Three and Out: First-unit offense gets their chance against Bears
If Matt Flynn gets time to operate, he has to create manageable third downs, move the chains and put points on the board. (AP)
OAKLAND – Game tape from last week’s exhibition at New Orleans isn’t worth much. The Raiders couldn’t establish an offensive rhythm in the first half, and they couldn’t stop much of anything defensively.
There are mistakes aplenty on film, most of which weren't an issue prior to the Saints disaster.
“That was the frustrating thing about it,” left guard Tony Bergstrom said. “We made mistakes on things we got right during a week of practice.”
The Raiders will try to put some positive plays on tape during Friday night’s exhibition against the Chicago Bears at 7 p.m.
The Raiders believe last week’s mistakes are easily correctable, and the first unit will have plenty of time to prove it. The third preseason game is generally a dress rehearsal for the regular season, meaning the first unit should play into the third quarter.
The starters have been afforded ample time to get it right, and show they’re better than they showed last week.
Here are five things to keep an eye on during the Raiders third preseason game:
1. Keep Flynn alive: The starting offensive line allowed five sacks in the first half of last week’s loss to New Orleans. Quarterback Matt Flynn didn’t have time to run the offense as planned, instead forced to improvise under constant pressure. Somehow, Flynn kept the ball to himself and found the end zone at the end of the first half.
The offense must do better against the Bears, and that starts up front. If Flynn gets time to operate, he has to create manageable third downs, move the chains and put points on the board.
Darren McFadden hasn’t played much this preseason and will play less that the rest of this first unit, but needs to establish momentum in the running game. This is likely his last chance. The Raiders will minimize his touches or hold him out all together in the preseason finale, so a big run or a solid per carry average will prove he’s ready for the regular season.
2. Getting over Veldheer: The offensive line had just a few days to process the loss of star left tackle Jared Veldheer. It was clear from the offensive line’s performance that the front five were still in mourning.
The Raiders struggled mightily across the line, especially in Veldheer’s old spot. Alex Barron didn’t seem an adequate replacement, and Friday’s game gives him a chance to prove otherwise.
The line believes their mistakes are easily correctable within a week, removing excuses from Friday night’s performance. They must protect the passer and block well for the run. If not, coordinator Greg Olson must his scheme to compensate for offensive struggles.
3. Stop the run: The Raiders front seven is starting to come together. Injuries kept most starters out of sync during this camp, but they are returning to health. While defense tackle Pat Sims is practicing but won’t play the Bears, tackle Vance Walker and end Lamarr Houston (above, right) will. The defensive line must set a better edge, plug gaps and allow linebackers to make tackles.
That won’t be easy against the Bears. Matt Forte is a true feature back who can do it all, and former Raider Michael Bush provides a physical presence that can wears down a defense. If the run defense stands tall against Chicago, it can compete with the NFL’s best backs.
4. D.J.’s big day First-round draft pick D.J. Hayden (below, right) will play for the first time since rupturing a blood vessel in a November practice at the University of Houston. He was cleared for full contact last week and will start. He’ll play as long as possible, allowing the Raiders to evaluate him as a starting cornerback.
Hayden isn’t nervous about tackling or getting hit, although others might be.
“I’m not worried about it, but I know my mom will be nervous,” Hayden said earlier this week. “I’ll be alright. She will be too.”
5. Pryor’s regular-season role: The Raiders are building a package for backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor. It’s still under construction. Olson is refining it based upon what he does well during games. The better Pryor plays, the more confidence Olson will have in using it.
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Pryor didn’t impress in limited action last week, but he had a good week of practice and seems poised for a good night.
He’s been running exclusively with the second team, but some time with the first team would give the Raiders a better idea of how he fits into the regular-season scheme. That’s not a given. Whether he gets a series with the first team or not, he must move the ball well, throw accurately and be effective running the football.