Every time a preseason game is played it is important to remind ourselves what preseason is for. These games are put at the beginning of each season to get young guys into realistic game-like situations and see how they react to the nerves and the situations they are put in. Preseason is also for the veterans to put themselves back into that high intensity role they haven’t seen in a significant amount of time. With all of that said, the Oakland Raiders still have a lot of work to do after watching Friday’s game.
One of the biggest problems the Raiders continue to have is penalties. I have mentioned in a previous article that one of coach Dennis Allen’s biggest concern this preseason was limiting the penalties. You would have never known that was a concern after watching Friday’s game because the flag was thrown against the Raiders far too often.
Again we must be aware that this is only preseason and a learning period but the penalties have to be limited. After the game, Allen mentioned how some of the rule changes for defensive backs could be why the flag was thrown so often on his defense. That is definitely true in the sense that the referees are trying to show their point of emphasis for the season ahead. Allen went on to mention how those penalties shouldn’t be an issue for his defensive backs to clean up for next game.
However those weren’t the only times the flag was thrown against the Silver and Black. They also found themselves in a hole on offense a few times, especially early due to penalties. The Raiders are making games so much harder for them to win when they rack up all of these negative yards because of their own mistakes. If they can limit these mistakes they will put themselves in a much better position to win, which was another thing Coach Allen talked about after the game.
He talked about how he expected more sharpness on both sides of the ball but especially offensively. Allen talked about how he has been teaching his offense to try to think in a way where they stop worrying about big plays at any given time and start worrying about more 2nd or 3rd and shorts and fewer 2nd and 15s because of a penalties or negative yardage. Basically what Allen is trying to do is teach his offense to think about putting themselves in a better position to move the ball positively, instead of getting one big break out play each possession.
Defensively, the Raiders looked pretty sharp with most of the second and third team defensive guys playing hard and showing that they are fighting for time on the field. Some fans think it is abnormal to see second and third string guys have better numbers than the first team guys during preseason but really that’s exact what the coaches expect. This is true because those second and third string guys get way more time on the field to get into a groove and they are the guys on the field with nothing to lose. Those first team guys go in into preseason games with injuries in the backs of their minds whether they admit it or not.
Some defensive guys that stood out in Friday’s game was projected second string defensive end Shelby Harris, cornerback T.J. Carrie, and defensive lineman Ricky Lumpkin. Harris did well putting pressure on some of the Vikings quarterbacks and as a result he ended up having a sack-fumble in Friday’s game. Carrie did well in coverage because of his ability to have short bursts of quickness, but he needs to be careful going forward with potential hands to the face and other penalties off the line of scrimmage that we have been seeing a lot of so far this preseason. Coach Allen talked in a press conference after the game about how Lumpkin did so well in the game fixing his technique from earlier in camp.If Lumpkin can continue this success putting pressure on the QB and clogging up running lanes we may see a good competition with Pat Simms for the starting position on the D-line.
One thing that both Coach Allen and I saw in the game Friday that will help Oakland to put themselves in those better positions is their run game. Maurice Jones-Drew got the start on Friday and got two carries for 10 yards and two receptions for 14 yards. Then, Darren McFadden came in for his only carry of the game and broke a 23-yard rush, which was the biggest gain of the game for either team. Once both of these veterans showed they were game ready Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets got some carries and both did very well. Murray showed coaches he is fully recovered from his injury-plagued season last year by hitting hole much quicker and making the right reads. Overall, the Raiders’ run game was the most impressive aspect of their game in week 1 and should continue to impress going into week 2.