The Oakland Raiders managed to show one major positive aspect of their game in the “dress-rehearsal” preseason match-up against the Green Bay Packers. That positive aspect was the major improvement of the Raiders defensive secondary. Now the rest of the facets of the Raiders’ game need to follow the defensive secondary trend because although it is still preseason this game was extremely frustrating to watch with the amount of penalties on both sides of the ball. Also there seemed to be a lot of late and sometimes just forced decisions made mostly by Matt Schaub and the Raiders offense.
Of course, we could just chalk all of the bad and late decision making to just lack of preparation considering it is still preseason. That’s understandable but the main issue is there has been no real improvement in Raiders offensive game over the last three-preseason games.
Oakland’s run game has remained solid throughout preseason but passing still a big question mark. Schaub is yet to prove himself and he seemed to be a bit tentative in a lot of his throws against Green Bay. The pressure of “dress rehearsal” week may have been in the back of his head before he made each throw, which is why it looked like most of his throws were a split second late. Schaub is still yet to throw a touchdown pass in three games and a total of 47 passes going 24 for 47 in completions. This isn’t to say improvement in the Raiders offensive game can’t be made because they absolutely can. It’s just the lack of improvement of the offensive side of the ball that is a bit concerning as the regular season is approaching in the next two weeks.
Regressing to the major positive aspect of the Raiders game that came from the preseason week three loss to the Packers is the hope that was restored defensively for Oakland. The Raiders secondary has been one of the key question marks going into this preseason and I have talked a lot about inexperience, but that is becoming less of the case over the last three preseason games.
Seasoned veteran corner back Charles Woodson has done a great job mentoring the young Raiders Defensive backs. This showed particularly through one young player against Green Bay who spent most of his time on the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad before Oakland picked him up over the off season. That player is Corner back Neiko Thorpe. Thorpe was flying all over the field last Friday making open field tackles and swarming to the ball. His coverage has improved tremendously making it hard for Aaron Rodgers to squeeze any passes past him. Thorpe had perfect coverage on Green Bay’s first 2-point conversion when he was called for one of the weakest penalties I have ever seen. That was the case for most of the game in the one sided officiating against Oakland as usual but on this play Thorpe couldn’t have played better defense as he was called for interference. Raiders coaches should recognize Thorpe’s effort and improvement when they are putting together the starting roster for regular season.
Linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack both followed suit in the “dress rehearsal” game last Friday. Moore was clogging up running lanes and making some great tackles in the backfield as Mack was also creating good pressure on the Green Bay offense. (Moore left the game Friday on a stretcher with a neck injury but flew home with the team in a neck brace. When he will return to the field is unknown but him being back with the team is always a good sign) Mack got beat badly by a screen pass set up by Aaron Rodgers early in the game but when Packers back up QB Matt Flynn tried to set up the same screen pass late in the second quarter Mack read it perfectly and came up with his first NFL interception.
As long as the rest of the Raiders defense continues moving in this direction then you can count on the Raiders having a top tier defense in the league. The only thing stopping Oakland from the breakout season that is so necessary at this point is their offense (mostly passing and receiving).