An ugly win is still a win, even in preseason, even against the backups. Expectations have to be kept in check, the playbooks are toned way down, preseason doesn’t really mean anything, and all that.
But the team is still not looking all that sharp in some critical areas. First-team D is still porous, getting picked apart even without Megatron or Reggie Bush on the field. Greg Little and Andre Holmes still keep dropping catchable passes. One of them will miss the cut at this rate.
Hopefully they keep Schaub and the first-team offense in a little longer than normal for the final two preseason matchups, in Green Bay next Friday and then home against the Seahawks on the 28th, just to see what they really have. Derek Carr and especially Matt McGloin have stepped up really nicely, playing with a sense of urgency. Not that Schaub isn’t doing those things necessarily, but maybe a little more time for the offensive starters to get in sync with each other would pay off.
And the defensive secondary needs to tighten up as well. Some of the creative blitzes that they got burned on looked somewhat experimental, and this is definitely the time to try those things out, when they don’t really count. But Tarell Brown keeps getting burned in coverage, and DJ Hayden seems to be in PUP limbo.
These preseason games are going to be a good test of whether the team is really rebuilt and cohesive, as they get progressively more challenging. First the resurgent Vikings, and last night against a Detroit team loaded with talent (though again Johnson and Bush didn’t play). The Raiders’ D will have to pull it together to face Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau, and the Seahawks’ killer D will test the rebuilt offense in a major way.
Disappointing performance by the Raiders in Minnesota, between the Vikings marching straight down the field for a touchdown on their first possession, and the Raiders unable to get on the board until deep into garbage time. Too many dropped passes, blown coverages, and dumb penalties.
Some fans are already on the ledge, and they shouldn’t be — it is, after all, preseason. Vanilla playbooks, rookies trying to make the team and veterans trying not to get hurt in a meaningless game, etc. We all know the drill. Yes, the team came out flat and lifeless where they should have been tight and ready to play. Fans have a right to be nervous after a dozen seasons of futility.
But there were some nice surprises, and some glimmers of hope. Shelby Harris and T.J. Carrie made some nice plays (including Harris getting around Pro Bowl LT Mat Kalil to sack Matt Cassel), Chimdi Chekwa is improving, and Lamarr Woodley still looks like a baller. The running game, as sparingly as it was used, was solid all the way around, with McFadden cranking out a 23-yard carry, and Jones-Drew and Murray both putting up good averages per carry.
Derek Carr shows plenty of promise and potential, and even though Schaub had some questionable throws, he also didn’t have a whole lot of help from his receivers. A greater emphasis on the running game this season will help take some of the heat off the QB/receiving corps.
There’s definitely room for improvement on several fronts, but that’s what preseason is for, and there’s also plenty of reason to be at least cautiously optimistic. Next preseason matchup is home against the Lions on Friday the 15th.
NFL Free Agency period begins Tuesday, March 11. We’ll have transaction updates as the FA period progresses. Of course, the Raiders have a record amount of cap money (~$65M) to work with here, leaving plenty of options and money to attract marquee players.
Which free agents do you think would have the most impact? Let us know in comments!