Defense Leads the Way Against in Dallas

Jason Campbell and Rolando McClain make their Raider debuts, as the Raiders use a fourth quarter rally to win their first preseason game, 19-7. The defense leads the way against the Cowboys, and Kyle Boller makes a statement for himself late in the game.

The Oakland Raiders offense struggled to do much of anything in the first three quarters, but the defense carried the way and gave the team the opportunity to win late over the Dallas Cowboys, 19-7 in Cowboys Stadium.

Jason Campbell made his much-anticipated debut in silver and black, completing 7 of 13 passes for 49 yards. There was nothing spectacular about Campbell's performance, especially considering the offense's inability to move the ball with any consistency let alone get the ball into the endzone. However, it's definitely arguable that there's a different air of confidence surrounding the Oakland offense. Particularly, that this is no longer the sinking ship that it once was with JaMarcus Russell under center.

Perhaps we're seeing things that aren't necessarily there, and it's important to keep in mind that this is still only the first preseason game. But until the third preseason game, generally considered the best barometer for the upcoming season, it's the little things that count with these first two contests, and it's those little things we'll focus on.

While Campbell did not impress, Kyle Boller certainly cemented himself as one of the three quarterbacks the Raiders will keep this season. Bruce Gradkowski's and Charlie Frye's injuries have opened the door for Boller, and he did more than make a name for himself. Boller threw for 148 yards and one touchdown on 12 for 21 passing—a completion percentage of 57.1% At first, it didn't seem as if Boller would be able to do much against the Cowboys' defense, but he and the offense kept knocking at the door of opportunity, and by the fourth, a victory was open for the taking.

Boller led a 13-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown strike to Nick Miller to bring the Raiders within two points. On that play, Boller threw an impressive ball that faded just over the extended arms of the defender and into Miller's hands. It should also be noted that Miller made quite the leap to get to the ball, and an acrobatic landing that a Raiders challenge later verified as a touchdown. Miller continues to impress in his two preseason stints with the team, and hopefully, he can stay healthy to make the final roster.

Of course, the real story of the game was the defense, specifically, the play of the Raiders' defensive line. Rookie defensive end Lamarr Houston got the sack parade started early for the Raiders. On the Cowboys' first offensive drive, Houston sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo twice, after Romo struggled to find an open receiver against the Raider secondary's tight coverage.

Second-year defensive end Matt Shaughnessy also had two sacks for the defense, and if those two, Shaughnessy and Houston, continue to develop like they've shown so far in the offseason, Raider fans definitely have something exciting to look forward to this upcoming season.

Another guy who definitely stood out was Trevor Scott. Scott also had a sack, but what was most interesting about it was from where it happened. Scott, who has been slated as the starting weakside linebacker, moved down to his old position at strongside end while the front was lined up in a 3-4 scheme. Scott used his superior speed against the Cowboys' opposing tackle to get to Romo and sack him for the third time on that first offensive drive.

Early on, the secondary had its moments when it had a tough time against the Cowboys' air attack, but for the most part, they played well as a team for only the first preseason game. Nnamdi Asomugha was his usual impressive self, and defensive coordinator Jim Marshall certainly kept with the trend of using his Pro Bowl corner in a variety of ways.

Chris Johnson was beat a few times when going against those quick slant routes, but to his credit, those passes are tough to defend regardless. Johnson has shown that when he's on his game, he's certainly worthy of playing the spot opposite Asomugha, but it's always a matter of just staying consistent and avoiding getting beat against the deep balls. Johnson has shown to be capable against the run.

Rookie Rolando McClain's debut was overshadowed by that of Lamarr Houston, and while he didn't blow anyone away with his performance, he showed a nice ability pursue the ball. We'll probably have a better idea of what McClain can do by the third preseason game.

Give it up for the young Raiders secondary as well. Rookie corners Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, who got plenty of time in the second half, held up nicely against the Cowboys second team offense. McFadden has gained the confidence of the coaching staff, and while a roster spot isn't guaranteed, he's headed in the right direction.

For seventh round picks Jeremy Ware and Stevie Brown, again, they need to continue to show that they not only offer versatility in their game, but that they can hold up in live game situations when called upon. Brown's interception to end the game wasn't of consequence, but it's nice to see a young guy, especially a seventh round pick, make a name for himself in such a manner.

On offense, the wide receivers failed to do much. Darius Heyward-Bey recorded no catches, and it's a shame considering the amount of praise he's been getting this season. Louis Murphy had one catch for 14 yards, but was also the target of two Jason Campbell deep balls that were slightly off target.

The running game didn't blow anyone away, but for the most part, Michael Bush, Rock Cartwright, and Michael Bennett did better than what you would expect in the first game of the preseason. Of the three, however, Michael Bennett definitely helped himself the most. While he might not be as fast as he once was, he's still got some good burst, and as he showed on a free screen plays, he's still a threat in the open field.

Perhaps the biggest issue the offense faces is the play of its line. The first preseason game often features some bone-headed mistakes, but the offensive line probably committed more penalties than you would like to see. Rookies Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell played relatively well, with Veldheer switching off between left tackle and center. They still have a ways to go in their development, but it was a good first outing for the youngsters.

The veterans didn't instill much confidence however, and it's glaringly obvious that if the offensive line continues the status quo, then this offense will struggle. Jason Campbell will make this offense perform better, but this line continues to be the team's biggest hindrance. It's not so much that the Cowboys defensive line had their way with them, but Campbell could have definitely used more time to throw, especially on those deeper routes he attempted early in the game.

Ultimately, the win doesn't mean much, but for a team that has struggled to do much in the past seven seasons, the manner in which this young Raiders team won should instill some confidence for the future. Head Coach Tom Cable played Jason Campbell and the first team more than expected, but the second half was given to the second team, and they performed well in a situation that does its best to mirror a live game, pressure situation.

SB Report Top Stories