Raiders Recap–Preseason 2009 Week 1

The National Football League 2009 Preseason has finally begun. The Oakland Raiders hosted the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night in the first preseason game for the silver and black.

For more on the game, check out “Just Blog Baby.”

This is the 50th anniversary of the AFL, and Tom FLores and Jim Plunkett were in the broadcast booth. When Plunkett joked that he and Flores would argue over who would call the plays in this game, just like they did when Flores was coach and Plunkett was his quarterback. Flores commented back that Plunkett could disavow Fores’s plays, but if Plunkett went with his own plays they had better work.

The banter was fun, and a clip of Flores playing quarterback himself in the very first Raiders game in 1960 was enjoyable nostalgia. Yet the last six years have been anything but nostalgic. Much was spoken about how the team ended very positively last year, and that expectations were high. Coach Tom Cable is well regarded by the players, but the key would be quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the offensive line.

The preseason, especially early on, is less about winning games than about showing what the teams strengths and weaknesses are. With that, below is my Week 1 Raiders recap.

Good special teams on the kickoff combined with a penalty had the Cowboys starting at their own 7 yard line. The defense started well, as the Cowoys ran 3 plays, lost one yard, and punted.

Special teams ace Johnny Lee Higgins misjudged the punt, and it got past him. The 62 yard punt had the Raiders starting on their own 32. JaMarcus Russell immediately fired a 10 yarder to Chaz Schillings.

Justin Fargas started at running back, and longtime Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal was now in the backfield. Robert Gallery was out with an appendectomy. Russell went deep to Darrius Heyward Bey, but the ball was underthrown into double coverage, incomplete. On the next play, Russell again threw the bomb, and again into double coverage it was underthrown. However, defensive pass interference set up first and goal at the 8.

There are positives and negatives about this. Russell may not be throwing far enough, but the receivers are clearly fast. As for Russell, his short term accuracy seemed vastly improved. He hit Schillings down to the two yard line. However, the desire to say “same old Raiders” cropped up when a holding penalty moved the ball back to the 12 yard line. A dumpoff pass to Neal lost two more yards. Russell completed his next pass to Schillings at the 5, but once again, the Raiders had to settle for a field goal by Sebastian Janikowski and a 3-0 lead.

Dallas took over at their own 29. With Stanford Routt playing on this series instead of Nahmdi Asomougha, Dallas moved the ball with ease. Routt was called for defensive holding on one play. Felix Jones and Marion Barber ran for big gains, and an end around to Patrick Creighton had the Cowboys at the Oakland 13. A screen pass from Tony Romo to Jones had the cowboys at the 3. Barber took it inches shy of the goal. Barber scored on the next play, but in a surprising turn of events, it was the Cowboys that blundered with a holding penalty.

The officials were also in preseason form, as it seems they got the down wrong. That became irrelevant when Romo hit Jason Witten for the touchdown pass. Routt was beaten on the play, and the Cowboys led 7-3.

The Raiders took over at their own 21, and Russell was sacked all the way back to the 8 yard line. There seemed to be a breakdown on the line as the defender came up the middle untouched.

Darren McFadden came in at running back, and immediately picked up 13 yards. On 3rd and 8, Russell hit Schillings, who made a juggling catch of a well thrown ball. From the Oakland 39, Russell then escpaed the rush, broke a tackle, and scrambled for 17 yards to the Dallas 43.

Russell was looking impressive on everything but the deep ball. Again their was double coverage, and the ball was thrown out of bounds. A false start pushed the team back five yards. Cooper Carlisle was flagged for a second time. An incomplete pass followed by a screen to McFadden brought up 4th and 6 at the Dallas 39. In a surprising move, the Raiders had SHane Lechler come in to punt rather than let Seabass try a 56 yard field goal. In the regular season, a punt would be smart, but in preseason, trying the field goal would have been good practice. As for Lechler, he needs no preseason. It is sad when a team has to brag about their punter, but Lechler is one of the best. Dallas took over at their own 5.

Romo was done for the night, as former Bengals and Lions veteran John Kitna came in. The Cowbys went 3 and out. A poor punt was returned 10 yards by Higgins to the Dallas 43, but a holding penalty had the Raiders starting out at their own 38.

Surprisingly, Russell was also done for the night. I would have given him one more series. Bruce Gradkowski came in at quarterback. Yet one player that absolutely looked ready for the rgular season was McFadden. On the last play of the opening quarter, he burst through the hole to the Dallas 17 for a 45 yard gain. A screen play resulted in a low throw by Gradkowski. Yet a geat catch by Schillings, followed by him getting up without being touched, led to a first and goal at the 6. On 2nd and goal from the 4, Gardkowski found Tony Stewart in the back of the end zone. Although Jeff Garcia is expected to be the backup, Gradkowski did his job, as the Raiders were back up 10-7.

Dallas took over at their own 29. Ricky Brown sacked Kitna for a 10 yard loss. This was a good blitz, not a mistake by Kitna. AGain, Dallas went 3 and out. Oakland took over on theor own 20 after a 58 yard punt. A tripping penalty had the Raiders facing 1st and 20 at their own 12. Gradkowskihit Heyward Bey for 8 yards. An offsides penalty set up 2nd and 7. The announcers seemed surprised that the Raiders did not false start. Gradkowski escaped the blitz and threw a perfect pass, but the receiver got leveled, jarring the ball incomplete. The Raiders punted, and Dallas took over on their own 30.

A perfect pass by Kitna on a slant route was dropped. The Raiders did not dodge a second bullet, as Kitna rolled out and completed a 22 yard pass to the Oakland 48. Kitna fumbled the snap on the next play on the infield dirt. Yet an encroachment penalty on the next play moved Dallas to the Oakland 45. Kitna then went deep for what looked like a sure touchdown, but free safety Michael Huff made a gorgeous interception. He simply stole the ball away at the last second.

From the Oakland 7, Gradkowski fired a bullet to Lewis Murphy, who dropped the pass on previous series after getting leveled. He made the catch this time, and the Raiders had an 18 yard gain. Michael Bush then ripped off a 12 yard gain, but it was nullified by a holding call.

The Raiders have a very strong running game, but the offensive line made way too many mistakes early on. On 2nd and 20 from the 15, Bush picked up 7 yards. Yet Gradkowski threw high under pressure and the Raiders punted. Lechler nailed a 55 yard punt as the Cowboys took over at their own 14.

Kitna again fired the slant pass that was dropped previously, but this one was again on the money, for a 21 yard gain. Ricky Brown broke through for a gain of over 30 yards, but offensive holding nullified it. Both teams were hurting themselves.

In a moment of levity in the booth, Tom Flores seemed mockingly mystified by Twitter. He replied that he thought that Twittering was what nervous players did before games.

Kitna threw another perfect pass for a 30 yard gain to the Oakland 28. Kitna fired again, as Dallas reached the Oakland 12. On 3rd and 4 from the 6, an incomplete pass was nullified when Huff was called for defensive pass interferenc ein the end zone. On first and goal at the one, Tashard Choice was knocked backwards a couple yards. On second and goal from the 3, out of the shotgun, the snap sailed over Kitna’s head. Kitna fell on it all the way back at the 19 yard line. Kitna went to the end zone, but the play was well double covered. A 36 yard field goal attempt by Nik Folk was no good. It missed by inches.

The Raiders led 10-7 at halftime, and while luck had the Cowboys fumbling a snap from the 3 o the 19, the defensive stand on the play from the goal line was solid.

The negatives for the Raiders was that Romo and Kitna both threw the ball well, and the starting running backs ran well. The defense needs work in that sense. However, they made key stops. on several drives.

On offense, the offensive line continues to be the weak link. The running game is terrific, Gradkowski played well enough as a backup, and Russell looked very crisp on the short to medium passes. Yet the deep ball was not working. Russell completed 6 of 9. Schillens looked very impressive at wide receiver.

As for speedy wide receiver Heyward Bey, many criticiced the decision to draft him over Michael Crabtree. However, Crabtree is still holding out, and San Francisco is angry at the holdout.

In the first half, total yards were almost dead even, but the Raiders had 8 penalties for 60 yards. The Cowboys had 4 penalties for 74 yards, but one of them was the long pass interference call. Dallas led on time of possession but had the one turnoover and the missed field goal.

The Raiders seem to show some potential. Nothing came out of theis game that would temm me that this team would be at either end of the bell curve. Yet based on past years, average is an improvement.

The second half began as sloppy as one would expect in preseason. Gradkowski misfired on second and third down, but defensive a facemask penaly kept the drive alive. Gradkowski then completed a pass to Murphy for 30 yards to midfield. A screen pass to Louis Rankin picked up another 20 yards to the 30. Rankin then picked up 9 yards on the ground. This Rankin guy looked good, but he was playing against backups, and the Raiders have stars at running back ahead of him.

Gradkowski then rolled out and found Brandon Myers wide open at the 3 yard line. Rankin took a handoff, and despite looking like he was trapped in the backfield, eluded a tackle, and juked his way into the end zone for a 17-7 Raiders lead. The 80 yard drive took only 3 minutes.

The Cowboys then went to their 3rd strong quarterback, and a false start ensued. A defensive pass interference penalty returned the favor, but at this point the game was mostly third stringers. Jason Horton was flagged twice on one drive for the Raiders defense. A 39 yard field goal by David Peeler had the Cowboys within 17-10.

On the next series, Gradkowski threw a nice pass voer the middle for a 20 yard gain. What made the play notable was that the offensive line held up well. Gradkowski then threw the bomb from midfield, and Russell could only weatch with envy. Yet Al Davis does not care who completes it as long as it is completed. Nick Miller bobbled the ball but made the acrobatic catch at the 2 yard line. Gary Russell scored on the ground to make it 24-10.

Dallas went 3 and out, and Charlie Frye came in at quarterback. Rankin continued to look good on the ground. Frye looked good immediately, avoiding the rush and completing a 20 yard gain. The offensive line seemed to be gelling, but again, let’s see when the starters are playing full games. This is not to criticize what appeared to be improvement on offense. It is just caution.

On 3rd and 20 from the Dallas 30, Frye nearly got sacked, but avoided 3 guys to throw it away. For some reason the Raiders were going to punt rather than let a backup kicker try a 47 yard field goal. Yes, it was off the infield dirt, but it was still makeable. In the regular season that would not occur. Again Lechler did his job, and the punt was downed at the 7 yard line. Dallas went 3 and out, and Frye continued to throw well.

The Raiders were forced to punt, but Dallas fumbled the punt, and the Raiders recovered it at the Dallas 11 yard line. On 3rd and 1 from the 2, instead of a run, Frye threw a perfect fade pass. It was lobbed over the defenders for the touchdown and a 31-10 Raiders lead.

The only thing notable on the next Dallas drive was that Horton was called for his 3rd defensive penalty, which set up a first and goal. On 4th and goal from the 4, the defense held. Frye continued throwing from near his own goal line, and seemed very comfortable. The Raiders then ran out the clock.

These teams meet again in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. While the Raiders won today, they were trailing 7-3 when Romo exited.

The team seems to have made some positive improvement since last season. For their opening preseason game, it was not a bad effort.

Raiders 31, Cowboys 10.


2 Responses to “Raiders Recap–Preseason 2009 Week 1”

  1. rudemarc87 says:

    Chargers 5 time AFL champions babyyy!!

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