Oakland Raiders Preseason Week-1: What Coaches Will be Watching Vs Dallas Cowboys
John Doublin – Aug 13, 2012
It's finally here! After a far too long off season, Oakland Raiders' football is back and in primetime. The Raiders will be taking on the Dallas Cowboys in the first of their four preseason games on Monday Night Football.
Tonight's game will be broadcast live on ESPN at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, (8:00 p.m. Eastern time).
Preseason is essentially a dress-rehearsal for the regular season which also begins on Monday Night Football against the San Diego Chargers on September 10th at O.co Coliseum in Oakland.
The Preseason is not about winning and losing. There is no game-planning; there are very few audibles to remember; there is no adjusting at halftime. It's just a handful of plays on offense and defense designed to do one thing: Evaluate talent and set the best 53 men for the active roster.
With that said, what will the coaches be looking for? What are they most interested in?
Here are a few questions the coaches will be looking to answer:
How has a full offseason helped Carson Palmer? Head coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will be watching Palmer closely to see how he is leading the offense, running the huddle and the tempo with which he makes the calls and gets the team to the line. They'll also be paying attention to the protection calls and audibles he makes at the line. Can he keep the offense "on schedule?"
How is Darren McFadden's foot? Runningback coach Kelly Skipper and the training staff will be looking at McFadden's foot closely. Does he have full confidence to make a cut on that foot, or is he hesitant to test it fully? It's not a secret that as McFadden goes, so goes the Raiders' offense. McFadden's foot will be the most scrutinized body part on the field.
Are Juron Criner and Rod Streater ready for primetime? Much has been made about the offseason these two young wide receivers have had. The question will be: Are they all hype, or can they live up to, or exceed, the high expectations placed upon them?
Wide receivers' coach Ted Gilmore and Senior Offensive consultant, (and former wide receivers' coach) Al Saunders will be watching the rookie wide outs to see if they understand their responsibilities on each play, if they make the right adjustments to their routes based on what the defense does, and how crisp their routes are. They need to get into and out of their breaks with speed, and of course, catch the ball consistently.
Who will start at Tight End? At the moment, defacto starter Brandon Myers is out with an injury. Tonight, Richard Gordon will get the start. Notes from training camp suggest that Gordon has surged recently, making great plays and developing a good relationship with Palmer.
Gordon has always been a fantastic blocker, but has suffered from a bad case of the "dropsies" lately. Tight End coach Mark Hutson will be watching how Gordon runs his routes, and most importantly—whether or not the "dropsies" are really gone. If they are, once he's healthy, Myers could find himself as the No. 2—again!
How are the players adapting to the Zone Blocking Scheme? This goes beyond the offensive line. In the zone scheme, the blitz pick-ups are different for running backs and tight ends. Have those players learned all their new responsibilities?
The reads for rushing the ball are different too. Instead of taking the ball into a pre-determined hole in the line, a runner must "stretch" the line of scrimmage, look for a cutback lane, make one cut into that lane and go. Have McFadden, Taiwan Jones and Lonyae Miller adjusted to this new way of running the ball?
Can rookie linebacker Miles Burris be a starter? Aaron Curry is in Los Angeles having surgery on his knee. His return to the team is uncertain and Burris is slated to start tonight. Can the young man from San Diego State get the job done? Has he absorbed enough of the playbook to be effective in a starting role, or does general manager Reggie McKenzie need to sign a veteran to start?
Is Jack Crawford all hype? Crawford has been making noise in training camp. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and defensive line coach Terrell Williams will be watching to see how Crawford does against a player not wearing the same colored jersey. Are the plays in practice going to stay in practice, or can he step up in a game situation and make something happen "for real?"
Is Matt Shaughnessy fully recovered? Last season, the Raiders lost perhaps their most potent weapon at the defensive end spot. While Lamarr Houston is fantastic against the run and setting the edge, Shaughnessy is nearly as good at those things, and a much more dangerous pass rusher.
The training staff will be monitoring Shaughnessy's shoulder almost as closely as McFadden's foot on Monday night!
How is Phillip Wheeler adjusting to his new job? It's no secret that the most "out of whack" contract in Oakland was that of Kamerion Wimbley. McKenzie tried to get Wimbley to re-sign at a more reasonable rate, but failed to do so. Therefore, Wimbley was released and Wheeler was signed.
Now, the "experts" would like Raider Nation to believe that Wheeler is a lesser player than Wimbley. If we're talking solely about pass rushers, they'd be right. However, there is more to playing outside linebacker in the NFL. You have to be capable of rushing the passer and...well...playing linebacker. Wimbley was a pass rusher; Wheeler is a linebacker.
Anything Wheeler gives up to Wimbley in pass rushing skills, he'll more than make up for against the run and in pass coverage. He's a complete linebacker that is absolutely an upgrade over the one-dimensional Wimbley. The only question is: Has he assimilated the playbook?
Who is going to start at cornerback? It's almost pre-ordained that Ron Bartell will be one of the two starting cornerbacks for the Raiders. The question becomes: Are Shauntae Spencer's recent camp struggles over, or is it time for him to move aside for someone else?
That someone else is most likely DeMarcus Van Dyke...or is it Chimdi Chekwa? Either way, both of these second-year players will have to perform well enough to show defensive backs coach Johnnie Lynn that they belong in the NFL. Hopefully for Raider Nation, at least one of these young players will step up and make plays for the Silver & Black.
Finally: Of course this is just an extremely small sample of things coaches will be watching for come tonight's game. There are a myriad of questions to be answered and only one way to answer them: Play the game!
Who are the players that won't make the team at their position, but are so good on special teams that they make the 53 man roster? Who are the players new to the team that fall on their faces and will find themselves out of a job?
One thing is certain; it has Raider Nation rejoicing; it is "the most wonderful time of the year:" the SILVER AND BLACK ATTACK IS BACK!
Are you ready for some Raider Football?
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