Offensive exhibition similar to last year

If there's one thing the exhibition season tells us – don't take anything seriously.

That includes the Oakland Raiders offensive struggles in their first two exhibition games. For starters, there are many teams that go, for example, 3-1 in the exhibition season but can only put together a 6-10 or 7-9 regular season. Conversely, there are plenty of clubs putting together 1-3 exhibitions that go 12-4 in the regular season.

The Raiders have produced a 1-1 exhibition record with a 7-6 win over St. Louis and a 14-10 loss to San Francisco with the offense producing 631 total yards.

For every good play, however, there have been penalties and turnovers. Oakland, which hosts Minnesota Saturday, has been flagged 19 times and turned the ball over four times. The first unit, however, has not looked anything close to the form it enjoyed last season when the Raiders had the top-rated passing game on the way to a Super Bowl appearance.

The last part of the previous sentence should draw ample attention because the trend is strikingly similar through the first two exhibition games last season when the Raiders tallied 647 total yards but also hamstrung themselves with 26 penalties and five turnovers.

Granted, it would behoove Oakland's offense to begin performing better in its last two exhibition games against Minnesota and Dallas respectively. However, their struggles are no reason to panic and, frankly, that notion goes beyond not taking exhibition games very seriously.

The Raiders will not be facing teams in the regular season that will remind them of Tampa Bay, the same unit that stymied them in a 48-21 Super Bowl loss. Oakland faces only two teams in the regular season that finished last year in the top ten in the NFL in total defense: Denver (sixth) and Tennessee (tenth). The Raiders, who return nine of 11 starters on offense, went 3-0 against those teams.

Cincinnati, which finished 17th last season in total defense, comes to Oakland in Week 2 and should be improved defensively under new head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals, however, likely will not have gelled by that point. Baltimore, which visits Oakland Dec. 14, finished 22nd in total defense but should be better with a healthy Ray Lewis at middle linebacker. The Ravens, however, are not likely to resemble the team that dismantled Oakland in a 16-3 win in the 2001 AFC Title Game.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at vdad7@yahoo.com


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