Friday, August 26, 2011

Saints Pregame Take

I believe in the following maxim that I heard recently: the NFL preseason may not count, but it matters.

In recent years, the preseason has told us a lot about the Raiders. In 2008 and 2009, it became increasingly evident during the preseason that the Raiders were flailing. In both preseasons, they lost three out of four games. Last year, they won three out of four, and subsequently played their best season in ages.

Exactly two years ago (August 29, 2009), the Raiders played the Saints and produced a jaw-dropping debacle. At the time, folks tried to convince me that it didn't matter. It did matter. The Raiders were unprepared, outpaced and outclassed, words that could easily describe the season that followed.

So here we are again, playing the Saints in the third week of the preseason. I suggest that we all watch very carefully, because there will likely be plenty of tea leaves to read. The game might not count, but it will probably matter.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pryor Offense: Terrelle Comes to Oakland

The Raiders just selected Terrelle Pryor in the third round of the supplemental draft. Will he displace Kyle Boller, as some are speculating?

Not sure how I feel about this. I guess there's not a ton of downside if he doesn't work out. That is, unless Campbell gets hurt and we're down to Trent Edwards or bust behind a questionable offensive line.

I think that the hype surrounding Pryor far outweighs his current value, but maybe there's enough upside there to make it work. I'm not huge on the Raiders bringing guys in with known character issues (it rarely works out for us, the team culture doesn't handle it well), but if Pryor can learn to "Yes, sir" his way to a contributing role, then perhaps it'll work out in the long run.

At the very least, it gives us something to focus on this week instead of the whup-a** that the Niners opened up on us, and the unfortunate fan violence that followed.

They say that preseason doesn't mean anything, but it's been a pretty good indicator of the state of the Raiders in recent years, so let's hope we see some swift progress in the next few weeks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

One Postgame Take

Well, that was...okay, I guess. Nothing spectacular, but nothing particularly disheartening, unless you were looking for a more vivid reassurance that Nnamdi won't be sorely missed.

As Steve Corkran noted in today's postgame analysis, "Simply put, there is no realistic way to replace a player of Asomugha’s considerable talent. It’s going to take heightened play from every defensive player to help offset the loss of Asomugha."

Well, it's obvious we're a work in progress on that front, and we've got about four weeks left to turn that goal into a reality.

With each passing day (pun intended), Denarius Moore is looking like the anti-DHB: an electric, sure-handed playmaker right out of the gates. Let's hope it's not just a mirage. But he took it from the practice field to the playing field last night, and that's a good sign.

Our quarterbacks all looked sharp, but it's not like we were playing against an elite foe for 60 minutes. In other words, it's probably way too early to come to any real conclusions about the state of the Raiders in 2011.

To be honest, if you asked me today, I would tell you that I won't be surprised if the Raiders fail once again to achieve a winning record. On paper, I'm not seeing exactly how we are going to improve over last year, particularly with what looks like a tougher schedule ahead.

At the same time, I also wouldn't be surprised if we contend for the division title. You can't see culture "on paper." And I believe that the Raiders culture may be reaching a turning point under the guiding hand of Hue Jackson.

I've been trying to put my finger on it, but then yesterday, in the comments section of the previous take, Calico Jack took the words out of my mouth (and improved them, which isn't the first time). Here's an excerpt:

I have been following Hue Jackson's interviews, press conferences, and activities throughout the off-season. There are a few things about him that I appreciate, admire, and find refreshing.

(1) Communication skills; he is genuinely a passionate, articulate, positive, enthusiastic communicator.

(2) Energy...His energy and call for up-tempo practices is contagious.

(3) The message itself; zero waffling or uncertainty about what this is all about...WINNING!

(4) Expectations; once again, Hue doesn't pull any punches or ease into the expectation that the Raiders will win the division THIS year, not next year. The bar is clearly set for 2011.

(5) Accountability; he makes no excuses for the team, the lockout, his 1st year as head coach.

Does it sound like I'm not sticking my neck out and making a bold prediction for 2011? Well, then, you got me, because I'm not, at least not yet. Check back with me later. But if you've got one, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Zach Won't Be Back

Well, off Zach Miller goes to Seattle, where he will enjoy no shortage of rainy weather, strong coffee and leftover grunge music. As our receptions leader for the past three years, he will be sorely missed.

It seems to me that there are two priorities when a team heads into the free agency season, in this order: (1) do everything to get better; and (2) absent that, don't get worse.

How's that working out for us so far?

There's still time, but losing Asomugha was a big hit. Replacing Bruce Gradkowsi (whom some would argue was our best quarterback in years) with Trent Edward as our backup QB is a step backwards. And now our receptions leader is heading north to be with Tom Cable and Robert Gallery.

The Raiders seem to have been caught flat-footed since the free agency floodgates have opened. Don't we still need a proven veteran wide receiver to shore up the ranks, especially now that DHB is showing his frailty once again? Malcolm Floyd, Steve Smith...Even Braylon?

Anyhow, I'm just calling it like I see it. I'd love to be more positive right now. That said, there's still time.

Also, it's quite possible that these free agency hits to our roster are worse on paper than they will be on the field.

Hue Jackson's competence and energy could help us gain valuable ground. Our team could be turning the corner from teenager to adult, in terms of group maturity and experience. Being loaded with talent hasn't always been a boon to the Raiders. A true "team" can make up for a loss in talent. Hopefully, we'll prove that in 2011.