Oakland Raiders Week 1: Pressures, Hurries & Knockdowns
Justin Smith – Sep 8, 2012
Hello all and welcome to the first edition of Pressures, Hurries, and Knockdowns (PHK), a weekly feature that will be running all season long prior to gameday. Each week I'll examine who or what aspect of the team is under pressure, throw some quick thoughts in there, and look at some myths about the Raiders that experts and such thought that may have been proven wrong.
Well, Philip Rivers and his Sunshine Gang come to Oakland on Monday night for the season opener, and these two teams simply do not like each other. After a ho-hum preseason for the Chargers and an up-and-down one for the Raiders there isn't much left to learn until the whistle blows for the real deal at 10:30 EST on Monday.
The Raiders had some offensive struggles in the preseason as they acclimated to a new (old) offensive coodinator in Greg Knapp and a new head coach in Dennis Allen. The defense showed improved movement and tackling under new coordinator Jason Tarver and look poised to take a step up as their athleticism and talent is utilized in myriad new ways.
So who is under pressure the most this Monday? What is everyone thinking heading into the game? What did the Raiders do in the preseason to, on some level, quell some doubts that were held previously?
Let's find out.
Palmer had a rough preseason on the stat sheet. I won't rehash all the gory details, but a sub 60% completion rate, 0 TD's and 4 INTS's says about all that needs to be said from a statistical perspective.
Palmer made some good plays and led some good drives, but a combination of bafflingly conservative playcalling by Knapp once the Raiders were in scoring range and some questionable decisions by Palmer himself caused them to struggle to score on his watch. He threw two really horrible passes, both that were picked, and missed open receivers. In short, he had some moments but was mostly inconsistent.
He was missing two of his top three wideouts, Denarius Moore for the entire preseason and Jacoby Ford, who had a rough outing in the first game against the Cowboys and then hurt himself after a small bounce back against the Cardinals in the second contest, and that certainly didn't help. But he still tries to force the ball in like his arm is as strong as it was in 2006, and he needs to accept he's lost some zip. He can still make all the throws, he just has to make them smarter.
He will probably still be without Ford on Monday, and Moore is questionable right now with his hamstring issues and is a game-time decision. If Moore is a go, both he and Palmer have vocalized concern that they have not had much practice time.
Either way, the Raider passing game is under watch, as the newly impressive Darrius Heyward-Bey and surprise rookies Rod Streater and Juron Criner certainly can't do it all themselves, and the tight end situation with Brandon - stop calling me Brent - Myers, Richard Gordon and Davis Ausberry is still sorting itself out, though Myers looks like a potential keeper.
Palmer is under pressure to make good decisions and lead this potentially explosive offense to points. If he does make one of his patented bone-headed decisions early, he's under pressure to have a Romoesque bounce back and make up for it. He has many doubters, not the least of which reside within Raider Nation itself. He needs to prove to everyone he can lead this team.
It's said so much now it's become cliche but the NFL is a passing league. As such, you better have good corners.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Coach Dennis Allen obviously didn't think they Raiders had good corners, as they immediately jettisoned 2011 starters Stanford "The Penalty Machine" Routt and Chris Johnson. Not to be outdone, they then axed last year's third round pick DeMarcus Van Dyke, who showed promise at times but looked lost at others, outright and placed fellow 2011 draft pick Chimdi Chekwa on the practice squad.
So that right there is the top four corners pared from the Raiders' active roster. Throw in Lito Sheppard, who was released into free agency in the offseason, and that's a full fiver.
As the Raiders gave up the most opposing touchdown passes in the NFL last season, it's tough to say it was a bad call. Stil, Van Dyke could have got it eventually. But eventually just doesn't play in the NFL anymore, so he is no longer in Silver & Black.
Replacing Routt - who gave up 10 TD passes on his own, (most by any single player) and was a pass interference machine - and Johnson are Bartell and Spencer, castoffs of the Rams and Niners respectively, and two players who have seen little field action in some time.
They acquitted themselves well against the Lions' Calvin Johnson in the third preseason game, a good sign, but Spencer in particular struggled in coverage at times in the other games and both players need to get their regular season sea legs back.
Backing them up are the recently signed Joselio Hanson of Eagles (somewhat) fame, Pat Lee most recently mainly a special teamer with the Packers, Philip Adams who also played for the Niners last year and has played well enough to earn a roster spot.
Not a group of "Neon Deions" to say the least.
Hanson, the most well known of the bunch, (a scary though, honestly) will likely be the nickel. None of these players, including Spencer or Bartell, have been a number one corner in at least two years; and Bartell was just coming into his own before a neck injury sidelined him for 2011. The rest have few starts amongst them.
This unit is under pressure against a dynamic passing attack in Rivers and Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem and others. The Raiders are somewhat lucky that Vincent Jackson took the money in Tampa and Vincent Brown is injured, as their patchwork cornerback crew will have their work cut out for them all season in the aerial NFL.
Allen is a first time coach, so the pressure is obvious. Can he manage the clock? Tight situations? Call the right challenges? Make good half-time adjustments - a place the Raiders were annihilated last season?
Can he stop the penalties, increase the discipline, and continue the good fundamental defense shown in the preseason? Put players in a position to succeed? Make the tough call if Palmer is playing very, very badly? Can he use the talent on this team to win?
No pressure, coach.
- Rod Streater was a revelation in the preaseason as a chain mover, catching 18 balls for 165 yards and doing much of it against first-team defenses. For anyone that's impressive; for an undrafted free agent it's looking like a steal.
- Lamarr Houston looks poised to have a big season. He was in the opponent's backfield more often than not this preseason and his new, leaner frame seems to be doing him well.
- Both Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch looked good in the preseason; with Mike Mitchell and Matt Giordano backing them up, the back end of the Raider secondary isn't nearly the concern that the corner position will be.
- After losing 13 straight to the Chargers, the Raiders had won three in a row prior to dropping last season's heartbreaking finale and losing out on the playoffs. The Chargers have won the last two meetings between the teams on Monday Night Football. The Raiders need a good start; this game would go far in making that happen
Like Raider Nation Times
How Would You Grade the Raiders Live Mock Draft?