Wisniewski starts at center. In fact. Heyer was working with the ones at left guard before getting hurt.
We'll see if they revisit that but Campbell at right guard itself will make things much better. Chris Johnson's injury has also had a profound effect on these preseason games as Van Dyke has been picked on.
He along with everyone outside of Murphy is expected back for Week 1.
Do not worry, Raider Nation.
The Saints game was nothing and getting healthy is everything for the 2011 Oakland Raiders.
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