St. Louis Rams vs. Oakland Raiders Preview:
Week 2 puts two perennial lottery teams(if this was the NBA) against each other as the Oakland Raiders host the St. Louis Rams in the “Black Hole” for their first home game of the season. Both teams will be looking to improve from last week’s dismal performances and capture their first win of the season. The Raiders get an up close view of the Rams’ and overall #1 draft pick quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford threw for 253 yards and a touchdown, but it took him 55 attempts to do so. Can the young “Golden Arm” of Bradford hold up against the 5th ranked pass defense in the league? And will the Raiders be able to generate enough excitement for Raider Nation to fully recover from last week’s hangover? The outcome of this game can turn out in several different ways, but here are three areas that Oakland must perform well in, if they want to secure their first victory of the season.
Can the D-line become Ford Tough against the run? The Raiders’ run defense plus their 31st ranking, equals a big fat double SMH (shaking my head). Their was suppose to be an upgrade in the front seven with the addition of linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, the drafting of Alabama Linebacker Rolando McClain and the resigning of defensive tackle Richard Seymour. So what happened last Sunday? I don’t know, but they gave up 205 rushing yards and need to improve on that ASAP. In comes another beast master type of running back into Sunday’s game by the name of Stephen Jackson. He ran for 81 yards in last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals and could have a field day against this Raiders run defense if they look anything close to last week’s run defense. That’s why its imperative to contain Jackson and force Bradford to beat you with his arm against your 5th ranked pass defense. That appears to not only be a smart look but the best look for this defense, until they find that balance that they need to be considered a top tier defense. Contain the beast and half the battle is won.
Will the O-line please stand up in the in the trenches, or at least long enough for quarterback Jason Campbell to throw the ball down the field? Campbell threw for 180 yards last week, but that just won’t be enough for weeks to come. To quote TNT NBA Analyst Charles Barkley, the offensive line was “Terrible…Terrible…..Terrible…..Crazy Knuckleheaded Terrible.” That saying pretty much sums it up. They have young talented receivers in Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey that have not really been utilized at all (although the verdict is still out on Heyward-Bey……still scratching my head on why Michael Crabtree is not a Raider? SMH again…..I digress). You have a Pro Bowl caliber tight end in Zach Miler that only had four catches in last week’s ball game. You automatically want to point the finger at new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, but how can you question his play calling when Campbell is scrambling for extra time behind the porous play of the offensive line? You really can’t criticize the play calling until called plays are consistently executed. They are going against the 26th ranked passing defense in the league this Sunday,who apparently are dying for more exploitation in their secondary. Will the Raiders capitalize on that weakness? Memo to the O-line stop dosing off in the middle of ball games and at least play like you earn a paycheck, because we all know last week’s performance was unacceptable.
Offensively, for Oakland to be successful on offense it begins and ends with a heavy starch and carb diet of Raiders’ running back Darren McFadden. McFadden is cut from a cloth that resembles the likes of Curtis Martin and Marshall Faulk, the “dual threat all purpose back.” If he gets the type of numbers he did last week (95 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards), his play should open up the Raiders nonexistent vertical passing game. Look for the Raiders to attack up the middle and on the perimeter with McFadden, and with running back Michael Bush questionable for his second straight game due to a preseason thumb injury, McFadden will more than likely get more touches. They’re going up against the 19th ranked rushing defense in the league, so I expect Jackson to dial up plays that takes advantages of their defense. An effective running game allows you to control the time of possession, and that should be the main objective going into Sunday’s game.
The talent is their for Oakland, but will their execution on both sides of the ball evolve to not only make them competitive, but also put them in the best position to win ball games. On paper the Raiders get the slight edge against the Rams, but they play the games on grass and artificial turf, so they better had gotten over last week’s hangover and STEP IT UP come Sunday.
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Written by Arthur Kai