Oakland Raiders v Dallas Cowboys - Rookie Standouts

David Wilson – Aug 14, 2012

Despite a mostly uninspiring first pre-season game against the Dallas Cowboys, there were several rookies on the team that showed that they were up to the job of playing in the National Football League.  In a game like this though, you had to look quite hard to find them at times.

In a 3-0 loss, there isn’t going to be a lot of highlight reel plays, but one player in particular stood out amongst the rookies.

Rod Streater – The undrafted wide receiver from Temple had six catches for 66yaards in little over a half, and was certainly backup quarterback Matt Leinart’s go to guy when he needed a play. He ran precise routes, got open, and caught the ball well when it was thrown his way. On one catch for a short gain he was wearing the defensive back like a sport coat, but still came down with the ball.

He did have one drop along the left sideline for what would have been a first down late in the first half, and couldn’t make what appeared to be an easy play. A closer look showed that he wasn't expecting the ball, and when it arrived simply wasn’t ready. Lesson learned then, and otherwise he had an excellent debut.

He showed that when Coach Dennis Allen was giving him some first team reps, it wasn’t just for show, he really had earned them.

Streater has already made this team, and as an undrafted free agent that is a great signing by Reggie McKenzie.

Tony Bergstrom was another rookie I liked the look of. Bergstrom looked very much as advertised, in that he isn’t going to blow opponents off the line of scrimmage, but he executes his assignments well within the zone blocking scheme, and you rarely see his man making the play. He also gets to the second level well to block down field.

In pass protection he looked mostly comfortable and competent, and just like his run blocking, tended to redirect pass rushers away from the quarterback rather than stop them in their tracks or block them into the ground. He looks to me like he can fit well within this system, and make a good job of either guard position if called on to do so. Bergstrom got a lot of reps against the Cowboys, and played well into the third quarter.

How long he will take to supplant veteran Cooper Carlisle remains to be seen.

Number Fire

On the defensive side of the ball, the rookie that stood out most to me was Christo Bilukidi at defensive tackle. The Raiders have him listed at 311lbs, but he looks heavier than that. What he showed against the Cowboys was not only that he has the strength and technique to anchor vs the run, but that he has some pass rush ability.

He demonstrated that he had the power to collapse the pocket, but also on several occasions, showed the quickness to beat his man with an inside or outside move.

On a couple of plays he did get his pads a little high, but quickly anchored down and was very difficult for the offensive line to move around.

If Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver are looking for a player to man the nose tackle position in some 3-4 fronts, the Bilukidi might just be their guy.

In fact the defense, especially the first team looked very solid against the run, which was one of the key areas for the Raiders to improve on this off season if Dennis Allen is going to move this team forward.

The Dallas first team offense managed only 22 yards on 11 plays, and Allen must be pleased with that.

Whilst not strictly counting as rookie standouts, I’m going to give honourable mention to linebackers Kaelin Burnett and Chad Kilgore.

Burnett looked solid and several times generated some pressure off the edge. With the Raiders depth at linebacker right now, that gives him a good chance to make this team.

Chad Kilgore had a couple of good tackles. He also had a batted pass when he came off the right side on the blitz unblocked and showed good closing speed, enabling him to get close enough to the quarterback to make the play. He does look a little undersized though, and certainly struggled when offensive linemen got their hands on him. If he is going to play in this league, it will have to be on the outside. To his credit though, he did not look lost out there.

As Coach Dennis Allen said, pre season games might not count but they matter. In terms of evaluating individual players, we saw some extended playing time for the rookies, and must be mostly pleased with what we saw.

One pre season game down, and now on to Arizona on Friday!

Football is back Raider Nation!

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