As a whole, the Oakland Raiders played a very sloppy game against the San Diego Chargers. The sloppy play resulted in a 14-22 loss on Monday night. While there was a lot of poor play against the Chargers, some players did their part and really helped the Raiders out. Preventing this game from becoming a complete blowout in the Chargers’ favor. Here are the winners/losers from Monday’s game. . .
Rolando McClain, Middle Linebacker
If you’ve read any of my articles, or follow me on twitter (@_maximillianare), you know that I’ve been very tough on third-year linebacker Rolando McClain. I’m very surprised that Rolando McClain wound-up a “winner”, but he did an excellent job shutting me up with his excellent play against San Diego. His stats weren’t mind-blowing (5 tackles), but Rolando didn’t make any major mistakes and showed instincts I’ve never seen from him before. McClain was very active in run-defense, rushing to the ball and filling any openings available to the Chargers ‘backs. Rolando McClain’s prowess opened-up opportunities for his teammates to make plays. If Rolando McClain keeps this up, he can push the “bust” label away from him.
Miles Burris, Outside Linebacker
Miles Burris looked solid during the preseason. Nonetheless, I was a little worried about Miles Burris starting in place of the injured Aaron Curry on Monday night. Instead of folding on the big stage, Miles Burris’ play caused my confidence in him to increase by a hundredfold. Miles Burris exploded gaps and made plays in the backfield, something I haven’t seen from a Raiders’ linebacker in a longtime. He tallied 9 tackles (2 of them were for a loss). Miles Burris looked the best he ever has in coverage since the preseason. If Miles Burris can continue to play with passion and intensity he always does, while continuing to improve his technique, Aaron Curry may have to fight to get his starting job back.
Jared Veldheer, Left Tackle
I know that the Raiders’ offensive line played horrible against the Chargers’, but Jared Veldheer had no part in the debacle on Monday night. Jared Veldheer was lights-out in pass protection and was the only Raiders offensive lineman that got a consistent push in the run game. He was able to hold his own against the Chargers’ explosive rookie, Melvin Ingram, and was able to handle the blitzes the Chargers threw in his direction. I know offensive line play is about how the group as a whole preforms, but I couldn’t help to be impressed by the play of Jared Veldheer. The Raiders need to lock-him-up long-term.
Khalif Barners, Right Tackle
Khalif Barnes surprised me with his play during the preseason, I jumped ahead of myself and proceeded to praise him for his play. Barnes did well against the vanilla schemes defenses threw against the Raiders during preseason play. I was interested to see how he would perform when defenses threw blitzes and stunts his way, let’s just say he didn’t impress against the Chargers. Veteran Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips took Khalif Barnes’ lunch money, and didn’t give it back. Barnes allowed 2 sacks (all to Shaun Phillips). The Chargers didn’t even throw many exotic blitzes Barnes’ way. Khalif struggled to make contact with Shaun Phillips and force him up-field. Shaun Phillips just used his speed to get to Carson Palmer. Barnes did not make up for his poor play in pass protection with his play in the run game. He struggled to get a consistent push against the Chargers’ d-line or linebackers. His play in the run game was not horrible by any means, but it needs to improve. If Gregg Knapp wants to execute his offense more successfully, Khalif Barnes will have to play better from here on out.
As much as I criticize Gregg Knapp, the poor showing against the Chargers wasn’t totally his fault. The Raiders’ receivers weren’t horrible, but they struggled to get separation 20+ yards down the field. Rod Streater, Derek Hagan, and Darrius Heyward-Bey were capable within 15-yards of the line of scrimmage, but were not able to not open down-the-field when the Raiders needed them to. Greg Knapp had to be conservative because none of the receivers were getting great separation. Carson Palmer was forced to check the ball down, none of the receivers were difference makers on Monday. Hopefull, Denarius Moore’s return will help turn the Raiders’ offense around.
Ron Bartell must really hate season openers. Last season with the Rams, Ron Bartell suffered a season-ending injury during the first game. Jump to 2012: Ron Bartell allows a big reception to Robert Meachem, as well as injuring his shoulder blade in the season-opener, resulting in 4-6 weeks of missed time. The injury hurts Ron Bartell, but hurts the team even more. Journeyman Pat Lee will be starting in place of Ron Bartell for an extended period of time. If Pat Lee is able to play well in Ron Bartell’s absence, Ron Bartell may have a lesser-role in the defense when he returns. You just can’t get a major-injury during the season opener when playing on a team that doesn’t have much invested in you. This must be a crushing blow for Ron Bartell.
Note: For everyone that realized I didn’t include the Raiders’ special teams in this article, I will be posting a aritcle on saturday analyzing the Raiders’ poor play on special teams.