Oakland Raiders Preseason Week-4: Fine Tuning for the 2012 NFL Season
John Doublin – Aug 30, 2012
At 7:00 p.m. Pacific time this evening, the Oakland Raiders will take on the Seattle Seahawks in their final preseason game of 2012 at CenturyLink field in the Emerald City.
Following a convincing win versus the playoff-caliber Detroit Lions, beating the Seahawks will not be the primary focus of head coach Dennis Allen, but it will certainly be on the docket for the players of the Silver and Black, as well as Raider Nation.
Seattle has named rookie 3rd-round pick, Russell Wilson as their starting quarterback following his standout performances this preseason. This leaves high-touted, and now over-priced, free agent Matt Flynn on the bench. Either way, the Raiders' players, nor the fans will care one way or the other who is calling signals for the Seahawks.
Those who might think back to back 7-9 seasons suggests the Seahawks are not a threat to the Raiders, think again. Seattle possesses some nice, young offensive weapons, along with a very stingy defense.
There are several areas coach Allen will be focused on this evening.
Russell Wilson: None of the quarterbacks the Raiders have faced thus far have been even remotely as mobile as Wilson. This kid from Wisconsin can get out of the pocket and hurt you with his legs.
Most Raiders' fans will remember how Oakland struggled with containing mobile quarterbacks last season. The Raiders allowed Tim Tebow, (then of the Broncos), and Christian Ponder of the Vikings to rush for far too many yards.
Seattle's first team offense will provide a great test to see if new defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, has a plan for controlling and defeating mobile quarterbacks. This will be key as the Raiders will face the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, (Pitt) Blaine Gabbert, (JAX) Josh Freeman, (TB) and of course, Cam Newton, (CAR) in the 2012 regular season.
Punt/Kick Coverage: The Seahawks' Leon Washington is a top-10 returner in the NFL and Pete Carroll prides himself on having solid special teams.
The Raiders' special teams, especially the coverage teams, have been extremely poor thus far, giving up big returns in every preseason game. Special teams coordinator, Steve Hoffman will have his work cut out for him to repair this squad and bring it up to speed.
The Seahawks will be solid on special teams, and the Raiders will be looking for players that can't make the team at their "natural" position to step up and make a name for themselves on special teams.
This could be the make or break game for some "bubble players" looking to don the Silver and Black come September 10th.
Punt/Kick Returns: Much like the coverage teams, the kick and punt return team has been pretty bad. Jacoby Ford has been injured, but didn't show the explosion Raider Nation came to expect following two great seasons as a returner.
The Raiders have just this week signed wide receiver and return specialist Roscoe Parrish. Whether this was an attempt to bolster the ailing receiving corps, or merely to apply pressure on the players already on the team to perform better, Parrish is likely to see significant time in Seattle.
The way Parrish performs could decide the fate of players like Trevionte Session, Brian McCann, (the team also signed cornerback Coye Francies, who also has return experience) and could even alter the role of Jacoby Ford.
Backup Linebackers: Players like Chad Kilgore, Miles Burris, Travis Goethel and Carl Ihenacho have all played well this preseason, but there are only so many spots available on the final 53-man roster. This leaves men like Kaelin Burnett and Nathan Stupar fighting it out for a spot on the team.
One mistake or one amazing play could be the difference between suiting up on Sundays, and being relegated to the practice squad for these young linebackers.
Look for Stupar and Burnett going all out to show the coaches something that makes their decision of who to keep and who to cut more difficult.
Third Runningback: The starting job at runningback isn't up for debate; Darren McFadden is one of the most explosive players in the NFL and he will get the nod as the starter come September 10th.
With the way Taiwan Jones played last week against the Lions, it appears that the number two spot is full too. This leaves Mike Goodson and Lonyae Miller to compete for the final runningback job on the Raiders.
Goodson has more speed, is more familiar with the new zone blocking scheme, but is inconsistent and has been known to suffer a case of "Fumblitis" from time to time. Miller on the other hand, isn't going to cough the ball up, but isn't going to break off a 50+ yard touchdown run either.
This game against Seattle will decide which of these young men gets cut and which should buy a house in Oakland.
Red Zone Offense: In the first three preseason games, the Raiders' first-team offense has scored just one touchdown—despite having multiple "goal-to-go" situations inside their opponents' 10 yard line. This is concerning to Raider Nation, and should be concerning to the coaching staff.
Many have pointed to the almost obsessive use of the now-infamous Zone Blocking Scheme in short-yardage situations. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp seems completely unwilling to use the one thing the Raiders' offense did best last season—man-on-man, power blocking.
Even teams that are very successful with the zone scheme, (like Houston, Indianapolis and Washington) don't use it inside the 10 yard line. That doesn't seem to matter to Knapp as he just calls stretch play after stretch play in short-yardage situations.
Most of the social media and Raiders' fan sites are hoping that we haven't actually seen the Raiders' real red zone offense yet; that Knapp is holding back because it's preseason and he doesn't want to tip his hand.
Whatever the case, the Raiders have some work to do inside their opponents' 10 yard line.
Closing: A lot, if not most, of the positions on the Raiders are already decided and tonight's game is just a formality and one more shot for second-tier guys to impress coaches and tip the scales in their favor.
Coaches Allen, Tarver and Knapp are only looking to fill the bottom end of the roster with players that shine brightly enough tonight to unseat a player that may be occupying the spot ahead of them—not much more.
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