At long last, Raider football has returned, and so have I! Negatron_85 here to give you my take on the performance of the Raider defense and special teams this week, and every week throughout the season.
First, let’s get the obvious disclaimers out-of-the-way. This is preseason football. The Raiders essentially had two days rest from their Monday night “game”. Schemes are vanilla, gameplans are non-existant, starters only see limited action yada yada yada… while the score is meaningless, these games are extremely important. Avid fans may have done some research on the second and third string guys, (and if you haven’t, we should have a player profile for EVERY man on the roster here very soon) but this is an opportunity to match a player with a face. Pay attention Raider fans…these “scrubs” playing garbage time preseason games may just have to step in for an injured starter.
Defensive Linemen: The starting defensive linemen started slow, but would dominate leading up until the half. On the first series, They allowed Kolb time to find open receivers en route to an opening drive touchdown. Later, Kolb’s pocket was annihilated on consecutive plays, forcing an intentional grounding call on their own 1 yard line before Tommy Kelly sealed slammed the door on the drive with a tackle in the endzone. The defensive line was not done, collapsing the pocket and terrorizing Kolb again on third down, forcing a three and out. Aside from Hall Davis’ heads-up fumble recovery for a touchdown, the second and third string guys where not particularly impressive, getting gashed by the Arizona run game and surrendering an easy touchdown late in the game that would be too much for a lethargic offense to overcome.
Overall Grade: B An up and down showing from the defensive line, but there where times when it looked as if this unit could completely take over the game.
Linebackers: Philip Wheeler set the tone for the game right, blowing up Arizona’s first play on offense in the backfield, assisted by Lamarr Houston. Unfortunately, Rolando McClain wasn’t paying attention, as he looked lost in the sauce on that series..reminiscent of last year’s version, he was caught out of position and chasing down the ball carrier from behind, missing the tackle that would have prevented the first touchdown run. He would recover on the next series, blitzing off the edge and forcing an intentional grounding call against Kolb. On the next series, Wheeler met Shaughnessy and Branch at the QB for a huge sack. McClain would again be caught way out of position several drives later, blowing his coverage assignment and giving away an easy touchdown. Miles Burris whiffed an open field tackle that should have been for a loss, but was otherwise average. Carl Ihenacho got a strip sack that was returned for a touchdown, and Chad Kilgore had another impressive game.
Overall Grade: B- Philip Wheeler just might be the best pick up this offseason. I believe Jason Tarver will use him in ways that will put him in the best position to succeed, and people will forget about Kameron Wimbley. Rolando McClain was dissapointing, but it was a solid showing from most of this unit
Secondary: Chimdi Chekwa showed excellent anticipation and timing picking off an early third quarter pass, and Tyvon Branch was in on a big sack…but other than that, this unit did not really do anything in particular that grabs the attention. That is not to say they where not impressive. The secondary’s biggest issues last year were blown coverages, bad tackling, and pass interference. If someone blew and assignment, I missed it. Mike Mitchel whiffed an open field tackle that turned into a big gain, but other than that I was impressed with the way the secondary made solid contact with the ball carrier. If they didn’t stop him, they at least slowed him down for the help around him to assist with the stop.
Overall Grade: B+ No glaring mistakes, solid coverage, and a turnover forced. Only complaint was the coverage wasn’t tight enough on the opening drive but otherwise a very good game played by this unit.
Special Teams: The word atrocious come to mind when I think of this unit’s performance. A blocked punt, a blocked field goal, huge returns, penalties… if there was a way to mess it up on special teams, this unit did it against Arizona. Not having guys like Rock Cartwright and Hiram Eugene this year will show.
Overall Grade: D At least they made a couple of field goals.