Raiders Show Flashes, Settle Into Reality
Oakland came out firing on the first drive of tonight's preseason game against the 49ers. Jason Campbell was able to connect with Marcel Reese on a 49-yard strike down the sideline. Darrius Heyward-Bey was thrown at four times, and made three beautiful catches.
As the game progressed, the Raider offensive line confirmed the validity of the wide-spread belief that the unit could be the Achilles heel of the team for the highly anticipated upcoming season.
Mario Henderson looked overmatched most of the night and ultimately was beaten so badly that it allowed starting quarterback Jason Campbell to sustain a neck injury early in the second quarter.
Bruce Gradkowski came in for Campbell and picked up right where he left off, throwing a beautiful touchdown pass to Louis Murphy that may have solidified his push to beat out Kyle Boller and be the team's second-string quarterback.
Jared Velheer did a nice job during his audition to be the starting center in Nashville on opening day, but that was the lone bright spot for the Raider offensive line that failed to ever get the first-team running game established.
The organization has to be concerned with the level of performance from the left tackle position. Hopefully, Campbell's injury wasn't serious, and he will be ready to go in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans.
Also of particular concern is the fact that Rolando McClain continues to look out of position constantly and has shown considerable difficulty shedding blocks. The rookie has shown flashes of being capable of handling the responsibility of playing quarterback for the defense, but not nearly enough early production to warrant his draft position.
While McClain will most likely settle in and be fine, the Raiders run defense looks to be almost as porous as last year's. Now that Raider scapegoat Kirk Morrison has been traded to Jacksonville, McClain had better make the most of this opportunity to step up and make plays in his first year as a starter.
Bruce Gradkowski looked masterful as the game wore on, and threw another 29-yard touchdown strike to tight end Zach Miller in the third quarter.
Sebastian Janikowski booted an impressive 57-yard field goal off of the infield dirt and continues to prove why he is the most underrated kicker in the National Football League.
All in all, what was most impressive was watching this team regain momentum after both units sputtered after a quick start. If you’re a Raiders fan, that was good to see. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but overall, another great team effort by the hopefuls in Silver and Black.
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