It was finally back to the gridiron for the Oakland Raiders and the beginning of their 2013 campaign. Although it was just the first preseason game, the Raiders walked away with a 19-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The team looked leaps and bounds better than when they lined up at this time a season ago.
As per first preseason game tradition, quarterback Matt Flynn started the game, but only appeared in two series. On his second drop back, he was blindsided with a huge hit by linebacker Sean Lee resulting in a fumble, recovered by Dallas. Despite the turnover, Flynn rebounded the next series completing four consecutive passes and drove the Raiders to a Sabastian Janikowski 51 yard field goal.
Terrelle Pryor relieved Flynn and showed his development. Pryor used his legs and arm to drive the Oakland offense 84 yards deep into Dallas territory. However, he made a crucial mistake once inside the ten yard line. Pryor rolled out, had a chance to run for a touchdown or first down, but instead forced a throw across his body into heavy coverage that was intercepted in the endzone. It was the third year quarterback's only mistake, but it was critical.
“He should have tucked it and ran it,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the Pryor turnover. “I think that’s one of those things, that’s one of the things that we’ve been talking a lot to our football team about, just playing smart situational football. I think one thing we’ve got to continue to work with Terrelle is he’s always trying to make the big play. He’s always trying to make the spectacular play and sometimes the best play is just put the ball underneath your arm and run it, go get the 1st down.”
Despite the bad mistake, Pryor showed all the hard work he is putting in is paying off. He looked like a more polished quarterback than in the season finale last year. His athleticism adds a unique dimension to the Oakland offense. He finished the game 6-10 for 88 yards as well as three rushes for 31 yards. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson implemented certain plays just for Terrelle Pryor. He ran numerous read options well. Flynn is still the starter, but Pryor is making a case. Worst case scenario, he is an intriguing number two for Oakland.
Defensively the Raiders were without three potential starters on the defensive line. Defensive tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker were out along with defensive end Lamaar Houston. Because of those omissions, the only determination that can be made is they lack depth. They had issues getting to Cowboy's quarterback Tony Romo, who at times had minutes to throw. Once those guys return, the defensive line puzzle with take better shape.
Linebacker is a position the Raiders beefed up this offseason. All three starters, Kevin Burnett, Nick Roach, and Sio Moore, were all players brought in this offseason. Moore, the rookie third round selection, started his career out with a bang. On Dallas' first series, Moore drilled Romo for a sack. With the lack of pass rush a season ago, Moore instantly showed he has the good instincts going for the quarterback.
The secondary is another position the Raiders focused on this offseason. Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter started at cornerback. Porter had some difficulties giving too much cushion to receivers. When the Raiders did have difficulty in pass coverage, it came in the middle of the field and on underneath routes. It will be a point of emphasis next week. Strong safety Tyvon Branch made a great play to block a field goal attempt and Usama Young had the sole interception for the defense.
The third string defense really showed good form. They played with the energy and passion of guys fighting to make a football team. Undrafted rookie cornerback Chance Casey was all over the field. He made an impression in his first NFL game.
Matt McGloin, who has overtaken rookie fourth round pick Tyler Wilson for the third quarterback job, relieved Pryor. He accounted for the Raiders only touchdown, connecting with rookie wide receiver Brice Butler for a 30 yard touchdown. After play action, McGloin let it rip to Butler who dove and made a great fingertip catch. It was a great pass and even better catch. It also gave the Raiders a 16-10 lead. The two also connected on a 40 yard pass to set up the score.
“I thought Matt McGloin came in and did a really nice job,” Allen said. “Him and Brice Butler had a couple connections there. So that was good to see.”
Wilson was the last quarterback to enter the game. He had a rough start, getting sacked on his first drop back. He settled in later and completed a few passes, finishing 3-6 for 28 yards. He is now in a real third string quarterback battle with McGloin and will have to show improvement in order to win that job.
On special teams the Raiders made marked improvement. Greg Jenkins returned a kickoff 51 yards. Janikowski made both of his field goal attempts and back-up Eddy Carmona made two of three. The best Dallas return of the night was 28 yards. It was a very good night for the special teams units and new coach Bobby April.
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