Oakland Raiders: Weaknesses Were Exposed Against the Saints


Aug 16, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Greg Jenkins (10) is tackled by New Orleans Saints inside linebacker Kevin Reddick (52) and cornerback Dion Turner (right) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans defeated Oakland 28-20. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s visit the learning curve that went on last Friday night for the Oakland Raiders when they faced the New Orleans Saints.

The Raiders showed improvement, but what they also showed — or exposed — were some team weaknesses.

The Saints outclassed, outmanned, and beat down the Raiders in the first quarter. The Raiders may not even won a skirmish at the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball, as the Saints led 17-0 after one.

Preseason is a learning curve, and many had looked for improvement from all aspects of the game. If you looked hard enough, you could find some consistency and possibly some improvement.

It’s hard for Raiders fans to believe that they are now using a power running scheme, and their power running back, Darren McFadden, running downhill, failed to convert on a fourth-and-one.

Let me give you the excuses on why he didn’t gain the necessary yardage: the defense knew it was going to be a run, the offensive line was missing some key players, someone slipped, etc.

Sorry, you can take all that, and blow it all the way to the goal line. On fourth-and-one, you get two! McFadden had 17 yards on the night he needed 19.

Can’t buy into any excuses. If you want to run downhill, punch people in the mouth with the running game. That was their chance to send a message bigger than Paul Revere’s that “we have arrived and we are coming at you, bro.” You have to know when to turn it on and produce, then go to the sideline.

Disappointment is what would be the resounding word around the water cooler concerning the Raiders’ performance. Matt Flynn was 12-for-16 passing for 124 yards on the night, and one touchdown pass. He fled for his young life on multiple occasions as the offensive line allowed five QB sacks.

Jared Veldheer was missed on the offensive line (a bit of an understatement), and his doubtful return this season has the Raiders perplexed on how to fill in his spot. (Best odds, Veldheer could return for the final seven games of the season. No matter what the timetable is for a return, Oakland will be without one of their best players for a significant portion of the season).

The offense is now featuring Alex Barron at left tackle and Andre Gurode at a guard spot. They both didn’t play last year. They are learning under fire and will have to produce. Pass protection and smash face football, getting in someone’s grill, and driving them out of the hole to allow McFadden to run – that’s what is needed.

A hot evaluation has always been Terrelle Pryor. Pryor’s progression, thus far, means he needs to continue to improve, and someone should be looking for a way to keep him on the field. Pryor has the skill, the ability, and is one of the fastest Raiders not on the field. All indicators suggest Pryor still has a long way to go, but he is finally extending his learning curve.

The Raider defense – or lack thereof — against the Saints was a complete surprise. Drew Brees had over 10 seconds to throw one of his touchdown passes. Several times he had five or more seconds to lob the pigskin downfield for another Saints first down.

The bulk of the blame, at first, went to the secondary — a secondary that appeared not to be in the right coverage or couldn’t cover the fleet-footed receivers of the Saints.

Then on a second take, the defensive front seven put no pressure on Brees, allowing him to dice and slice the secondary to shreds, and enabled him to complete pass after pass.

The coaching staff also has to take some of the criticism. The scheme was a wash: no rush means no pressure, which in turn means no coverage. No one can cover a receiver for 10 seconds! A quarterback has a limit of three seconds to throw the ball, not five.

The main thing is not to levy blame, but to solve the problem. Pass rush and pass coverage — they go hand in hand. One makes the other better.

And finally, as training camp wraps up, you have to see if your Johnny and Joes are ready to play, and if they are worth keeping.