It’s been repeated so often over the years the cliche’ ought to be “The Talent of the Raiders” instead of “The Greatness of the Raiders.”
It’s also been my contention that over the last seven years, the whole “talent” aspect with regard to the Raiders has been a crock. It’s just something to say to pass the time, as in, “The Raiders, well, we all know how talented they are, but . . . ”
Except that for the most part, you don’t find many Raiders going to other teams and excelling. Being big and fast isn’t talent if it doesn’t translate to football. It’s not like teams have been just waiting to see who the Raiders cut, salivating at the thought of sifting through their leftovers.
Based on what transpired in a 32-17 win over the Chicago Bears Saturday night, however, the talent talk has some merit in 2010.
The Bears will probably amount to no more than an also-ran in the NFC North, well below the Minnesota-Green Bay standard but better than Detroit. They’ll be hoping for .500, just like optimists have pegged the Raiders.
Except when the pair of .500 hopefuls met on the field, the Raiders had decidedly more muscles to flex than did the Bears. They were bigger, faster, better, stronger, more explosive. And that was with Richard Seymour and Nnamdi Asomugha, the two biggest names on their defense, not even suited up. Starting cornerback Chris Johnson sat it out. Same goes for running back Darren McFadden and wide receivers Chaz Schilens and Darrius Heyward-Bey, all counted on to be important parts of this year’s team.
The Bears got two first-half touchdowns on an 89-yard burst by Matt Forte and a fourth-down coverage blunder which resulted in a 22-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Johnnie Knox. If the Raiders had cashed in as much as they should have with good field position, they’d have won by 35.
By halftime, which amazingly found the Raiders trailing 14-13 on the strength of two plays by the Bears, Oakland had 211 yards of total offense _ halfway to 400.
You know how long it’s been since the Raiders gained 400 yards in a regular-season game?
Oct. 23, 2005. The Raiders beat the Buffalo Bills 38-17 and gained 416 yards. That was 74 games ago.
Judging from what was on display against the Bears, that streak ends this year.
Some notes and observations as the Raiders hit the halfway point of the preseason, with the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks still to play:
– Coach Tom Cable was crowing during the week about Kamerion Wimbley turning back the run against Dallas. Wimbley got pinched on Matt Forte’s 89-yard touchdown run, but was a beast rushing the passer with four sacks, primarily as a nickel rusher. He’s not going to do this every week _ and possibly ever again _ but when was the last time you saw a Raiders linebacker be such a presence, regardless of the situation?
Wimbley also blanketed tight end Greg Olsen on a wheel route in pass defense, which wasn’t supposed to be his strength.
– Hue Jackson has the Raiders running screen passes better than any Raiders offensive coordinator in years. If McFadden can’t do some serious damage with the way Oakland executes this play, something’s seriously wrong.
– Jason Campbell orchestrated a beautiful first drive for a touchdown, and was 5-for-15 after the first possession. He also threw an ill-advised interception in the face of a strong rush.
But Campbell also showed a good feel for the pocket, stepping up inside and getting passes off when JaMarcus Russell would have crumpled into a heap and said “uncle.” He got some good plays out of the beyond-green receiving corps and lost one third down conversion on a drop by Louis Murphy.
– Love the way Michael Bush ran from scrimmage (8 carries, 26 yards) and with the third-and-19 screen for 24 yards that set up the opening score.
– Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and cornerback Stanford Routt, two players I wrote about earlier this week who have pay grades that far outweigh their production to date, were impressive.
– Considering the influx of linebackers, which included the shift of Trevor Scott fulltime to the weak side, I gave Slade Norris zero chance of making the roster. Not sure what his chances are now, but after a fumble recovery for at touchdown and a blocked put out of the end zone, it’s better than zero.
– Yamon Figurs got his chance to shine after a good week of practice and didn’t exactly run with it. A 1.7 average on punt returns, 20.5 on kickoffs and no receptions.
– Yes, it was a basic center field interception which was helped by a terrific pass rush, but coaches just love guys that manage to be around the ball, and Michigan safety Stevie Brown has shown that gift since his first day of practice.
– Other than Marcel Reece going 40 yards with a screen pass, not much to distinguish the muddled fullback competition. Some of you who have speculated the Raiders are watching “Hard Knocks” to see who the Jets cut to get to the 53-man roster may be on to something.
– Cable is going to be mad about the pre-snap penalties on the offensive line. Guaranteed. It’s a direct reflection on him as a coach. He keeps harping on it, the line is his specialty, and it keeps happening anyway.
– Jackson’s addition of blocking schemes other than zone will make the Raiders a better team inside the 20. I like the way they powered their way to the 2-yard Boller run on a 10-play, 51-yard drive that put them up 27-14. A 14-yard pass to Michael Bennett and a 14-yard completion to rookie Jacoby Ford got Oakland to the 21.
From there, they ran it six straight times right at the Bears until Boller scored.
– Center Samson Satele left the game with an ankle sprain of undetermined severity. Seymour sat out with soreness in his triceps, and Asomugha felt ill. (Frankly, sitting them even if they were fine would be a good move).