The Oakland Raiders traveled to Oxnard, California to practice (and fight) with the Dallas Cowboys and while it is not akin to a live game, practicing against another team brings a level of intensity and competition you don’t normally see in practice. It is helpful not only because players get valuable reps in more realistic situations, but because it gives teams a chance to match themselves up against unfamiliar NFL competition.
The Oakland Raiders looked bad in their first preseason game of the year, with the starting offense looking rather inept in particular. Quarterback Matt Schaub could not get anything going as the offense failed to even pass the 50-yard line. Luckily for the Raiders, things ran much more smoothly for Schaub and the starting offence this week.
There is no score in practice, but it was clear the Raiders offense got the better of the Cowboys defense. Starting quarterback Matt Schaub was sharp both days.
Running backs Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets all had good gains. Allen believes the Raiders are forging an identity.
“I like the direction our run game is headed. I think we have to make some strides in the passing game in time,’’ Allen said. “There are a lot of new pieces in that part of our offense. I think defensively, I’ve been impressed with our ability to rush the passer. Those are some signs that this team’s getting better.
The Raiders have made a big bet on Schaub — if he fails, there is a good chance the team as a whole crashes along with him. The Raiders hope to have a strong running game so he doesn’t need to play like a top-five quarterback, but he can’t be terrible either. The team needs him to protect the ball and keep them on schedule for first downs, or the Raiders will get buried quickly in the AFC West and fans will start chanting for a certain second round pick.
Before the Allen Iverson quotes come raining down, I realize we’re only talking about practice. And it’s not like the Cowboys have a defense that’ll scare anyone in 2014. But after a abysmal start to the preseason, the Raiders need to see some positives — otherwise, thoughts of a third straight four-win season may start creeping back into everyone’s minds, including the players. Plus, there is something to be said for momentum and rhythm. This is a team that’s full of new players, and incremental progress is the best the team can hope for at this stage.