The last time the Lions were in Oakland was last December when they grabbed control of their playoff destiny. The scenario is very different this time around but still quite important for a number of players that still need to make good impressions on the coaching staff.
To preview the upcoming game and get a better feel for what has been going on in Raiders camp, I got with Chris Shellcroft, editor of Just Blog Baby. My thanks to Chris.
1. The AFC West may not have the best top-end teams but it looks very competitive from top to bottom. What should we watch for on Saturday as an indication the Raiders could be in the division hunt?
Chris Shellcroft: For Oakland it’s the starting over again process…again. New coaching staff, new playbook, new defensive scheme, new philosophies. Everything is brand spanking new so what Raider Nation will be looking for is seeing how much the offense has adjusted to Greg Knapp’s play calling, how much further along the O-line is in adopting the zone blocking scheme and determining whether or not Carson Palmer is saving whatever he’s got left for the regualr season or if he’s just doing his best to sabotage whatever hopes the Raiders may have of making the playoffs in the AFC Worst.
2. What is the general feeling about the Raiders’ quarterback situation behind Carson Palmer?
CS: The general feeling is that Palmer is playing his way out of the Bay which means starting over again at QB unless something magic happens this season. Matt Leinart has looked really sharp but in the preseason its easy to get caught up watching game with those football beer goggles on. Terrelle Pryor has a very long way to go and to me it seems like a waste of talent to keep him at QB. At best, he looks like a middle of the road spot starter/journeyman. However as a receiver or tight end he could be dynamic. Overall the QB situation has looked dire as Palmer is playing very poorly and Leinart hurt his non-throwing hand last week. Still, it’s a much better situation than a year ago when Kyle Boller’s one half of football made Hue Jackson push the panic button and trade for Palmer.
3. Who has been a pleasant surprise in camp and might be an unexpected member of the final 53?
CS: By far its rookie receiver Rod Streater. He went undrafted out of Temple, flying well below the radar into Oakland. In OTAs he impressed, did the same in camp and has been making plays in the preseason games as well. There’s no doubt he’ll make the 53-man the only real drama is what kind of a role he’ll have. With the receiving corp crippled by injuries, there’s an outside chance he’ll be starting come the Monday Night opener if not playing a role in the slot.
4. What is the hottest position battle yet to be settled?
CS: Truth be told many of the highly anticipated position battles were over almost as soon as they started. Terrelle Pryor has done nothing to put pressure on Matt Leinart. DeMarcus Van Dyke looked poised to push for a starting cornerback gig until the pressure of the preseason spotlight made him revert to rookie form. Aaron Curry has been out all of camp so rookie Miles Burris inherited a starting job by default and the tight end position is an absolute mess. At this point the only undecided battle might be Darren McFadden’s backup as Mike Goodson looked awful in his debut last week while Taiwan Jones will get his chance to shine on Saturday.
5. With the third preseason game usually billed as the “dress rehearsal”, what do you hope to see from the Raiders against the Lions?
CS: What Megatron did in Oakland last year still haunts me. No doubt the Lions were the better team but had the silver and black defense not been beaten black and blue then we would have seen a much different outcome. Why Rolando McClain was asked to cover Johnson remains one of the great mysteries this side of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. I realize its just preseason but I’d like to see the Raider defense play up, Darren McFadden get off and Matthew Stafford get dropped a couple times. The Raiders need to show some pride in this one. Might seem overblown for a preseason game but this new regime is all about the culture change and this would be the best opportunity yet to show just that.