Here are a few more thoughts from the Raiders game after watching some of the game film.
- Head coach Jason Garrett always talks about the lights get a little brighter in these games. For these receivers, it was an opportunity to try and separate themselves or fall back into the pack. Cole Beasley received some early work with the first team in the nickel package. He was able to get down the field out of the slot against Michael Huff, but Romo couldn't get the ball on him.
Where Beasley had his best shot for a play was on the fourth-and-2 when he was on the backside, inside of Tim Benford, in a tight formation. At the snap, Beasley explodes off the line, and with Benford running inside, Beasley is in great position to make the play. But quarterback Stephen McGee has already made up his mind that he is going to go to tight end James Hanna on his left and the ball gets knocked away. If McGee throws it to Beasley, it's one-on-one and a shot at a huge play in the open field. Instead, it was a missed opportunity.
I thought that Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris did a nice job in the chances that they received. Holmes was able to handle some contested balls using his size, while Harris played with some quickness and toughness. On third-and-15, Harris runs a seven-yard curl which McGee throws on the money. He makes the catch and heads up the field, avoiding the corner and safety in driving for the sticks to try and get the first down.
I thought there was a big missed opportunity for points when Benford lined up wide left with no safety help in the middle of the field and one-on-one coverage to the outside. Benford is able to beat the press coverage of Bryan McCann off the line and McGee reads it all the way, but McCann is able to rally as the ball is in the air. It looks like Benford doesn't adjust well enough to the flight of the ball and it lands a foot out of his reach. Benford didn't have good enough body position to make the play, which would have sealed the game at the time.
- If you want to focus on a position that played well as a group against the Raiders, it would have to be the safeties. There have been so many questions about this position and how the club was going to address it, but for one night it all came together.
I thought that Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh were outstanding and that carried over to Danny McCray, Mana Silva and Eddie Whitley. As a group, they showed range, awareness and a physical desire to get to the ball. It started with Sensabaugh's interception and the way he was able to read Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer, see the route develop, and put himself in position to make the play. His effort was impressive.
Later in the half, Church was able to drive on the ball underneath inside to keep the Raiders from converting a third down. McCray carried over some coverage skills that he's shown in camp when dealing with tight ends, being in position to defend a play, but I liked Silva and Whitley late in the contest with the game on the line, playing with confidence in coverage and not allowing the ball to get into field goal range.
- The overall linebacker play I thought was outstanding. We didn't see the battle of Dan Connor or Bruce Carter, but we did have young guys like Alex Albright, Adrian Hamilton, Kyle Wilber and Baraka Atkins making plays.
Albright, known more as core special teamer, was all over the field on Monday night. He showed up as an inside and outside linebacker, he was an edge rusher in the nickel, and he was used in coverage. The scout in me believes that his best position might be on the inside where he can play off blocks and go to the ball. He has an understanding of how to find the ball and he is a physical player once he gets there.
Where Hamilton, Wilber and Atkins were able to shine was as pass rushers coming off the edge. One of Hamilton's best moves is when he spins. There were several plays where he used it to his advantage off the edge. He carries the tackle hard up the field, then spins hard to the outside creating pressure.
If there was a disappointment in the night, it was Wilber breaking his thumb. It looks like he will miss some time, which is tough luck for him.
- On the defensive line there were some struggles early, but as a group, they were able to settle down and play with better pad level. Veteran Marcus Spears is competing like he's fighting for a roster spot while Josh Brent, who is in a battle with Robert Callaway for the backup nose tackle position, did a much better job of playing with his hands.
Rookies Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass continued to show the ability to carry techniques that they learn in practice to the game. There is no quit in either of these young prospects, their effort chasing plays from the backside or on the pass rush helping the defense get off the field in the second half.
Crawford is the offensive version of Arkin in that he plays a ton of snaps, which is not a bad thing. He got work on both the right and left side at end as well as inside at tackle in the nickel. Bass has a motor that doesn't stop. His effort is relentless and the more Raiders' quarterback Terrelle Pryor scrambled around, the better he was because he would chase the play. Bass and Crawford really do a nice job of working not to stay blocked. Where Crawford did have a little trouble was in the running game when his pads got a little high and he would get knocked down inside, but that will improve with experience.
- The one thing you always have to remember when watching a preseason game is that it is never as bad as it seems, but there are things that you can always improve on. While the effort overall was good, there were plenty of mental mistakes that will need to be addressed before the team plays Saturday in San Diego. The alignment problems on special teams can be corrected, but it's something that shouldn't happen again or those players don't need to be a part of the 53. For some, it was a nice start; for others, it was a missed opportunity that they can't afford.