On Friday we outlined five factors that would play a large role in the outcome of the Raiders-Bears preseason game. Now it’s time to see how we did.
“The Raiders front five will need to prove themselves against Chicago. Alex Barron has been preparing for his second preseason start in the wake of left tackle Jared Veldheer succumbing to serious injury. While rookie Menelik Watson will probably get a chance at starting during the regular season, options are thin for coach Dennis Allen.”
What actually happened: Despite sub-par play from Matt Flynn, the offensive line showed gradual improvement from the loss to New Orleans a week ago.
Relatively speaking, the Bears’ front seven are much better than the Saints’ and are a top five defense. The pass protection looked much better at home than they did at the Superdome.
Once Menelik Watson gets healthy, they should improve at a much faster rate.
Quarterback and receivers
“Matt Flynn was able to maintain his composure against the Saints, despite having virtually no time to find an open receiver, but the receivers were seldom able to escape coverage. Terrelle Pryor did even worse, despite fans tweeting en masse that Pryor would be a better option with the weakened offensive line.”
What actually happened: As noted, Flynn wasn’t great, but his receivers didn’t help much either.
But once Pryor entered the game, the offense pepped up. Perhaps something was said in the locker room during halftime, but whatever happened, worked.
Pryor has chemistry with his receivers, which had to help him get the nod at Seattle next week as the starter. But the battle is far from over. All receivers will need to step up their game regardless of which quarterback gets the most time.
Pash rush and run defense
“The above-average Oakland secondary needs a solid pass rush to function the way it was designed to. Look for Oakland to run more blitz packages, especially in nickel coverage and against Chicago’s sub-standard offensive line. … The Bears possess one of the better backfields in the NFL … The goal should be to create situations that gives Chicago no legitimate options but to air the ball out, ideally forcing turnovers.”
What actually happened: There was no real improvement in the pass rush. It seems likely the Raiders will need to use more blitz packages. It’s only preseason, so there’s no need to reveal your defensive strategies beyond the normal 4-3 base.
Nonetheless, it’d be nice to see what the team can do with an extra man running up the middle.
The Raiders did, however, show improvement in stopping the run. David Bass made some nice plays and Nick Roach looks to be a legitimate middle linebacker moving forward. Marshawn Lynch will be a great test for the team the next time out.
“After letting go of punter Shane Lechler, the team wound up with Chris Kluwe. Not bad additions by any standard, but they still must earn their pay. An extra 20 yards on kick and punt returns could end up being the difference between a miserable season and a memorable one. … The general consensus among analysts is that Kluwe will be very busy this season, and the team will be pleased if he can match the production of Lechler.”
What actually happened: It’s become clear that special teams is a strong suit of the Raiders. Both Kluwe and Marquette King preformed admirably; King may actually have the edge, mainly because of his salary.
The Raiders coverage unit made quick work of Devin Hester, who is the best in the NFL at returning kicks. Sebastian Janikowski was able to show off his leg once again, nailing a 58-yard field goal to close out the first half.
There’s no denying that the special teams unit will be relied on heavily during this season, so it’s a good sign that they have been performing well.
“Last week, the Raiders were outmatched by the play calling of Saints coach Sean Payton. They’ll need to do better this week. … Expect bracket coverage on Bears receiver Brandon Marshall and strong-side blitzes along with running back spies. … The Raiders will have a tougher task while on offense. Screen passes and play action rollouts could create the necessary yardage to get into field goal range or the end zone.”
What actually happened: The Raiders’ secondary was stymied once again by an absent pass rush. The coaching staff wants to see what it has to work with, which appears to be limited in many aspects.
Until they know their team’s full capabilities, play calling will be largely dependent on stopping the run and covering receivers.
The Raiders were unable to execute their game plan offensively, and if Pryor gets the nod for the season opener, the plans may need to be altered if not totally rethought.