You can't say enough about the job Bruce Gradkowski has done to come back from offseason surgery (torn pectoral muscle) to produce two impressive preseason performances. Take it for what it's worth, but Gradkowski has cemented himself as option 1B on the quarterback depth chart in our eyes.
He might not have the measurables of a prototypical NFL quarterback, but Gradkowski more than makes up for it with his poise, leadership, intelligence, and grit. He only completed 50 percent of his passes tonight (thanks to a few dropped passes), but two touchdowns and 128 yards on 14 pass attempts isn't anything to scoff about.
Gradkowski does a nice job of moving in the pocket. There were a number of times when he showed the presence of mind to step up in the pocket when the protection broke down around him.
Kyle Boller finished off a nice preseason as well. Boller made a nice pass to Nick Miller in the third quarter to give the Raiders a 23-16 lead, and finished with 157 yards on 7 of 13 passing.
But perhaps more impressive was the toughness he displayed when running the ball. It was surprising to see Boller running right into the thick of the action even late into the game. Seems like someone forgot to relay him the message that he had locked up a spot on the roster.
Colt Brennan didn't get any time, and that probably doesn't bode well for him. Depending on how serious Jason Campbell's wrist injury turns out to be, it will be interesting to see where Brennan winds up. He'll either be let go or kept as the scout team quarterback.
RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS: B+
Early on, it was somewhat frustrating watching Michael Bennett run. Despite his speed, he's strictly a downfield runner. Whenever Bennett did a little dancing behind the line of scrimmage to shake a defender, he was usually taken down.
But as the game progressed, Bennett started running harder, stronger, and faster. He's at his best when he simply takes the handoff and accelerates to full speed. Bennett finished with 92 yards on 25 carries.
Rock Cartwright has also had a nice preseason. His versatility out of the backfield as a runner and pass catcher, in addition to being able to contribute on special teams, points to him making the 53-man roster.
Again, Cartwright showed a nice ability to make some moves in open space, as well as running the ball between the tackles.
If Michael Bush weren't injured, Head Coach Tom Cable would have a tough call to make between the two veteran running backs. However, with Bush out and with Darren McFadden's injury history, both Bennett and Cartwright have a nice shot.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B-
Darrius Heyward-Bey made a great leaping catch in the first quarter for 34 yards. It was nice to see Heyward-Bey get a little something going after being slowed early in training camp with an injury.
Brandon Myers, who is all but assured a roster spot after the release of Tony Stewart, had somewhat of a letdown performance. Myers is more than capable as a blocker, but dropped a sure first down grab in the second quarter. It was a situation where Myers heard footsteps and simply let it go.
Nick Miller laid out to make a great touchdown grab from Boller. For the second consecutive year, Miller has had a nice training camp and preseason. Hopefully, he'll be able to stay healthy enough to contribute this season. It's not a sure thing he'll make the roster, but in our eyes, he's done enough to deserve a spot.
Shaun Bodiford made a couple of catches, including one on a freak play after Boller's pass was deflected twice, first by Jacoby Ford and then by a Seahawks defender, and Bodiford skied to snag the ball. Bodiford has had a nice training camp, but the bubble he's on is fragile.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
At first, it looked like it was going to be an average performance (at best) for the offensive line. But as the game progressed, the first and second units both stepped it up in the running and passing game.
The unit only allowed one sack and generally gave Gradkowski and Boller plenty of time to throw. In the running game, the line has to do a better job of opening up holes, but what they did do was create a great push for Bennett and Cartwright.
Also, the line continues to do a good job on screens. Bruce Campbell, who got the start at right guard, was able to display some of that 4.85, 40-yard dash speed. Campbell's got to work to add some more bulk to his frame, but he did an excellent job working up to the second levels and taking on opposing linebackers.
Despite what was an overall good performance by the line, Samson Satele didn't do much to instill any confidence. As we said in our review of the 49ers game, Satele's lack of strength is a legitimate concern. Gradkowski's sack was a direct result of Campbell being dominated at the line by Amar Gordon.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C
Interestingly, Trevor Scott got the start at right end, but by the third defensive series, he was replaced by likely starter Matt Shaughnessy. All that is, is a testament to the confidence the coaching staff in moving some guys around.
The defensive line put adequate pressure on Seahawks' quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst had to do a lot of moving around early on to avoid the pressure, and that was a good job of the line forcing him to make quick and uncomfortable decisions.
In the first half, the run defense definitely struggled. There were a lot of big holes for the Seahawks' running backs to run through, and it was glaringly obvious whenever the Seahawks moved their offensive line. Misdirection might be the defensive line's Achilles Heal.
In the second half, however, the defensive line had a more complete game. It seemed JP Losman was constantly back peddling after the snap, and the running game didn't fare much better as well.
The second unit did make some stupid penalties, though. It's probably a case of where some of the second unit guys who are on the bubble were playing more aggressively to help their cause.
It was an uninspiring performance by the linebacking unit.
The starting unit consisted of Thomas Howard, Ricky Brown, and Quentin Groves.
If anything, the performance was somewhat disappointing, especially against the run. Remember those running holes the Seahawks' offensive line created? Well, whenever a hole opened up, it was hard to find a Raider linebacker who was in position to make a play.
Charlie Whitehurst had a field day throwing the ball deep. Whitehurst finished with 210 yards through the air, and he wasn't afraid of showcasing his arm strength.
If there is one guy who has hurt himself the most this preseason, it might be Chris Johnson. Tom Cable has yet to acknowledge either Johnson or Stanford Routt as the other starting cornerback opposite Nnamdi Asomugha, but the fact that Johnson played so much in the final preseason game might be an indicator of a change in the depth chart.
Johnson was beat by the deep ball on three separate occasions, and as it has been the usual case in his career, Johnson struggles most at the initial point of contact. It's a regular site to see Johnson being beat by receivers within the first five yards, and tonight's game was another example of that.
Mike Mitchell had the hit of the night, as he laid out Justin Forsett in the second quarter.
And just like the linebacking unit struggling to fill the holes, the secondary, specifically the safeties, have to do a better job of providing run support. As the Raiders rely so heavily on man-to-man coverage, the safeties have to be quicker to the ball carriers.
Finally, poor tackling continues to haunt the Raiders, and at no time was that more obvious than on Deon Butler's 26-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Butler should have been taken down, but instead, he danced around the Raider secondary's arm tackles, and ran clear into the end zone.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
For the night, Swayze Waters receives a B+. He was perfect on his field goals and extra point attempts, but he definitely doesn't have the leg for kickoffs.
Still, it was an admirable preseason performance for Waters. It's hard to imagine that the Raiders will carry three kickers, but if anything, Waters' preseason was an audition for any of the other NFL teams who might need a kicker this season.
Where the special teams unit's grade really suffered was in the return game and in coverage.
It's a shame because Tom Cable made it a point this offseason to improve the return game, but Johnnie Lee Higgins, Yamon Figurs, and Nick Miller have failed to do much.
Louis Rankin's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was an absolute breakdown in coverage, as he went untouched on the play.
Needless to say, special teams has been somewhat of a letdown this preseason.
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