The third pre-season game of 2012, widely considered the most important one, is now history and it’s time to see how the Oakland Raiders’ offense performed against the Detroit Lions. Although the Lions are not known for their defense, but instead for their powerful offense, it was still a very good challenge for the Silver & Black attack against a team that reached the playoffs last year. A couple of days ago, the Raiders were able to score 31 points in a winning effort, accomplishing the first victory of the year. Let’s take a closer look at the offensive performance.
Carson Palmer is still struggling to take care of the ball. Once again he finished the game scoreless while throwing 2 interceptions. Fairly enough, one of them was not his fault, as WR Eddie McGee made the catch, but got hit and lost control of the ball right after touching the ground. Since the ball didn’t touch the ground, Palmer was granted with another turnover on his account. But we can’t say the same about the other one, which was a very poor decision by Palmer who tried to make a play happen where there wasn’t any. “CP3″ tried to fit the ball in a highly improbable window right in the middle of several Detroit defenders, as the opposing defense completely shut down a screen pass call. The ball should’ve been thrown away by Palmer, but instead ended up in the hands of a defensive lineman. Despite the turnovers, Palmer was able to move the chains with consistency, specially with connections to rookie WR Rod Streater, finishing the game with a 65% completion percentage and 181 yards in 2 quarters. He just need to do a better job decision-wise and also improving his pass accuracy on deeper throws. Terrelle Pryor, in the other hand, was conceivably the best player on the field Sunday night, in a absolute breakout game for him. Not only he proved everyone that he’s got elite speed, specially for a QB, with his breathtaking 59-yard rush followed by his 17-yard touchdown run (which included an averted sack), he also did a pretty good throwing the ball. Although he only attempted 5 passes, his 3 completions were impressive. A backshoulder throw to WR Travionte Session with timing and accuracy and his two TD passes: a 39-yard bomb to WR Juron Criner, spotting the rookie in single coverage and giving him a chance to make a play; and the 79-yard strike to the endzone, also to Criner, where Pryor launched the ball rolling right and found Criner on the run, with great accuracy. If I was grading Pryor only, he would certainly get an “A”.
Overall Grade: B
Darren McFadden once again was able to break some good runs in his reduced time on the field, but his average of yards per carry was hurt because he had a few runs at goal line situation that went for little to no gain. But ultimately, he was able to put the ball inside the endzone and get the score. With better Offensive Line performance at these situations, “DMC” should have no problems getting the touchdown, since he can also be a very powerful runner when it’s needed. Although Mike Goodson finished the game with a weak yards per carry average (2.6), he did have some good moments in the game. He is a running back who excells at spotting holes and quickly hitting them, so when the OL isn’t creating too many of them, it’s hard for him to get a good overall performance. At least this time, ball-carrying was not a issue. But the best RB of the bunch on Sunday was certainly Taiwan Jones, who once again showcased his impressive quickness and burst, bailing out the second string OL a couple of times by creating plays with his top notch speed. He averaged 5 yards per carry and made a strong case to be the primary backup to McFadden once the season starts.
Overall Grade: B
Is Rod Streater really an undrafted rookie? Because it certainly doesn’t look like so. He plays like a veteran and has no problems running with the first team offense. In fact, Streater was the most consistent WR of the game, leading the pack with 5 catches and already stablishing himself as a favorite of QB Carson Palmer. He has great hands and is a excellent chain-mover. With all the fast receivers with big play ability currently on the roster, like Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, Rod Streater can be very useful if he continues to get the “small plays” done. Darrius Heyward-Bey had a very impressive catch for a big gain, going one-handed over the arm of the former raider CB Justin Miller who had tight coverage on the play. And what about Juron Criner? After tons of practice sessions making the headlines with his impressive catches, he finally did it in a game situation so the Raider Nation can see that all of those practice reports were not a fluke. In his first TD, he shielded the CB with ease and went over him to grab the ball in a very difficult catch which required adjustment ability and focus. In his second one, Criner made the catch on the move while keeping his legs moving, not letting the defender make the tackle and going the rest of the way unbothered. But he did drop a pass while open, which would be a sure first down catch in a 3rd down situation. Eddie McGee didn’t have a good performance: not only he lost control of the ball after a good catch, leading to a interception, but he also slipped twice, falling down when targeted by the QB. As a whole, there were still a few drops, but not as much as in the other games. The wide outs made plays happen and were in sync with the QBs most of the time.
Overall Grade: A
The tight ends accounted for 6 catches overall. Five of them were made by Brandon Myers (the other one being made by David Ausberry), who returned to action after being sidelined by a shoulder injury. In his 2012 debut, Myers showed some signs of rustiness, which is understable, but still was able to gain 41 yards and do his usual part as a blocker. As of now, he’s the sure starter in the position, and it doesn’t seem like that will change until the regular season debut, with the current roster. David Ausberry only recorded one catch for 10 yards and he needs to be a bigger factor in the passing game, which is his main strenght being a converted WR. Richard Gordon was bothered by sore ribs and couldn’t do much in the game.
Overall Grade: C
The first-team OL got better as the game went on. Carson Palmer had plenty of time to make his throws in the majority of his dropbacks. The RBs also were granted with good opportunities to run. But once again this unit had problems in goal-line situations, not being able to push the opposing defensive line and creating decent holes for Darren McFadden get the TD. On those kind of plays, backup center Alex Parsons (filling in for the injured Stefen Wisniewski) was being constantly pushed back a few yards, getting in the way of McFadden. When he finally was able to move forward, “DMC” scored. He needs to move more decisively in those situations. The second string OL had a good performance, but lacked consistency. Terrelle Pryor bailed them out with his mobility in a few flawed pass blocks. Joseph Barksdale, who worked only as a left tackle on Sunday and is the team’s main backup at both tackle spots, needs to improve his performance against speedy rushers, but he held his own more times than not. The OL as a whole only committed 2 penalties, both of them “false starts” by starting right guard Mike Brisiel, and only allowed one sack.
Overall Grade: B
Greg Knapp’s squad had a great performance overall, accounting for 513 yards, with 7.1 yards as an average of gain per play and 4 touchdowns. It would be unfair to put the turnovers as a consequence of the playcalling somehow. In fact, the playcalling was a little more balanced this time. But once again his offense showed goal line issues, specially in terms of the zone-blocking squeme being able to create holes at those situations. That needs to be addressed as soon as possible. But other than that, the offense had a pretty solid performance and the 31 points were enough to give the Raiders an 11-point victory over the Lions.
Overall Grade: B
The Raiders will now wrap up their 2012 pre-season against the Seahawks in Seattle, on Thursday night at 7 P.M. (PDT).