Preseason Week 3: Packers 31, Raiders 21

There were some glimmers of hope on Lambeau Field, but also the promise of yet another long season if some fundamental issues aren’t addressed, and quickly. Will this be the season of Matty Iced (Schaub) or Matty Nice (McGloin)? As if the saga of yet another Matt (Flynn) wasn’t enough last season, this season seems primed to become the Tale of Two Matts.

To be fair, the Packers are a solid team and a sure playoff contender, always tough at home, Aaron Rodgers is still at the top of his game, and the Packers’ D has been rejuvenated with the addition of Julius Peppers. Green Bay will compete at an elite level this season, and so the game was sure to be a good barometer of where the Raiders had actually improved.

And they at least have not regressed, but the actual improvements are scarce so far. The speculation has been on whether Matt Schaub would return to 2012 form, or revert to last year’s abysmal performance — and after three games, it’s been somewhere in between. Nothing terrible, but nothing particularly good, either. For every catch there’s a drop, which falls mostly on the receiver (case in point — Marcel Reece in the end zone), but also suggests that Schaub and his receiving corps are not entirely in sync.

There is no true #1 WR on this team, true, but James Jones has been solid in his career with the Packers, and Rod Streater and Denarius Moore each have valuable skill sets that that make this team a contender. McGloin showed the potential to be that field general the Raiders need, and managed to make a 31-7 rout more respectable at the end. But one of the Matts — or Derek Carr — needs to prove capable of that against defensive starters.

Some positives:

  • Khalil Mack had a nice heads-up INT of Matt Flynn, and earlier applied some nice pressure that LaMarr Woodley capitalized on to sack Rodgers.
  • TJ Carrie continues to show promise, with a nice breakup of a 3rd-down pass to Jordy Nelson in the end zone. Unfortunately, Rodgers went right back at Carrie on 4th down and got it to Nelson for the TD.
  • James Jones’ overturned TD catch — I’m telling you right now, if Jones makes that catch last season in a Packers uniform, it stands. Packers WR Alex Gillett made almost the same catch, in the same spot, with the same amount (very little) of “bobbling” and the play stood. Funny how that happens.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew continues to grind yards, and make the most of every carry. Latavius Murray had several decent runs.
  • Gabe Jackson looks like a potential beast at left guard.

On the other hand, there is zero depth at left tackle beyond Donald Penn (though if need be, Khalif Barnes could start at LT and Jackson could start at LG), Menelik Watson continues to struggle at times at starting right tackle, and again, receivers need to get open quickly for Schaub to find them. This o-line is clearly stronger at run blocking, but teams will quickly stack eight or nine in the box if they don’t respect the passing game. Too many stupid penalties, personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Too many missed opportunities — the starting offense had excellent field position several times after their first touchdown, and failed to capitalize on any of them.

The final preseason game next week against Seattle won’t mean much, aside from Terrelle Pryor coming back to Oakland to start, but the Raiders have some time to address these issues. The team that shows up against the Jets for the first regular season game will set the tone for the season. They need to set the tempo, be fast and aggressive, and push people around on both sides of the ball. It can be done.

Again, the Packers are a good team, playing at home, so it’s important to keep things in perspective. The areas of concern can realistically be addressed, but there’s not much room for error at this point. Fans are frustrated after over a decade of losing and false promise, and the prospect of having to change coaching and management regimes yet again is too frustrating to contemplate. The team has the tools to win at least 7-8 games, maybe more, which would be something to build on, but execution is critical.

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