I always laughed when coaches would try and build up an opponent when their record wasn’t quite what it should have been. For the Oakland Raiders, they come into this game against the Cowboys with a 4-7 mark and to be honest, they are a much better team than that.
On tape, this team has a feel of much like what the Cowboys faced against the Minnesota Vikings. Young quarterback, hard running back, size along the defensive line and finding ways to lose games. With that being said, this will not be the layup of a game most folks might expect. If the Cowboys come out and sleep walk early, then there are going to be some problems.
Dennis Allen was forced to start rookie quarterback, Matt McGloin against the Texans three weeks ago, after Terrelle Pryor suffered a knee injury. McGloin led the Raiders to a victory that day but suffered a setback last week against the Tennessee Titans after the defense gave up the game winning score in the final minute of the game. Allen will stick with McGloin despite the fact that Pryor is healthy and available for this game.
What you have in McGloin is a quarterback who is not the most physically gifted but who uses his abilities to his advantage. He is extremely tough and will hang in the pocket to the bitter end. There were plays where things around him were breaking down around him, but he stood there and delivered the ball.
He doesn’t make mistakes and he gives his receivers a chance to make plays. If he has a flaw, it is that he gets passes knocked down at the line. Against the Titans, I counted four balls that where batted down at the line, with one of those coming on the goal line when he had a receiver open for points. He is not a runner like Pryor, but he can throw on the move and he is a much better passer.
There is a reason that the Raiders are ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game and third in yards per attempt. Terrelle Pryor running the read option during the season helps that average but Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings have played a role in that as well, especially Jennings, who is a load with the ball in his hands.
As much as the Cowboys have struggled playing run defense this season, Jennings is the last guy they want to see this week. This is a large man with a running style that punishes tacklers. Unlike the Giants running backs they faced last week, Jennings has the ability to hit the home run. There is violence in the way he carries the ball because there are plenty of plays where this Raiders offensive line is not creating many opportunities.
There are not many secrets when they hand Jennings the ball. He takes the ball, then he attacks the line. He is powerful enough to carry tacklers for extra yards. Arm tackles are out of the question and if you don’t get enough bodies to him, he is going to make you pay.
Fullbacks Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale are interesting players for the simple reason that they do more than just lead block. Reece took some snaps at “Wildcat” quarterback last week against the Titans and both players are outstanding in the passing game when you throw them the ball.
Throughout this long history, the Oakland Raiders have always had outstanding receivers that were big time players. This group doesn’t strike me that way. There are some nice players in Denarius Moore and Rod Streater but not the type of guys that are going to beat you down after down. Moore has speed and some ability as a route runner. He will secure the ball in his hands. Streater is a tall, rangy player that flashes play making ability. He had a really nice one-handed catch on a double move against the Texans earlier this season. Both Moore and Streater have been dealing with their share of injuries as well.
Moore has had a shoulder problem which caused him to miss practice on Monday, and Streater has a hip issue that he has been fighting through. Andre Holmes, who was formally with the Cowboys and Patriots, has also seen action and appears to be what we remember him as -- a player who looks the part, but when he has to make a contested play, he struggles to finish the job.
It’s interesting mix of players for the Raiders along their offensive line. The way the current group sits, it is not the type of group that you would say there is one player that is the cornerstone of the group.
There is a chance they get Jared Veldheer back in the lineup this week after he suffered a triceps injury in the preseason against the Cowboys. If Veldheer does make it back, then that would allow Khalif Barnes to guard, who has been playing in his spot. There are plays where Barnes can be very good, then others where you see him breaking down. He can be a powerful player in the running game when it comes to setting the edge.
If there is a weakness in the group, it’s on the right side with Mike Brisel and Tony Pashos, which is why they might be interested in moving Barnes to guard for Brisel. Lucas Nix at left guard does a lot of pulling or power blocking in this scheme and is not poor at all doing it. When he can get on his man, he does some good.
Stefen Wisniewski is a solid center and does a nice job of playing on his feet. When you study this group, there is not one or two things they do really well because they always seem to be on the edge of not getting their blocks. These backs really help them and that is what they need.
The Cowboys defensively have faced some outstanding tight ends this season but I would have to say that this group is not one of them. As a group they have 29 total catches with a couple of touchdowns.The best player is rookie Mychal Rivera who does have the ability to work down the field and secure the ball. He is used more in a flex position than he is inline. He took a wicked blow last week in the game against the Titans and left the game with a concussion and was limited in practice on Monday and with the short week, will be pushing it to get back in the lineup.