Raiders Trek To Arizona To Meet Cardinals
We’re still not sure what we were watching last Monday night on ESPN. Pro football, or the English Premier League? Raiders vs. Cowboys? Or was that Everton vs. Stoke City instead?
Forgive us for wondering after watching that bore-fest between Oakland and Dallas, which if bottled might put Sominex out of business. But indeed, that 3-0 scoreline in favor of the Cowboys was the gridiron equivalent to the must mundane of nil-nil draws in the EPL.
Thus, it’s fair to ask what might be in store on Friday night in the desert, when the Silver & Black travel to the Valley of the Sun to do battle with the Arizona Cardinals at U of P Stadium.
The Don Best NFL odds screen notes that the host Cardinals are listed as 5-point favorites at the majority of Las Vegas wagering outlets, with a total hovering between 37 and 37½. Kickoff time in suburban Glendale will be 10:00 p.m. (ET).
For the Big Red to be favored over anyone at this stage of the preseason might be the biggest indictment of Oakland’s unsightly effort on Monday vs. the Cowboys. Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt has not hidden his displeasure at the sloppiness of his team’s first two preseason efforts, a pair of losses and non-covers which began at the Hall of Fame Game two weeks ago in Canton. That 17-10 loss to the Saints and subsequent 27-17 setback at Kansas City (when Arizona was down 17-0 before it knew what hit it) have put “Coach Wiz” on the warpath.
Whisenhunt has been particularly critical of his QB play, which has been shaky at best the first two weeks.
"We had some one-on-one matchups with receivers downfield tonight and didn’t get it to then," said an exasperated Coach Wiz to the Arizona Republic after the defeat vs. the Chiefs. "So those are things that are frustrating."
Kevin Kolb, whose hold on the starting QB job is tenuous at best, figures to get a longer look vs. the Raiders and play most of the first half after completing just 2-of-9 passes for 25 yards combined in losses vs. the Saints and Chiefs. Remember that Kolb, who was temporarily KO’d with chest and rib soreness after absorbing a big hit in the New Orleans, missed seven games due to injury last season.
John Skelton, who helped the Cards to win five of six down the stretch last season, has looked slightly better than Kolb at the QB spot in the early going, completing 7-of-13 passes and moving more comfortably within the pocket. He’ll get a look in at least the third quarter and maybe bits of the second as his candidacy to replace Kolb seems to be gaining momentum in the Valley.
One added note is that San Diego State rookie QB Ryan Lindley, who has flashed some upside in the first two games, will likely get a look in the second half as he hopes to cement his status as the third QB ahead of journeyman Richard Bartel. Lindley has moved the Cards on a few preseason drives and has looked far from helpless in his stints the past few weeks.
Whisenhunt is hopeful that RBs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams will make their preseason debuts against the Raiders after being limited by knee issues earlier in the preseason.
Whisenhunt is also hoping that a return home will benefit the Cardinals, which was not only on the road for its first two games but spent the week prior to the Kansas City game practicing with the Chiefs in St. Joseph, Mo.
Meanwhile, head coach Dennis Allen’s Raiders debut on Monday is best forgotten by Oakland fans, but the Raiders’ inefficiency was cause for alarm against a Cowboys squad that was not expected to put forth a big effort on Monday night.
In truth, however, preseason always figured as a work in progress for Oakland, which is installing a new offense, complete with a zone-blocking scheme and plenty of rollouts and bootlegs by the QBs, for coordinator Greg Knapp. Carson Palmer hardly sounded the panic alarm after the Dallas opener, reiterating that summertime was an opportunity for the new “O” to work out its kinks in time for the regular-season opener September 10 vs. the Chargers.
But there are plenty of kinks, and neither Palmer nor slow-footed backup QB Matt Leinart appeared very comfy at the controls on Monday night. Expect more struggles before the “O” smooths out its rough spots, with the strike force also hoping that ex-Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor builds upon a few encouraging moments in the opener vs. Dallas to perhaps make a bid for the backup spot behind the so-far unimpressive Leinart (who, it must be noted, could be very pumped-up for this game after being released by Whisenhunt and the Cardinals two summers ago).
Still, the Raider receiving corps appears shallow, and preseason will continue to be an audition for backup roles behind Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Jacoby Ford, in particular, needs to redeem himself after several drops and bad routes vs. the Cowboys, while the RB corps will be thinned this week after offseason addittion ex-Carolina RB Mike Goodson suffered a scary neck injury vs. Dallas. Fresno State rookie RB Lonyae Miller expects to get additional work on Friday night.
The Oakland defense, however, could hardly be blamed for the result vs. Dallas, holding the Cowboys scoreless until the fourth quarter of the opener.
Spread-wise, note that home cooking has been a plus for the Big Red the past couple of preseasons, with Arizona 3-0-1 vs. the line at U of P Stadium its last four exhibition home games.
For the Raiders, the struggles vs. Dallas in Allen’s debut continued preseason woes that have stretched back to the Hue Jackson and Tom Cable regimes, as Oakland has now dropped seven straight spread decisions in exhibition play. The Raiders were also ‘over’ 10-4 in their last 14 preseason games before the ‘under’ vs. Dallas in the opener.