As excited as I am to see the Raiders make their 2011 debut tonight I’m also taking a cautions approach to curb my expectations. The first preseason game is a little like a heavyweight title fight where both boxers are just feeling each other out. Given the length of the lockout we could see some ugly football early.
That being said the unit that should have the advantage is the defense.
Offense is all about timing, rhythm and coordination. Being that Oakland will be without key contributors Darren McFadden and Louis Murphy combined with the uncertainty along the offensive line, I’m guessing we won’t see many fireworks when the Silver and Black have the ball.
You’ve got to give the O a little more time to get their legs under them.
Now the D on the other hand, that’s where all the action will be.
Tonight Kevin Kolb will be welcomed to the world of heightened expectation as a starting QB. Hopefully Richard Seymour and company will roll out the blood stained carpet for the Scott Mitchell reboot.
While we have a good idea of what to expect from the front seven, it’s the secondary that will be the area of most interest. Specifically I’ll be concentrating on the cornerbacks where a camp battle that is creeping to a simmer could hit a full boil after tonight.
Who among the young DBs will emerge as Oakland’s next big thing in pass coverage?
Rod Woodson is high in DeMarcus Van Dyke but even he admits the rookie from The U is still pretty raw. Walter McFadden should have the inside track after one year in the NFL plus he’s just one spot behind Chris Johnson for starting duties. The guy I’m banking on to get into the mix is Jeremy Ware. While Ware had some forgettable moments as a rookie he showed a knack for being a hard hitter which is rare for a cornerback.
Behind the corners there are just as many questions with the last line of defense. Tyvon Branch is the only name you can write in ink. Michael Huff gets the nod for his years of service in Silver and Black plus he’s coming off a career year. Still, you never know what to expect from Huff Daddy. Now would also be an ideal time for Mike Mitchell to finally take a big step forward as well. He’s shown some flashes as a potential playmaker but the man who brought ESPN’s draft coverage to a halt has yet to display the total package.
There is also the lingering issue of just who will be the best fit at weak side linebacker. Travis Goethel and Quentin Groves are dueling it out but neither looks like a long term solution at this point in time.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty to watch on offense. The most important battles in all of the Napa camp will be along the offensive line. Stefen Wisniewski and Samson Satele are already in the midst of battle for the starting center gig. The loser could still be running with the first team as both are likely to get a look at guard as well.
Of all the battles perhaps none is more intriguing than the right tackle lucha. This one is going to be a bare knuckles bar fight. There is no clear cut favorite as the options aren’t pretty. Khalif Barnes gets the early nod as he’s a vet but rookie Joe Barksdale could steal his thunder. If you’re looking for a longshot then put a couple bucks on Bruce Campbell. Though if it comes down to Campbell vying for the job on the right side then you’ll know the options are limited.
All in all tonight is more or less a test run. Hue Jackson is eager to see what kind of shape his squad is in and how much they’ve picked up thus far in camp. Next time out the expectations for the O will be heightened but for tonight all eyes are on the D.
Topics: Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Campbell, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Hue Jackson, Joseph Barksdale, Kevin Kolb, Louis Murphy, Michael Mitchell, Oakland Raiders, Quentin Groves, Richard Seymour, Rod Woodson, Samson Satele, Stefen Wisniewski, Travis Goethel, Tyvon Branch, Walter McFadden