Oakland Raiders Week 1: Pressures, Hurries and Knockdowns (Postgame Edition)
Well folks, hope you enjoyed the first PHK of the year, as well as the Raiders first opening day victory under the Monday Night Lights since before I had facial hair.
I know I did.
Something new this year; I'm going to try and follow up on the weekly PHK with a response, as in, how did they respond to the pressure, etc. Did any of the hurries make sense/come to pass? Were the knockdowns accurate?
Here it is.
Pressure Beaten : Hue Jackson
As I mentioned in the original PHK article, Jackson is in his first year as head man of the Raiders after helping them to vast offensive improvement as offensive coordinator last season.
He came in and immediately scrapped the zone-blocking scheme, preferring power running and bragging about "building a bully" in Oakland on both sides of the ball.
The preseason had many doubting Jackson's vision, but last night, the Raiders were bullies.
They pummelled the Broncos in the trenches on both sides of the ball, racking up nearly 200 yards rushing on offense, recorded five sacks, forced three fumbles and generally hammered the Broncos wherever they were found on defense.
The bully was in effect. Unfortunately, they were a mindless, over aggressive bully that got enough penalties to make the Charleston Chiefs proud. That was the only negative from a coaching standpoint, but a big one. The lack of discipline was frustrating at times, embarrassing at others and downright shameful on the whole.
You could see, after his second sack, Richard Seymour rally the troops on the sidelines and give them an impassioned speech about smartening up. They did, and proceeded to shut down the Broncos from there with smarter play.
Jackson came through with flying colors in his first coaching gig. He was uber-quick to challenge a Knowshon Moreno fumble that wasn't called on the field, and it gave the Raiders incredible field position, which led to a field goal.
He ran the right personnel in and out all night long on offense, and though I would've liked to see far more screens and passes designed to get D-Mac the ball, the offensive play calling was pretty good and kept the Broncos off balance.
Jackson was under pressure to win against the Raiders' biggest rival in a prime time game under the lights in his first attempt.
Pressure Answered: Darrius Heyward-Bey
We've been waiting for Darrius Heyward-Bey to produce, and last night he was the only wideout who did.
Some of that is due to Jason Campbell missing a few open receivers and choosing to check down too often. Campbell was ultra-conservative last night, but that was probably part of the plan.
However, I called out DHB for taking snaps away from more impressive receivers. Well, last night, he was the most impressive receiver on the field for the Raiders.
He had four catches for 44 yards, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Early in the game Campbell threw a beautiful deep ball that JUST carried DHB out of bounds. But the kid was running full speed, and caught the ball over his shoulder in stride. Had Campbell been just a little more accurate with it and threw it inside rather than outside, Bey would still be running. But as it is he made a nice adjustment, got under it, and caught it, even if it didn't count.
Also, two of those four catches were for key first downs. With the Raiders needing a first down to try and kill the clock to win the game, DHB took a pass in the left flat, made a man miss and raced for a backbreaking first down.
Those are the types of plays your important players make, and DHB proved for one game that he is very important, and can be counted on when the chips are down. He had no drops, and even made a couple of fairly difficult catches.
He handled the pressure just fine, thank you, and passed with flying colours.
Pressure Addressed, Met and Annihilated: Raiders Defense
The Raider defense was in trouble without Nnamdi Asomugha. The preseason proved the team couldn't cover a duvet, and they were going to have to hang a forty-burger on teams just to stay competitive.
Only, nobody told the defense that. So they simply came out and smashed the face of the Broncos every chance they got. As I mentioned before, sometimes that was a little too literal and many penalties were had. But all in all, they dominated.
They limited the Broncos to 38 yards for a 2.8 ypc average on the ground. They sacked Kyle Orton five times—if the Broncos O-lineman actually blocked instead of held every play, it would've been about 10-12 sacks—and they didn't hit the skill positions lightly.
They forced three fumbles and recovered two, and had a pick as well. They just kept coming, tough and relentless, and hit the Broncos as hard as they possibly could.
Orton took more than one hefty shot; Moreno was limping by the end of the game. Willis McGahee looked his age, and Daniel Fells probably wishes Orton stopped throwing to him so much.
In short, the Raiders were physically dominant on defense. In fact, if Chuck Bresnahan hadn't have slipped into his patented "prevent you from winning" defense on the Broncos' final drive, the game wouldn't have looked as close.
Looks are deceiving; it wasn't as close as the score. The Broncos could do nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing on offense until the Raiders fell asleep a little in the early fourth. After the TD, nothing again.
This defense not only stepped up to the pressure, they rolled it up into a ball and swallowed it whole. Pressure? Yeah, there was pressure. But not on these guys by the end. It was all on Orton, all the time. Just the way we like it.
- Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy both played lights out, as I expected. This is just the surface for these two, and it's fun to watch
- McClain was a different player last night; he flew to the ball and made great reads; he just needs to make it less obvious when he's clueless in pre-snap. Got burned on a few underneath routes as a result
- Van Dyke played well when he was in there; made a nice pass breakup
- Joe Porter and Jerome Boyd played well as youngsters in the defensive backfield, and free-agent signee Matt Giordano played the game of the night, forcing a fumble and hauling in a very impressive pick to kill a Bronco drive at the end of the first half
- Though he played passably, Campbell did nothing to change the perception that he's a marginal quarterback that the Raiders are using as filler
- McFadden ran like an animal —that was definitely a TD and I don't know why they didn't challenge it—but I definitely expected a Hue Jax-Al Saunders offense to throw him the ball a lot more. The Raiders need McFadden getting more than one catch if they want continued success
- Tight ends were missed last night; Brandon Myers is a good blocker, but the guy cannot get open
- I was right to worry about penalties, but Barnes wasn't the main culprit. His stand-in, Stephon Heyer, had two in a row in the second quarter that stalled a promising drive
- Speaking of penalties, let's not. Just clean it up. Stop talking about it, stop embracing the "culture" and smarten up. That game shouldn't have been within 20 points
- I was right; they did have a better team in all facets, and it did show last night
- SEABASS YOU DA MAN!!!
Knockdowns : The Raiders Can't Draft
I'll just say this—some of the most important players on the field last night for the Raiders were, in no particular order:
Darren McFadden, first-round pick
Jared Veldheer, third-round pick
Stefen Wisniewski, second-round pick
Jerome Boyd, UFA
Darrius Heyward-Bey, first-round pick
Richard Seymour, acquired for first-round pick
Rolando McClain, first-round pick
Matt Shaughnessy, third-round pick
Tommy Kelly, UFA
Kamerion Wimbley, acquired for third-round pick
Michael Bush, fourth-round pick
Marcel Reece, UFA
I could go on, and I'm sure I missed some. Other non-Raider draft choices like Matt Giordano, Rock Cartwright and Samson Satele had excellent games. But core players either traded for or drafted by the Raiders carried the day, and there is no question they proved false the idea the Raiders cannot draft.
Knockdowns: Jason Campbell Can't Lead
Campbell had a poor statistical game, missed some receivers and didn't really get the offense humming along at all.
So the knockdown was wrong, right? The idea Campbell can't lead is true, isn't it?
Despite the fact that Campbell didn't have a very good game and certainly made things more interesting at the end by failing to score more points, the plays he did make were clutch, and they were key.
I know he only completed 11 passes, and barely had 100 yards. That's pretty sad, but when you consider the Raiders ran the ball almost forty times and were dominating on the ground, it's not surprising.
What may surprise you is that of his 11 completions, seven were for first downs, including two clutch throws late in the game, one to sustain a drive and help wear the clock, and the other the nail in the coffin that essentially allowed the Raiders to go into victory formation, with, of course, the heavy assistance of Michael Bush and his power running.
Campbell didn't play poorly, despite the statistics. He got the ball out of his hands and managed the game well. The frustrating thing is his lack of aggression after an offseason in which he seemed poised to put that away.
Can Campbell lead a team? Yes. Can he put them on his back and carry them to victory? I'm a little less sure of that one at this point. He's still too tentative, and needs to take some chances.
I hope he comes out on fire in Buffalo next week.
Well, everyone under pressure in my column stepped up, the defense in particular in a big, big way.
Many of my thoughts came to fruition or look good going forward. I love this defense and the young players on that side of the ball. They have fun playing, but are still nasty. Gotta love it.
Campbell struggled, but led the team when it mattered, and the Raiders draft choices shone all night long.
The game wasn't as close as the score and the bully in the trenches, if last night is any indication, is well on its way. Some discipline now, and the sky is the limit.
All I know is, it's great to finally be 1-0 after so many years. And beating the rented mules to do it? Priceless!
Thanks for reading. As always, your comments are welcome, encouraged and appreciated.