Arizona Cardinals v Oakland Raiders - Key Matchups
David Wilson – Aug 15, 2012
No sooner is the Monday night opener against Dallas over, than we are gearing up for a Friday night game in Arizona against the Cardinals.
Again, it might only be pre season, but there are veterans here with plenty to prove, and rookies trying to show that they belong in the final 53 man roster. These games might not count, but they are important.
Each week I will look at matchups from both the offensive and defensive side against Raider opponents. They won’t always be the Raiders best players, but how they match up from the guy across from them will be a key to how the final starting units will play out..
LG Cooper Carlisle v RILB Daryl Washington
One of the questions that remains to be answered about the Raiders offensive line is how much Cooper Carlisle has left in the tank? He is now 35 years old, and even at his best was never a standout player.
His play was poor in 2010, but improved slightly in 2011. At 35, he is not the long or even medium term answer at the left guard position. Many have speculated that he is only keeping the seat warm for Raiders third round pick Tony Bergstrom (who performed well against Dallas), and Carlisle needs to have a strong pre season to underline his starting position.
He will go against the Cardinals excellent young inside linebacker Daryl Washington.
Washington had 107 tackles last year, and the third year player is one of the rising stars of this Cardinals team. Washington has some real speed and flies to the ball. Can Carlisle handle that with his extensive experience or have his skills faded too far?
If Carlisle struggles against Washington like he did against Brian Cushing last year in Houston, then he could find himself being replaced sooner rather than later in the starting lineup.
TE Brandon Myers v SS Adrian Wilson
It looks Brandon Myers has won the starting tight end job in Oakland, at least for the present. The tight end position is prominent in Greg Knapp’s west coast offense, and the Raiders will need some production from Myers for the system to work.
Myers has shown flashes of being a starting calibre player over the last two years, and will be playing against veteran Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson. Wilson had a down year by his standards in 2011, but is still a quality player in every respect. Knapp will not expect Myers to dominate against Wilson, but he will have to show that he can make some plays in both the running and passing game.
It will be an important outing for Myers, as he is not a lock to be the starter by any means, and has second year player Richard Gordon breathing down his neck. If Myers can't go through injury, then Gordon has the chance to steal a march on the starting job with a good performance on Friday.
LT Levis Brown v DE Matt Shaugnessy
Matt Shaugnessy was supposed to be the Raiders breakout player for the 2011 season, but it never happened. Shaugnessy went down with injury early, and whilst he had looked good in the time that he was on the field, that time was limited. This season he comes back fully fit, and the Raiders will be hoping that he can have that breakout year.
To prove he can be that guy, he will have to shine against players like the Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown.
Brown is an adequate run blocker, but poor in pass protection.
Shaugnessy has been a rock against the run, and has shown that he can get to the quarterback too. If he is going to have that breakout season, he will need to show he can dominate average opposition like Levi Brown. My money is on him to do just that, and I look for him to have a strong game on Friday.
WR Larry Fitzgerald v CB Shawntae Spencer
One of the questions hanging over this Raider defense is the cornerback position, with two free agents coming in as starters. The Raiders have some young talent at this position, but right now it is the free agents who are holding down those starting spots.
Spencer especially has to show that he is up to the task after being cut by the 49ers last season, and he will be going against one of the best and most consistent wide outs in the league in Larry Fitzgerald. Whilst no one expects Spencer to shut Fitzgerald down, he does have to show that he can be do a competent job, and go up there and compete for the ball consistently.
If Spencer plays well against Fitzgerald, then he has probably locked down the starting job on the right side. His main competition for that spot, DeMarcus Van Dyke struggled against Dallas after showing well in training camp so far.
Right now, it is Spencer’s spot to lose.
Overall, Jason Tarver’s new defense looked solid, especially against the run. Poor run defense has crippled Raider teams for the last ten years, and if it can be improved then that is a big step forward for the franchise.
Offensively, Oakland needs to show that they can get in sync together, especially the receivers.
But rejoice! Football is back Raider Nation!
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