The third exhibition game is when teams tend to play their projected starters the longest, meaning we’ll get our best gauge of how the Raiders shape up for the regular-season opener Saturday night.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver already have seen enough to have a pretty fair idea about where their players stand. On Wednesday, both sounded as if they are satisfied with the progress made so far in training camp.
“Applying the rules, we’ve been doing pretty well,” Tarver said. “And learning how to work together, we’ve been doing pretty well.”
Knapp seems just as confident in his offensive troops.
“Yeah, I’m pleased,” Knapp said. “It may not show up on the scoreboard right now, we need to improve our scoring production, but there’s been quite a few changeable parts on offense along with learning a new system and I did see, as I told the offense after the second game, good improvement from game one to game two. We’re moving the ball well, we just gotta do a better job of finishing.”
Sure, people want to know why Carson Palmer is forcing passes, why the Raiders aren’t punching in the ball from the 1-yard line and why the Raiders didn’t score at all against the Cowboys?
Calm down, Knapp said, in essence. This is the preseason, when teams work on things and don’t get so caught up in what the opponent is doing.
That will change, to some extent, Saturday, given the Raiders are game-planning somewhat for the Detroit Lions as a means of simulating the flow and preparation during the week of a regular-season game.
“We’re doing this week like it’s a mock in-season week, the way we teach our third-down presentation this morning, red zone, tomorrow short-yardage and goal-line,” Knapp said. “So, there’s a growth going on right now with the players and with the coaches. It’s not only we’re just coaching the players here, we’re coaching coaches because it’s a new staff being worked together and this is really the first time we’ve prepared for a game.
“Everything else has been sunny and sunshine, out here in grass and there’s no win-loss record. But now we’re preparing for a game, and it’s good practice for all of us to go through.”
Tarver said the Lions present a stern challenge for the Raiders defense in that the Lions offense does a nice job of changing the tempo, depending upon what they want to accomplish.
“I’m most interested in our process and how we handle those situations, because we haven’t gotten a lot of that yet,” Tarver said. “That’s what I’m excited about with Detroit for us. Let’s see what we can do. Player-wise, group-wise, I’m excited to watch them all.”
— Raiders coach Dennis Allen said center Stefen Wisniewski likely won’t play against the Lions, in part because of the calf injury Wisniewski suffered against the Dallas Cowboys and in part because it’s only an exhibition game.
“If we were in the regular season, could he push through and play? Probably,” Allen said. “Maybe. I don’t know. We’re not going to take that chance right now in a preseason game.”
Alex Parsons is in line to start at center Saturday. Knapp said the fact Parsons got in so much work with the first-team offense during the offseason workouts, while Wisniewski was recovering from shoulder surgery, and since Wisniewski’s most-recent injury bodes well for his making a seamless transition.
— Backup quarterback Matt Leinart participated in some drills Wednesday, with his right index finger tapes up. Allen said Leinart is healthy enough to play Saturday night. He said it will be a game-time decision.
If Leinart is held out, that means more playing time for Terrelle Pryor. It also means that Pryor would get his first shot at showing what he can do against defenders who actually might make an opening-day roster.
— Defensive tackle Richard Seymour missed practice once again. He has missed all three practices since the Raiders game against the Cardinals on Friday night.
Still, Allen said, his absence has more to do with Seymour’s age than it does with a knee that has bothered him for at least part of camp.
“It’s not an injury,” Allen said. “He’s an older veteran guy and his knees get a little sore, so we try to rest him to make sure we get him ready to play.”
Allen said Seymour “pushed real hard” early in camp, so now it’s time to put on the brakes and think long-term with the regular-season just around the corner.
“Guys can only get out and get so many … they’ve only got so many shots,” Allen said “When a guy gets more age on him, you have to be careful as far as how much you use him. The deal is, we have to get him enough work to get him ready to play but yet have him ready to play so we can have him for a full 16 games this year.”
— Tarver said for second-year cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke to take the next step, he needs to carry over what he does in practice to the games.
“I would really like to see him play like he plays out here, and just play with what we know he can do,” Tarver said. “And he’s heard that from me this week, so that’s what I’d like to see him do. Play like he plays at practice, because he plays pretty good at practice.”
Van Dyke looked sharp early on in camp. However, he struggled in Oakland’s first two exhibition games.
Van Dyke said he is going to follow Tarver’s advice.
“I’ve just got to just go out there and play ball,” Van Dyke said. “I’m doing too much thinking I think, and coach Tarver, he gave me a lot of advice, just telling me to go out there and just play ball. Don’t worry about making mistakes, just play like I was the first two weeks of camp.”
— For those worried about Palmer’s inconsistent play the first two games, Knapp offered up this explanation:
“I’ve encouraged from Day One, my belief for a quarterback to learn a new offense, you got to try some stuff,” Knapp said. “And I’ll sacrifice some of the ups and downs that go with that. It’s like all of our professions, isn’t it? If you make some mistakes, you usually grow from it.
“And that’s what I want him to do in the preseason since the games aren’t held accountable, so to speak. You still want to win, you still want to have that taste of it, but he’s got to test himself. I don’t ever want to train a guy to be conservative from Day One. He won’t know his limits then. It’s very important that quarterbacks who are new to the system, him and Terrelle primarily here, take some chances and get a feel for, ‘OK, what can I do and what can’t I do while it’s preseason?’ ”
— Knapp called running back Darren McFadden’s number on back-to-back down plays near the goal line against the Cardinals. McFadden got stuffed both times. However, that won’t deter Knapp from going back to McFadden in similar situations.
“I’ve always had a belief that the number one back can still be the goal line back, doesn’t have to necessarily be a bigger, stronger guy,” Knapp said. “My experience tells me so. The last couple years, it was Arian Foster had a lot of success. Warrick Dunn was one the best inside tackle runners I’ve ever been around as a coach.
“It’s not just the back that requires the execution of the play. So, it didn’t bother me to have him in there, we just didn’t get it executed across the board.”