Oakland Raiders Go To Arizona Ready To Score
Justin Smith – Aug 16, 2012
The Oakland Raiders enter this Friday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals with a few things to prove; to themselves, to the media, and to Raider Nation.
After a lacklustre offensive performance against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night many are questioning if the Raiders can move the ball. Anyone who watched them during the brief whisperings of Darren McFadden’s presence doesn’t have that question.
McFadden touched the ball three times, got two first downs and almost broke two plays for touchdowns. This was against Dallas’ first team defense. As long as McFadden is fine, so is the Raiders offense.
However, anyone who watched the Kansas City Chiefs absolutely decimate the Cardinals will be judging the Raiders as to whether they can do the same. The Raiders and the Chiefs will be battling for the AFC West and it wouldn’t bode well if the Chiefs were able to roll over the Cardinals starters like a Pop Warner squad and the Raiders are unable to move the ball.
It is preseason, but some things can be telling early. Division rivals and their performance against mutual opponents can be an accurate gauge of competitiveness.
There are also questions as to whether Carson Palmer has tightened up his game from his oxidized 2011 performance. Those questions grew louder after a 3/6 - 33 yards - INT stat line; but one that didn’t tell the whole story regarding Palmer’s sharpness.
Palmer’s three incompletions were all to Jacoby Ford. His INT was thrown into double coverage; but Ford didn’t make much of an effort to catch it, break it up, nor to tackle Gerald Sensabaugh when he got up either.
To say that Ford had a rough day is like saying gas prices are "a bit high;" it grossly understates the facts. He was capital B – rutal, from the opening kickoff through a muffed punt and two easy drops. He just wasn’t with it at all; let’s hope it was an aberration.
The Cardinals are struggling this preseason and sit at 0-2 after losing to the Saints and getting rolled by the Chiefs. It’s a mess at quarterback, with neither John Skelton nor Kevin Kolb looking like any kind of good answer. The offensive line has been shaky, the defense not as stout as hoped and in short, they have looked much worse than expected.
Once again it is preseason so you can’t read too much into things, but the way Peyton Hillis ran around like a kid in a candy store on the Cardinals starters makes you think McFadden will be like that same kid in a Best Buy with a no limit offshore credit card, ringing up chunks of yardage at will.
Palmer was actually accurate on Monday but as mentioned, Jacoby Ford repeatedly let him down. I don’t expect that to continue with Ford, though chemistry between the two has been a problem since Palmer came onto the team last year.
Ford needs to bounce back. The Raiders traded away Louis Murphy, Denarius Moore is hamstrung at the moment, and rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater are looking good but are raw and inexperienced. Ford is essential to any success in the passing game.
Palmer though, will continue to work and continue to be aggressive and we should see Darrius Heyward-Bey and some downfield passing more prominently featured. McFadden will likely catch a few and both Richard Gordon and David Ausberry made a couple of nice plays at tight end. Expect Palmer to put up some numbers against a somewhat shaky Cardinals defense.
The Raiders starting defense was stout on every level against the Cowboys. They gave up a paltry 0.5 yards per carry on four run plays and sacked Romo once and pressured him once more. It was a dominant performance by a unit expected to be much improved this year.
They’re salivating to go up against a Cardinals offense that has struggled to get anything going this preseason. First Kolb started against the Saints; his first pass was picked, and his ribs injured on the following series. Enter Skelton.
Skelton looked marginally better than Kolb, which is to say Rosanne Barr is marginally more attractive than Tom Arnold. Neither QB has been impressive at all, and at this point, 3rd string rookie Ryan Lindley has almost entered the battle for starter. There are even whispers of the Cards looking at trading for Seattle castaway Tarvaris Jackson.
The Raiders defense made Romo and Kyle Orton look bad, and Kolb and Skelton are not Romo and Orton. Well...maybe Orton. Anyhow, the Raiders defense pressured the front all game, stuffed running lanes and gave the Cowboys nothing downfield. It’s not likely a Cardinals unit less talented than the ‘Boys will do much better.
The Raiders backups struggled a little, but 2nd string QB Matt Leinart was accurate – albeit didn’t throw downfield a whole lot – and Streater looks like an absolute keeper. The Cardinals backups played the Chiefs backups much tougher than the starters, so you can expect a battle until the end in this game once the starters sit down.
If Palmer and McFadden get a decent chunk of the 1st quarter to work, the Raiders should easily see their first points of the preseason, and likely in the form of a touchdown or two. Expect Leinart to get the bulk of the 2nd and 3rd quarters and to play well as he exacts some small revenge on the franchise that drafted and then released him.
We should also see a healthy dose of Terrelle Pryor, the bafflingly polarizing young man who gets more criticism than anyone this side of JaMarcus Russell. Pryor has some talent and serious athleticism, as he showed Monday, but he also has happy feet, a scattered football brain in action and a long, long way to go on the field.
He simply needs to calm down a little and use proper technique when throwing the ball rather than looking to run any chance he gets. Pryor will likely struggle again in this game, but will probably make a few more plays than last week, which is what you want from a youngster with talent learning the game.
Based on what we’ve seen thus far, the Raiders starters should easily outplay the Cardinals starters and put some points on the board. But the Raiders offense was stuck in neutral after McFadden sat down, and with his health concerns it’s unlikely he’ll play much Friday either. That means the Raiders must find another means of gaining yardage, and this game will be a key factor in determining another source of offense.
Either way, don’t expect the Raiders to be shut out again. If that were about to happen you can bet Dennis Allen would trot Seabass out for an 89 yard field goal at the whistle just to make an effort. They simply cannot afford another offensive performance like Monday against a team the division rival Chiefs made look silly.
That would be too tough to stomach, and too tough to ignore, despite it being preseason.
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