Oakland Raiders Are Improving, But Must Play Smarter


Aug 9, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen on the field before the preseason game between the the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of questions still surround Dennis Allen and the Oakland Raiders’ camp. One answer that will echo for a long time is “things are going to change.” From starter to backup, it has all been up for grabs during camp.

That’s NOT a bad thing, Change is good when movement, and your direction will become different as you make a different impact on what you have been accomplishing. You now become accountable.

Matt Flynn has made a dramatic impact not on just his coaches and fellow players but a giant step in his personal growth.

“I am not going to go out there and try and prove people wrong. I am going to go out and play the best I can,” he said after former Eagles quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski was in the country’s living room, saying that Flynn was the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.

Flynn doesn’t have the arm strength of Palmer, Stabler, Plunkett, or the mad bomber himself, Lamonica. What he does have is a mastery of the game, knowledge of down and distance, a learning curve that is giving him insight on play selection, and how to handle failure as well as success with poise.

Head coach Dennis Allen said, “I want to see him manage the game. Move the offense down the field and put points on the board.”

Just what every Raider fan wants.

Aug 9, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (6) runs with the ball during the second quarter of the game against the Dallas Cowboys at O.Co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Terrelle Pryor had some moments in the first preseason game against the Cowboys, but not enough of them. Still making bad choices, yet has had some celebrated moments, Pryor is at a place where his improvement will enhance the play of Flynn, and give himself an opportunity to play with a chance to start during the regular season. He has always been better than he has shown. But in the NFL, it’s performance that counts, not potential.

D.J. Hayden is still an unknown at camp. We know about his condition, and his fighter’s attitude to return to the field. What we don’t know is how long will his tweaked hamstring will keep him out of practice. He is likely to return in the third preseason game, according to Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area.

Hayden has the Rocky Balboa attitude: never say never, and get up one more time than you get knocked down. He works hard, and has made a statement about his ability in camp.

When Hayden returns to practice he will most likely have to learn on the run, progress under fire, and be an impact player all at the same time.

Sio Moore was the player of the day during the Cowboys game. His lone sack of Tony Romo electrified the crowd, and threw a scare into the Cowboy faithful.

The Raider shave a different roster lining from last year on the defensive side of the ball. Causing chaos and confusion for the opposing offensive line could be the pathway to success for the defense. With more athletic, faster, improved functional flexibility, the defensive line will be more mobile. This will allow players such as Moore to become successful in the blitz package.

If you liked the Raiders’ running game against Dallas, you were in the majority. Running backs Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings, and Latavius Murray played well. That’s three backs that can tote the note, and deliver the package. Consistent runs of 3-4 yards helped sustain drives and set up the pass (what the raiders lacked last year).

The offense will get some long runs but the pile driver attack will reduce turnovers, improve clock management, and set up the passing game.

Menelik Watson has been dealing with an injury in training camp and the preseason. Watson was progressing in OTAs, displaying the skill that had the Raiders taking him high in the draft. For McFadden to have another 1000-yard rushing season, Watson will have to get healthy and know the playbook inside and out.

Guard Lucas Nix, who returned to practice last week but didn’t play against Dallas, has an injury. The Raiders need to know if they can count on this young man when needed.

Guard Mike Brisiel will be on everyone’s radar screen against the New Orleans Saints, as his play against Dallas was not inspiring. He has the tools, but will he use them?

Dennis Allen might want to take a look at playing smarter, not harder. The Raiders played stellar, but fell back into the mold of last year a few times, such as not utilizing clock management to burn precious seconds off the clock while ahead.  Fore example, a dreaded poor choice by Pryor to throw the ball instead of run, which resulted in an interception.

The Raiders play the Saints this week. The most improvement to any team is in the second week.

“We have to continue to know how to play in situations, playing the game smarter,” said Allen.

You have to believe they are!