After an off-season where the word 'hope' was thrown around more than the Obama Campaign, the Oakland Raiders started the 2010 campaign in nightmarish fashion. The Raiders came out completely flat against the Tennessee Titans in their road opener, finishing the game with a loss that was far worse than the score indicates.
Though giving up 38 points is never a good sign, the massive score should not be placed entirely on the defense. Oakland's offense was non-existent for the first three quarters of the game and provided the Titans with a short field numerous times.
The defense started the game strong, but was unable to keep the intensity up as the offense refused to give them any chance to rest. The defensive front seven was able to keep Chris Johnson in check for a good portion of the game. Vince Young, on the other hand, made numerous back breaking plays both through the air and with his feet, giving the Titans offense and Chris Johnson too many opportunities for the defense to handle.
However, despite Vince Young's play, it was the Raiders offense that was the real cause of the blowout.
After trading for Jason Campbell, most expected the Raiders offense to be much improved this year. So why did it look eerily like the 2009 offense that was one of the worst in the league?
The answer is simple, the Oakland Raiders failed to sufficiently improve on their biggest weakness in their offensive line. The Oakland skill players were never given a chance to impact the game as most plays ended before they could get started. The run game suffered as Darren McFadden struggled to find any room to run and Jason Campbell, under constant pressure, rarely had time to look down field.
Without a solid effort from our offensive line, the entire team will have a hard time succeeding. The right side of the offensive line looked amateur at times in the game. Langston Walker appeared almost adamant about not using his hands as he continually allowed defensive ends into his body where they were able to make spin moves or simply over power him. Meanwhile, Cooper Carlisle was probably the only player on offense who had to pick himself up off of the ground more than Jason Campbell.
Center Jared Veldheer struggled in his first start in the NFL. Once the ball was snapped, Veldheer had a decent game, especially for a rookie, but had difficulties working with Campbell on the snap itself. Veldheer snapped the ball early a few times and had a couple of poor shotgun snaps. This was likely due to the fact that Veldheer and Campbell have not spent much time working together. I fully expect these problems to improve and for Veldheer to have a decent year.
The left side of the line was decent. Mario Henderson did not have a good game, but he did not have a particularly bad game either. He was beaten a few times on the edge rush but is still a lesser concern for the Raiders as he still has moments of good play.
The left guard position, on the other hand, might end up being one of the Raiders' biggest concerns. Robert Gallery had a solid day and is clearly the Oakland Raiders' best offensive linemen. If the Raiders are going to have a solid year on the offensive line, it will be as the result of Gallery's play and leadership.
In fact, Gallery's importance to the team is what makes the left guard position such a concern, as he was forced to leave late in the game with a hamstring injury. Camera shots of Gallery on the sideline did not look too bad, but you never know. Gallery was seen sitting on the bench observing the game and did not look to be in pain or overly upset. This leads to hopes that he merely tweaked his hamstring and given the fact that the game was out of hand, Cable just wanted to play it safe with his best offensive lineman.
The only positives that could be taken from the offensive line play on such a miserable day came from the offensive line reserves. Back up guard Daniel Loper played well coming in for Robert Gallery. If Cooper Carlisle continues to struggle, look for Loper to challenge for the starting job at right guard.
Additionally, for reasons unannounced, Khalif Barnes played the first series before being replaced by Mario Henderson. It did not appear as though Cable had any thoughts of replacing Henderson as Barnes was replaced rather quickly. Most likely, Henderson had some sort of equipment issue that kept him off the field for one series.
That being said, Barnes looked decent in the short time he was in the game. Many Raiders fans have been waiting for Barnes to compete for a starting job ever since he was signed as a free agent before the 2009 season. If Langston Walker continues to be a liability at right guard, Barnes might be a viable option at that spot.
Contrary to the result of the season opener, the Raiders truly are on the right path. However, if they want that to translate into wins this season, the Raiders offensive line needs to improve and do so quickly. If they are unable to do so, Tom Cable needs to look to his bench and see if there are players ready to step up to the challenge.
It was only one game, but this type of play is unacceptable for the Raiders and something needs to change.