This was the third game of the preseason which is supposed to be the most telling game for how a team will perform in the regular season. Raiders fans can only hope that is not the case. The offense played nearly 3 quarters as stated by Lane Kiffin earlier this week. And after three quarters, the Raiders offense had yet to put a point on the board. Granted there was a TD that was called an incompletion and a missed field goal by our fill-in kicker. But nonetheless, there was no official points scored. And that is not good at all.
It would seem to those who watched the game, as well as for those who didn’t, that there isn’t much positive to say about it. And for the most part that is correct. Nearly all of the confidence that was gained in this team’s offense last week was lost this week. And while the Cardinals fans shouldn’t take much good from this game either, for the Raiders, it was a mess. You will notice that there are no running backs on this list. That is in stark contrast to last week in which there were four running backs who made the list. The offensive line is most to blame for this which will become very evident once you get to the “Busters” list.
With that said, Here is my list of Ballers and Busters.
Upshaw’s presence was felt throughout the night as his plays on the field and his words off of it were shown at every commercial break and at halftime. There was a great tribute to his legacy as the broadcast began and a moment of silence before the start of the game. He will be sorely missed and his image is one that should make all who don the Silver and Black proud. Al Davis had a few words to say about him and the ones that stuck with me the most were “We loved him and he loved us”.
First Team Defense
I will point them out individually in a moment but for now I really have to put them on this list as a whole. They were truly fantastic. With the offense sputtering and inconsistent, the whole first team kept the Raiders within one score by holding the Cardinals to one field goal in the first half. They held the Cardinals to 87 yards and had three interceptions.
He was a man possessed in this game. I think he was summoning Warren Sapp even though Sapp is retired, not dead. He tipped one pass in the first quarter and shortly thereafter got his hands up which caused Leinert to throw too high for his receiver to catch it resulting in an incompletion. In the 2nd quarter he stuffed the running back at the line and forced a fumble. Then on the next play came up the middle so fast that Leinert had to get rid of the football which resulted in him throwing it right to Rashad Baker for an interception. The first play of the third quarter he blew through the line again to tackle the running back as soon as the ball was handed off. He was called for a bogus face mask but since we know it was bogus and this is preseason, it doesn’t really matter.
How he manages to be up in the hole stuffing the running back so often blows my mind. How he can read the play, get to the hole so quickly and then smack the running back in the mouth is something to behold. I counted at least five stuffs on running backs in the first half alone. Oh GOD thank you for bringing us Gibril Wilson. Oh and I suppose thank you too Al Davis.
It is just getting old putting him on this list every week. He only had one pass thrown downfield his way and he batted it away like a kid trying to reach in the cookie jar. He had two nice run stuffs and blew up Larry Fitzgerald in the open field when he caught a pass in the backfield, for a loss. The rest of the time the Cardinal QBs had enough sense to stay away from his vicinity.
Derrick Burgess/Stanford Routt/Michael Huff
I have to group these guys because they combined for a few really great plays. Midway through the 2nd quarter Burgess pressured Leinert which caused him to throw an interception to Routt. On another play Leinert attempted a long ball but his receiver was blanketed by Routt which allowed Huff to swoop in and pick off the ball. That is team work.
Yet again he is Russell’s favorite target. And rightfully so. He catches everything anywhere near him and has a knack for getting open. He had two nice catches in the 1st quarter and then a TD catch that was called out. But when watching the replay his knee touched inbounds and as the announcers said “one knee equals two feet” THAT was a touchdown. He also had a nice block as well as pushed the pile on a tough run by McFadden in the 2nd quarter. He is spectacular AND gritty. Gotta love that.
Making the list again for his playmaking abilities. He is simply all over the place making tackles. He is equal parts instinct, speed, and passion. He is also the MVP on special teams.
Congrats Chris, this is the first (and hopefully not the last) time I have ever praised you for your play. Last week you were always around the guy catching the ball but were never quite good enough to keep him from catching it in the first place. This week, you seemed to have tuned up your game a bit as you defended two passes (one of which was to Fitzgerald) and had a tackle for no gain. For someone I have hated for a while, you seem to have shown why Kiffin saw potential in you. Keep it up.
He cracks the list with three catches in the game. He still doesn’t look as good as Curry, Watkins, or Schilens but showed the ability to get open and catch the ball. He may be well on his way to returning to his Pro Bowl form.
They are the main reason why Russell could not get set and throw. The pocket was always collapsing, and they weren’t doing very well at opening up holes so the running backs could never seem to get on track. Russell was running for his life all game. The main culprits were:
In the first quarter there was a designed screen that he just screwed up. He was supposed to slow down his man before he broke upfield but he just let him run by him and Russell had to rush the throw to Fargas and it was incomplete. He was called for holding shortly thereafter. The half ended with him giving up a sack. Then midway through the third he gave up another sack.
Was called for holding on the final drive of the first half. Then midway through the third quarter he gave up a sack.
In the 2nd quarter JaMarcus Russell miraculously escaped being sacked and ran 15 yards for a first down which would have put them in great position to score…if Green hadn’t lined up incorrectly causing an illegal formation penalty. Then after the Raiders picked off the ball and were in scoring position again, he was blown off the line by Clark Haggans which meant the Raiders had to settle for a field goal…attempt which was off the upright. Foiled again.
First sight of him was whiffing on a tackle of the Cardinals third string running back Chris Vincent for a long run. Then he was floating in space when his man, TE Leonard Pope, was wide open in the end zone for a touchdown. He gave up another catch to a fullback in the 4th quarter. It is window dressing to mention he had a couple of nice tackles at the end of the game. By that point the damage had already been done.
He was routinely handled on the block as well as out of position. He was pushed aside for at least two nice runs including the long TD run by JJ Arrington in the 3rd quarter.
Jonnie Lee Higgins
After last week, he needed to come up big to show he could be a valuable asset to this team. He didn’t. He caught a simple short pass in the 1st quarter and had one decent return to the 32 in the 3rd quarter. Every other return, he was tackled by the first man to get downfield or near him. That won’t get it done.
tsk tsk tsk. He makes my Buster list again for giving up another long touchdown. This time he fell down. He also seems allergic to hitting. When he is the one who must make the tackle he simply tries to grab on and slow the guy down until another defender can come in and knock him down. He may not be on this team by midweek.
Overall he wasn’t terrible. But he was juked by Cardinals third string QB St Pierre who ran right by him for the 1st down. That play all by itself is enough to make this list. Also when the Cardinals got tricky and kicked an onside kick he was nailed when he got near the ball. Only an offsides on the Cardinals kept that from being a successful onside kick for the Cards.
Hard to believe there are actually more Ballers than Busters in a game in which the Raiders lost 24-0 but that just goes to show you how important the Oline as well as one of two defenders are in completely changing the outcome of a game. I am trying to remind myself that Kiffin said he was going to be focusing on the passing game after focusing on the run last week. When the season begins there will be a nice mix of both which will keep the defense on its toes. So with this first team defense playing this well, the offense could settle down and grind it out. Or it could be shades of 2006 all over again (shudder). Let’s not get carried away.