About an hour after the Raiders thoroughly dismantled the Bears on their home turf Saturday evening, I was one of many who received a text message from my cousin Willy. The message included an image of a half-necked lady wearing a half top Raiders jersey and thong above the words, “This is going to be a good Raider season!”
Gotta’ love my cousin Willy. Even if you don’t agree with his analysis, you couldn’t argue with the way it was delivered.
I’m not exactly sold on the Raiders’ breakthrough season just yet. While the Bears only seemed to be a shell of their Super Bowl selves from a few years ago, the Raiders were still not playing up to the moniker of ‘Team of the Decades.’ Let’s face it, the Raiders could have run away with a 42-0 victory Saturday night and instead wound up going into the half down 14-13.
That first half deficit is exactly what Raiders fans should be concerned with. In both preseason games, the first team has lost to the competition’s equivalent — and on Saturday, the Bears didn’t look to be worthy of sharing the field with this year’s starting silver and black.
Why is this first half of their second preseason game a concern? Think back to opening night last season against San Diego. While the Raiders dominated the Chargers for most of the game, a few plays were the difference between a Monday night victory and their ultimate defeat.
Now I said that Raiders fans should be concerned, but I didn’t say they should worry. This team is more like the teams that went to the playoffs at the beginning of the millennium rather than the teams that we’ve all grown accustomed to the last eight years. Only key injuries and/or an inability to gel by the time the games count will be cause for too much concern this year.
Here are a few reasons to be optimistic if you’re a Raiders fan:
- JaMarcus Russell isn’t the starting quarterback — and the guys who may start are all an upgrade over that train wreck.
- With the improved play of Stanford Routt, and the inclusion of rookies Jeremy Ware and Walter McFadden, the secondary seems to be in very good hands should Chris Johnson or Nnamdi Asomugha not be able to go for any reason.
- Kamerion Wimbley — four sacks in one half and blanket coverage on Greg Olsen says all that needs to be said.
- Louis Murphy looks even better than he did his rookie season, and since he plays the game disgusted with himself, he’s only going to get better.
Here are a few reasons to worry if you root for the silver and black:
- The offensive line hasn’t come together. It’s really difficult to point out solid play from any of the linemen who faced Bears’ starters Saturday night. Hopefully, this team won’t abandon the zone blocking scheme when it comes to running the ball in 2010. Pass protection looks shaky and it seemed to rattle Jason Campbell as the first half concluded.
- Jason Campbell is still young in terms of his development — meaning that too much pressure in the pocket is going to be a problem for him until he gets more comfortable in the pocket. There are times when he displays happy feet while waiting for a receiver to get open. The interception Campbell threw in the red zone is evidence that he needs to gain more composure under pressure.
- While Trevor Scott has proven that he can play at linebacker, he is not the swiftest at that position. His weakness was on full display Saturday night during two consecutive plays. On the first play, he wasn’t able to seal off the end, and allowed the running back to beat him on the edge. The second play was getting faked out of his cleats by Jay Cutler on a quarterback scamper up the middle.
Will this be the year that the Raiders make a run to the playoffs? Only time will tell and with just two preseason games under their belt, it’s way too early to know. I’m afraid that we won’t have a real indication on that until the Raiders have played their first five games of the regular season.
Then, we’ll know if my cousin Willy was right.