Oakland Raiders Starters Who Need to Step Up Against the New Orleans Saints
The final dress rehearsal is coming!
I know there is a depth chart posted on the Raiders' website but you know that depth chart means nothing. From what I've seen of some of the starters so far, that depth chart better not mean anything.
If it does, the so-called "bully" Raiders' head coach Hue Jackson is trying to build will not exist during the 2011 season. This is a pivotal year for the Raiders who have some good draft picks and key free agent pickups.
They finished .500 for the first time in seven years in 2010 and now look to build upon that success. On this team right now, you're either are a part of building on the 2010 season or you won't find yourself on the field.
All I've heard Raiders' head coach Hue Jackson say in the last two preseason post game interviews is, "We'll fix that." From what I've seen so far, that means that certain guys will have to step up to keep their positions or for things to be "fixed."
Turn the page to see who they are.
Quarterback Jason Campbell
Jason Campbell is the main guy on this Raiders team that needs to step up against the Saints. First and foremost, the quarterback position is the most important position in all of team sports.
The reason he has to step up is, because already sagging ticket sales will get worse if Campbell doesn't perform. His numbers in the amount of time he's played have been good but he missed out on an opportunity to put the ball in the end zone.
He also nearly got himself killed on a sack because he doesn't seem to know what he wants to do. Campbell needs to make a decision, right or wrong and just go with it.
A good performance by Campbell against the Saints could bring fans back into the stands.
Right Tackle Khalif Barnes
Khalif Barnes needs to step up as much as anyone on this team!
He came to Raider Nation in 2009, broke his leg in training camp and seemed not to get a fair shot since. Now we are in 2011 and Barnes is getting too fair of a shot to start at right tackle for the Raiders.
Against the 49ers, Barnes had 3 false starts, two of them back to back in a little over one quarter. On the Raiders first offensive play, Barnes threw one of three no-hitters and his man made the tackle on Michael Bush.
When he pass blocked, he was pretty good but didn't show that he can run block at all. I really wanted to see Barnes get a fair shot to start in 2011 but he doesn't seem to be making the most of it right now.
For that, he has to show something in Sunday's game against the Saints.
He can start with remembering the snap count.
Center Samson Satele
Samson Satele has to seriously step his game up in this one because he is facing Aubrayo Franklin. That wasn't so pretty in 2010 when Franklin was a 49er, so I don't know if he has it in him to step up to that level.
He's listed at 300lbs but when I've seen him in person, he looks closer to 285. So when you line the 320 pound Franklin up over him Satele obviously has a trouble.
Jackson really wants his "bully" to be built now so undersized centers getting blown back in ball games can't be a part of the plan. Some NFL players can overcome size but Satele hasn't shown that he can during his career.
He has to do it against the Saints because Stephen Wisniewski is a 320 pound center and is looking good so far.
He has Raider bloodlines and was drafted in the second round too.
Corner Demarcus Van Dyke
The Raiders' staff loves this kid and I see why.
Demarcus Van Dyke went to battle with Larry Fitzgerald, lost big, then came back to win the very next battle. That shows me that the kid has the ability to learn, which was what Rod Woodson told the Raiders' staff after working him out before the draft.
Van Dyke has shown a lot of improvement just from the first game to the second game too. He needs to step up against the Saints to keep that going and show more improvement for the third game.
His development is important because starting No. 2 corner Chris Johnson is out with injuries. Johnson is expected to be ready for Week one of the regular season but you never do know with groins and hamstrings.
As of right now, Van Dyke is a starter but he has to show that he is ready.
Until he shows that he can get it done, opposing quarterbacks will pick on him.
Safety Tyvon Branch
Tyvon Branch has to step up in a big way and he will be tested plenty by the Saints' passing game. With the Raiders still being pretty good at the corners, Branch will get picked on by most NFL quarterbacks in 2011.
His burn percentage was over 70 percent and he gave up eight touchdowns so he has to show improvement. So far this preseason, he hasn't shown any so he needs to show something before Mike Mitchell comes back.
I don't know why, but Raider owner Al Davis loves this man.
So he may not go to the bench but opposing teams will know where they can throw on the Raiders.
Right Guard Cooper Carlisle
Cooper Carlisle is another small, zone blocking type of guy that really doesn't fit the Raiders' scheme now. He's trying to adapt and become a power blocker but hasn't shown that so far, so he will have to step up against the Saints.
Against the 49ers the Raiders were near the goal line and Carlisle was put on his back on the third down run when the 49ers made their goal line stand. There's a lot of pressure on Carlisle these days because he's not the same when you take cut blocks away from him.
On top of that, physical specimen Bruce Campell is lurking.
I wonder what can we get from the Seahawks for Carlisle because their offensive line is horrible.
Is a fourth round pick asking too much?
Left Guard Daniel Loper
Daniel Loper came to Raider Nation on a mission last year, pancaking Tommy Kelly in camp. When then Raider Robert Gallery was injured, Loper played well in his place and the Raiders offense didn't miss a beat.
This year, Loper is no longer playing like he's on that mission with no pancakes, actually struggling. Stephon Heyer appeared to be on the same mission this year that Loper was on last year before getting injured.
He's been playing all over the place on the offensive line but the Raiders are now looking at him as a left guard. According to Vittorio Tafur, Heyer returned to practice yesterday and Jackson said he could possibly start Sunday and on opening day. http://twitter.com/#!/VittorioTafur
As for Loper, I will fully give him a pass because he and his wife just brought new life into the world. That had to have been a very stressful time for him and it was definitely more important than football.
But now it's time for Loper to step up and show the Raiders' staff that he's the same guy he was in 2010. His wife and child are well, so he will get a chance to focus on football full-time now.
Outside Linebacker Quentin Groves
In just his second year at outside linebacker, Quentin Groves looks to be coming on so far this preseason. The 49ers did run on the Raiders and get outside but if you look at the game again, that wasn't on Groves.
When he was in with the starters, the 49ers got outside on a toss-crack and Groves wasn't on the field. The other time the 49ers got outside on the Raider ones, it was on Kamerion Wimbley's side.
Wimbley pinched inside on the play.
Groves stayed in with the second unit to get some extra work and he consistently turned the play back inside but middle linebacker Travis Goethel wasn't there. He's also looking good in coverage too but needs to step up against the Saints to show the Raiders' coaching staff that they don't need another outside linebacker.
"If we don't stop the run, it won't be because of me!" has to be going through his head.
Wide Receiver Darrius Heward-Bey
This is year three for Darrius Heward-Bey so he will be pronounced boom or bust at the end of 2011. He's actually looked pretty good this preseason but he has to show up big-time against the Saints.
Early in camp, Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford and Chaz Schilens looked like the class of the receivers. They all went out with injuries then Denarius Moore took over the whole Raiders' camp to show he can play.
Jacoby Ford has come back from his broken hand so you know he is going to play. Moore is looking like the best rookie receiver the Raiders have had in a long time so there will be pressure to get him on the field.
Murphy and Schilens will be back at some point so Heyward-Bey must shine now. A good performance against the Saints makes three games in a row that he's looked like a legitimate NFL receiver.
That might let the Raiders know that they can count on Heyward-Bey from week to week.
Then he'll get an opportunity to be boom instead of bust.
Left Tackle Jared Veldheer
Jared Veldheer has looked really good this preseason!
I was really hard on him last season, thinking he should be switched to right tackle because he's a good run blocker. But Veldheer is getting out of his stance and into his kick-slide so fast so far this year, I could hardly believe it!
The fifteen pounds he's added to his 6'8" frame is helping him deal with power rushers too. It was all on display against the 49ers as he dealt with speed rusher Aldon Smith and power rusher Justin Smith.
He was charged with giving up two sacks but they were clearly the fault of Campbell. He has to step up against the Saints for his own confidence and to show the Raiders' coaching staff he can consistently have Campbell's back.
I think I was wrong about this one!
I love it!
This is the big one!
Many starting positions will be decided after Sunday's game against the Saints. The Saints are actually the perfect team for the Raiders to test themselves against before the start the regular season.
They have Drew Brees and company to test the Raiders' pass defense and Mark Ingram to test the run defense. It also helps that the Saints run a 3-4 with Franklin in the middle at nose tackle to test the Raiders' centers.
Don't forget the Darren Sproles is now a Saint to catch passes out of the backfield.
The Raiders will be tested in every way on Sunday.
The starters must step up!