The Oakland Raiders won their opening preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys Friday night by a score of 19-17. For a building franchise with an inexperienced roster like the Raiders, preseason becomes a very significant time of the year. With the majority of first-string duties up for grabs in Oakland, there are lots of factors to keep an eye on.
Starting at quarterback, I must say I left fairly impressed with the top three on the depth chart. Matt Flynn started off with a bang, literally — on his second drop back, with absolutely no time to pass, Flynn was demolished and relinquished a fumble.
However, Flynn recovered to finish 4-of-5 passing for 37 yards. What was more evident was Flynn’s ability to throw an accurate ball while successfully going through his progressions. Flynn shows he can run a successful West Coast offense. One thing I’d like to see more out of Flynn are intermediate-to-long throws.
As impressive as Flynn was, Terrelle Pryor dazzled the moment he came in to play. In fact, he opened out of the pistol set with a read-option keeper for 13 yards. Pryor’s versatility was widely on display Friday night running a large amount of read-option. Pryor had 31 yards on three carries, while going 6-of-10 passing for 88 yards and one interception.
He exhibited great arm strength and impressive accuracy. Pryor’s passes looked to have a tight spiral and were often right on the numbers. He also showed that he can stand confidently in the pocket and read the pass rush. With the wheels he possesses, he becomes an instant factor against the defense and you saw it against the Cowboys.
The one interception was a true portrayal of Pryor’s raw decision making. While escaping the pocket, though making outstanding moves to evade pressure, Pryor seemed overzealous with a couple of his throws. The poor decisions will likely standout during film study and will give Flynn more of an edge to become the official week one starter. All in all for Pryor, his skills are definitely there.
Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin left the game with the Raiders’ only touchdown on a 30-yard strike to Brice Butler (who made a spectacular diving grab). McGloin went 4-of-7 with 78 passing yards. McGloin out-shined fellow rookie Tyler Wilson, who seemed to be playing nervous. Wilson’s passes looked wobbly and off target, whereas McGloin looked much more confident.
For these two (McGloin and Wilson), their performance in the preseason will dictate their future in the franchise. Right now, Oakland has four QBs on their roster; it is most likely that they head into the regular season with only three — making this a vital time for the rookie duo. I left far more impressed with McGloin than Wilson.
Butler may have made a name for himself among the Raiders’ wide receiving group. Along with his haul of a 30-yard diving touchdown, he also had a 40-yard reception on a previous play. Coming out of San Diego State, Butler recorded a 4.36 40-yard-dash time. His performance Friday night makes him a definite player to watch going forward.
The first-string offensive line did not look good, flat out. Flynn was completely ran over on his sack in the first quarter, while Darren McFadden was given no room to run in his performance, held to five yards on three carries. If the line continues to collapse as quickly as I saw it occur, serious problems are ahead for this offense.
On the defensive side, I found two things alarming: the lack of a pass rush and lapses in zone coverage. Two plays in succession caught my eye: an 11-yard reception by Miles Austin, then a 26-yard gain by Dez Bryant. On Bryant’s gain, cornerback Tracy Porter completely ate up a Tony Romo pump-fake, which led to the big play.
Albeit, the Raiders’ starting secondary still played credibly, forcing Dallas to two red-zone field goals — one of which was blocked. Their good coverage even led to a sack in the first quarter.
What was plain to see, though, was a visible lack of a pass rush from the defensive line. Romo was often standing still behind a solid wall with little resistance. The amount of time Romo had was outrageous and puts too much pressure on the secondary to keep tight coverage over a long period of time. Extensive blitz package may be needed to create some sort of pass-rush.