By Kevin Saito @Kevin_Saito on August 16, 2014
In their Week 2 matchup against the Lions, the Raiders did some things they weren't able to do against the Vikings in Week 1—show some real life, fire, and win a game. The game got off to a rough start, but as the second quarter started, it was like a whole new team took the field. Though some issues seem to be recurring, there is some real progress the Raiders can build upon for next week.
Here are 11 takeaways from the game.
The opening week saw the Raiders shooting themselves in the foot over and over again as they were flagged 13 times for 94 yards. Week 2 against the Lions saw a marked improvement in that category as Oakland drew seven penalties for 65 yards. Still higher than HC Dennis Allen—or Raiders fans alike—would like to see, but trending in the right direction. Oakland must continue to play more disciplined football and avoid the flags.
With so many new faces filling the slots on the offensive line, it will take a little while to fully jell. And it's still a work-in-progress. Though the line only gave up one second-half sack to the Lions, Matt Schaub faced constant pressure in his 25 snaps. The line wasn't terrible, but this group of offensive linemen need to find a way to become a cohesive unit sooner rather than later as the team's offensive success is depending on them.
Talent was never the issue. Health was. But so far, so good. And feel free to knock on the nearest piece of wood available, Raiders fans. Thus far in the preseason, given their very limited touches, both Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden have been impressive. Even better for Oakland, Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets have stepped up and are showing that they should not just make the roster, but get a few touches of their own during the season.
Following the loss to the Vikings, Schaub took a lot of heat for his 3-7 performance—as his critics ignored the fact that he played in just three series and his receivers accounted for three critical drops. But following a solid week against the Cowboys first unit defense, Schaub was sharper against Detroit, going 8-13 for 87 yards in just over a quarter of work. He faced constant pressure, but Schaub stood tall in the pocket and delivered.
Carr was nothing special against the Vikings either, but against Detroit, he flashed the ability that made him the Raiders' second-round pick. Subbing in for Schaub, Carr immediately took Oakland down the field on a drive that set up a FG. He also threw a nice touch pass to TE Jake Muprhy for another score. Carr finished 9-16 for 109 yards and the touchdown before suffering a concussion. But still a good night of work for the rookie
With all of the debate about the Raiders' receiving corps being centered around Streater, Jones, Criner, Holmes, Little, and Moore, the nearly forgotten Brice Butler has quietly gone about putting together the best preseason of any of them. In the first game, he had four catches for 44 yards. Against Detroit, he added another four receptions for 74 yards and a TD. With play like that, the Raiders will have a hard time not giving him playing time.
It's a scene Raiders fans hope to see many, many more times this season—rookie LB Khalil Mack taking down an opposing QB. Sure, it was only Kellen Moore and not say, Peyton Manning, but Mack has his first sack out of the way. It doesn't show up on the score sheet, but Mack was always around the ball and taking on double teams, opening up opportunities for teammates. He has room to improve and grow, but he's developing well to this point.
It was disconcerting seeing Minnesota's Matt Cassell and Cordarrelle Peterson abuse Oakland's secondary like they did. It is downright terrifying to see Detroit's Matthew Stafford carve them up without even having Megatron on the field. In just over a quarter, Stafford went 9-10 for 88 yards and two scores. The secondary needs to figure it out quickly. Otherwise, the Raiders will be in for a very long year.
There's no doubt that the Raiders—despite lacking a true No. 1—have loads of talented receivers. They can all be game changers—if they can be more consistent in holding on to the ball. Even normally, sure-handed James Jones made a costly bobble on a sure reception—the Lions ended up picking it off. Oakland has the talent to have a lethal passing attack, but they need to learn to be more consistent and help their QBs out.
One of the constant criticisms of the Raiders' coaching staff is that their play calling is too bland and too vanilla. Up to now, they had the talent to run a more complex scheme. But now, with more talent than they've ever had, they're out of excuses. While they don't want to show all their cards this early in the preseason, it would be nice to see Allen, Olson, and Tarver open up the playbook just a bit.
The Raiders found a way to rally for the win against Detroit, and have a lot of positives to build on as a result. But they've also got a lot of work still to do. From shoring up the offensive line, to getting their house in the secondary in order, the Raiders need to get back to work, plug those holes, and come out fired up against the Packers. They can enjoy the feeling of a win, but the road ahead is still very, very long.
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