By Steve Corkran
Thursday, August 11th, 2011 at 11:49 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Coach Hue Jackson said earlier this week that, if “they’re keeping score, I want to win.” From that standpoint, Jackson has to be disappointed by the Raiders 24-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night at the Coliseum.
However, he has to feel better about where his team stands after getting to see them in a game setting and not just running around and performing in a controlled setting in Napa.
That doesn’t mean that Jackson has to like what he saw.
For starters, he can’t be pleased by right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes’ three penalties. Or the two infractions committed by cornerback Walter McFadden. Or the 10 overall.
Jackson made penalties public enemy No. 1 from the outset of camp, saying that issue has to be resolved.
Call it a work in progress, then.
Seeing three fumbles no doubt didn’t sit too well with Jackson, either, even if the Raiders did recover every one.
It’s how they happened. One came on a kick return by Shaun Bodiford. Another came on a botched exchange between center Stefen Wisniewski and quarterback Trent Edwards. The third came on an errant pitch by Edwards to running back Louis Rankin.
All three could have been avoided with a little better execution.
Seeing Sebastian Janikowski convert all four of his field-goal attempts is of great comfort to Jackson. That they came as a result of stalled drives makes them bittersweet.
Backup cornerbacks Walter McFadden, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Jeremy Ware, as well as backup safeties Hiram Eugene, Stevie Brown and Jeremy Boyd all struggled in pass coverage.
The Cardinals netted most of their 297 passing yards against those guys, including all three their touchdowns.
A team can’t succeed without more than the starting defensive backs playing well. There comes a time when the nickel and dime backs have to hold up on a consistent basis.
The Raiders counted upon McFadden, Ware, Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa, as well as Brown, Eugene and others to help fill the void created by the departure of three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
It’s apparent that doing so isn’t going to be as easy as hoped for. 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.
On the bright side, there were plenty of reasons for optimism that came from the first exhibition game.
Edwards, Kyle Boller and Jason Campbell combined to complete 23 of 36 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown, with a passer rating of 93.3.
Quarterback depth is a necessity in today’s NFL. Jackson has to feel good about having three proven veterans.
Rookie receiver Denarius Moore carried over into the game what he did the first two weeks of training camp.
He caught three passes for 37 yards and showed the versatility to return punts and kick-offs. He had a 57-yard punt return negated by penalty.
It’s not often that a fifth-round draft pick carries himself with such an air of confidence and backs it up with his play.
The mystery is, how in the heck did 31 other teams pass on this guy for four full rounds and part of the fifth?
Rookie offensive linemen Wisniewski and Joseph Barksdale showed that they can handle themselves in a game. Sure, there’s work to do, but they are off and running.
Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy is a favorite of Jackson’s, and it isn’t a big secret why.
Shaughnessy plays with a burning intensity that can’t be taught. That was evident in the handful of snaps he played Thursday. It won’t be long before the rest of the league finds out what this guy is all about.
Overall, Jackson’s first game as a head coach was a mixed bag and quite typical of an exhibition game.
There were some positive things, some negative, sure signs that the team is far from a finished product and the frustration of wondering how the game might have turned out if the starters were allowed to play beyond sunset.
Before long, Jackson won’t remember much about this game. In the end, he’s going to use it for what it’s worth: evaluating his players, motivation for the next game and a teaching tool for players who learned that they aren’t quite where they need to be or thought they were before kick-off.