Man, it's one thing to know that your team's season is about to begin—it's entirely different to sit down and watch them, in uniform, take the field for the first time with new faces and names all over the field. I have to admit, I was a bit giddy watching the Oakland Raiders against the Arizona Cardinals tonight. And the team did not disappoint.
Of course, as any seasoned fan knows, you can only take so much from a preseason game. Especially when it's the first one (especially after a shortened offseason). That said, when you know what you're looking for, you can still pick out a thing or two worth mentioning.
The following list is simply my compilation of players who stood out to me in the first game, mostly positive (but a couple negative). I could have easily added positive slides for Jason Campbell, Michael Bush, Kyle Boller, Travis Goethel, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Derek Hagan, Brandon Myers and Marcel Reece, as every one of these guys played well in their 2011 debut. But I wanted to keep my list fairly concise, so these are the guys who really stood out. Mostly good, but some not so much.
Obviously, we can't get too excited here and anoint this guy the second coming. That said, the kid who has been turning heads ever since arriving in Napa didn't waste any time in his debut. He led the team in receptions and yards, and only made one mistake on a dropped five-yard pass from a soon-to-be-demolished Trent Edwards.
Not only was Moore all over the field when the Raiders had the ball, but he made himself known on special teams as well, nearly returning his first punt for a TD (the 57-yard return was called back, but the illegal block didn't really affect the play) as well as taking a kick return out of the end zone up past the 30.
The kid played like he'd been there before. An extremely encouraging performance by No. 17.
The rookie played extremely well. Granted, without the ability to sit back and watch game tape, it's hard to evaluate a center's performance. But the whole line seemed to click well when he was making the calls, and I noticed on a couple decent runs Wisniewski opening the hole in the middle—a good sign, for sure.
The Raiders took some heat for drafting this guy in the third round, but he played very well tonight. Though he got beat by Stephen Williams on an 18-yard post for Arizona's first TD, he was very reliable in coverage. The stat line will tell you that he got beat for 43 yards by Larry Fitzgerald, but he was in excellent position on the play and Fitzgerald made a one-handed grab that only he could make.
DVD, as the announcer kept calling him, got a lot of playing time tonight and held up very, very well. I'm anxious to see more of him.
I loved the signing when it took place, and after watching Edwards run the offense for the majority of the game only solidified my approval. Though Kyle Boller played well, Edwards will be Campbell's backup, and he'll be one of the better backups in the league.
He doesn't have the rocket arm that Boller has and that Davis covets, but he's incredibly accurate. He made one noticeable mistake when he under-threw Derek Hagan on a 42-yard completion that should have been a TD. Other than that, he was spot-on.
The most impressive play was his TD pass to David Ausberry: absolutely perfect, with touch, in the corner of the end zone.
There's no question that this is Jason Campbell's team, but Trent Edwards is an excellent second option, and tonight he showed why.
Speaking of David Ausberry, wow! What a catch! Now that's the way you start a career!
Now, I can't speak to his blocking in this game because I didn't notice it one way or another. And I certainly don't expect Ausberry to steal away the starting job any time soon. But his catch was really quite phenomenal. Certainly worthy of a slide!
Bodiford was on the Raiders practice squad in 2010 and played very well in tonight's debut. He had two great catches for 25 yards as well as an excellent kick return that would have gone for much more had he not had the ball stripped from his side (whoops!). But he looked good. Really good.
Most people may not realize this, but the Raiders have a lot of depth at WR. Sure, none of them will make the Pro Bowl any time soon, but they've got plenty of weapons. Which may be the only reason Bodiford might not make the team this year. But if he continues to perform like he did tonight, Hue Jackson will have a hard time keeping this guy with the practice unit.
Unfortunately, this is the only picture available of Tommie Hill I could find. And, well, before tonight, I'd never even heard of the guy. But he played on the Giants practice squad in 2009, then in the CFL in 2010 and was signed by the Raiders in the offseason.
Hill didn't make any huge plays tonight, but he was at the center of the action every time the Cardinals ran the ball. He played a particularly important role in the Raiders' second quarter goal-line stand (alongside Lamarr Houston). Whether or not Hill makes the team, I don't know. But he was all over the place tonight and proved that he at least deserves to stick around for a while. He was impressive.
This is where the negative slides come in...
I'm trying really hard not to come down on this guy too harshly. I want to say something about how there's really only need for one McFadden on this team.
Look, I'm not just basing this on tonight's performance. I remember last season, toward the end of the year, when he was forced onto the field because of injuries, he was constantly picked on by opposing QBs. And it wasn't simply because the guys on the other side of the defense were just that good. He can't cover. He just can't. He was toasted constantly last year.
And tonight was no different. Whoever the Cardinals had taking snaps, they just constantly targeted whoever McFadden was guarding and had no problems whatsoever. I wish this guy the best, but he struggled tremendously tonight—and all of last year. If he can't manage to get things figured out pretty quickly, I'm afraid he'll be cut.
I like Khalif Barnes. And I don't think he'll be cut anytime soon (nor do I think he should be). But he had three false starts tonight in about a six-minute span. The Raiders played relatively well in terms of penalty-discipline until Barnes started his false-start-a-thon. Then everything kind of fell apart.
He'll get things straightened out (I hope!). This is what we should expect with such a short preseason. But he's got to stop. That was bad.
Derek Hagan should have walked into the end zone had Trent Edwards not under-thrown him by about 10 yards. But this wasn't the only play: Campbell looked good in the flats and over the middle, but he under-threw every deep ball he threw (just two, I think).
This has largely to do with the short offseason, not to mention the fact that it's simply very early to expect QBs and WRs to have their timing down. So I'm not worried about it. But with the speed that the Raiders have at WR, the QBs need to get this problem fixed pretty quickly, because you can't keep speedsters like Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey waiting for the ball downfield.