Three and Out: Eyes on Barron; pistol for Pryor; Brees to test DBs
Quarterback Matt Flynn didn’t stand a chance against the Saints because the Raiders couldn’t protect him. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn was sacked five times by the Saints in the first half. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Darren McFadden couldn’t convert on fourth down early in this game. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
The first half of Friday night’s preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints was tough to watch. The second viewing wasn’t much better.
The Raiders were outclassed on offense and defense, especially at the line of scrimmage. That’s no secret. Let’s explore why.
Flynn takes a beating: Quarterback Matt Flynn didn’t stand a chance against the Saints because the Raiders couldn’t protect him. There were some one-on-one battles lost, the worst of which was new left tackle Alex Barron getting brushed aside with a quick hand move. Khalif Barnes also got beat outside and Andre Gurode once got flat bull rushed.
[REWIND: Oakland can't protect quarterback]
The Raiders pass protection issues seemed to be more mental than anything else. They seemed to have a tough time identifying blitzers and picking them up properly. That’s why so many Saints came at Flynn unblocked, which eliminated the prospect of a quick pass to capitalize on a hole in coverage.
Coach Dennis Allen said the Saints gave them some advanced looks for the preseason, and they certainly did. Blitzers were well disguised, and often more complex than what teams would see at this stage. When the quarterback is under assault, he has to keep a tight end or a running back out of the pattern to sustain the pocket. There are mental and physical errors left to fix if the Raiders are to execute better.
As we saw on Friday, you can’t play offense if you can’t protect.
Dissecting the pass rush: We’ve beat up on the defensive line enough already. There’s no denying that the pass rush was non-existent in the first half, but let’s not pile on right now. The Raiders were missing Lamarr Houston, Pat Sims and Vance Walker due to injury.
Another thing to ponder: Jason Tarver’s play calling was pretty vanilla. The defensive coordinator likely did that to: 1. see how his players responded in one-on-one matchups and 2. avoid showing his hand too early. When the regular-season starts, the blitzing will be much more intricate and give the pass rush a better chance to succeed.
On 4th-and-1: Darren McFadden couldn’t convert on fourth down early in this game, a troubling turn for a team that must excel in manageable downs. McFadden ran a counter right and fullback Marcel Reece sealed a crease from the outside, but Ramon Humber shot the gap and stopped McFadden for no gain. Give credit over blame in this instance, but a runner of McFadden’s caliber should be able to evade or push for a hard yard in that instance.
[Instant Replay: Saints score early and often, beta Raiders 28-20]
The big bomb: Quarterback Drew Brees connected with receiver Nick Toon on a 56-yard pass against cornerback Tracy Porter. Porter was with him but slowed a step when he turned back for the ball. If he doesn’t break stride, Porter gets to that ball. It was all on him without safety help over the top.The Raiders got a pass rush on that play – Jason Hunter delivered the defense’s only quarterback hit on that play – but were a second slow to prevent the big play.
Brees’ TD strike: Brees had all day to throw that pass. The Raiders rushed only three against five linemen, but never made headway. After more than 10 seconds in the pocket, receiver Kenny Stills broke left, Brees rolled out and found his man. The defensive line was outmanned in that instance, but giving that kind of time to throw a pass is unacceptable.
Flynn-to-Moore connection: The Raiders best offensive play came when Flynn had time to throw. Surprise, surprise.
Center Stefen Wisniewski fortified the pocket, with a secured block and Flynn threw a perfect strike to the corner of the end zone before Denarius Moore adjusted his route. It was indefensible, and secured well by Moore in the end zone. Touchdown, Raiders.
Hindsight is 20/20:
-- Tracy Porter didn’t have a great day. He got beat on the 56-yard pass, the touchdown that took forever to develop and left the game with a groin injury. He missed practice leading up the game, and didn’t seem to be 100-percent healthy while playing.
-- Andre Gurode made some mistakes with the first unit. He allowed pressure by double-teaming a defender while another came free. He missed an easy block in space on a screen set up for Rashad Jennings and got bull rushed to the ground by linebacker Will Smith. Gurode’s day certainly gives Mike Brisiel a shot to reclaim his starting spot when healthy.
-- Josh Cribbs looks like he’s lost a step. He had knee issues this offseason, but he doesn’t seem to be the return threat he once was. He still finds running lanes and shoots through them well, but he doesn’t seem to be a legitimate home-run threat right now.
-- Usama Young is a big-hitter who fits in well at free safety. He offers tremendous depth at the safety spot.
-- Middle linebacker Nick Roach played better in the first half than I originally gave him credit for. He plays bigger than his actual size and showed an ability to be a quality run defender.
-- David Bass is a threat as a situational pass rusher. I still think he needs work, but he has a playmaker’s instincts. They were on display on the sack-fumble returned for a fumble, when he found a way to dislodge the football.