It was 2009 the last time the Raiders played the Saints in the preseason. The New Orleans Saints were still the “Aints” and the Raiders were a team headed into the Tom Cable era without a true identity.
That game-also in Oakland and the third preseason game-was a 45-7 shellacking at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champion Saints. The Raiders would win five games, none by more than four points.
Preseason is usually a time to evaluate individual performances over team performance, but the first half of the third preseason game is the closest we will get to predicting how a team might play during the regular season. The coaches scheme a bit and the starters play at least a full half.
Let’s take a look at third preseason games over the past few years.
2007 first-half score Rams 3 @ Raiders 17.
Rams would finish 3-13. The Raiders would finish 4-12
If it had been any other team besides the Rams, would the Raiders have even won? Both teams were terrible in 2007 and the fact that the Raiders didn’t blow out the Rams was a sign of things to come for both teams.
2008 Cardinals 3 @ Raiders 0
The Cardinals would finish 9-7 and go one to appear and lose in the Super Bowl. The Raiders finish the season 5-11.
This demonstrates how bad the Raiders offense was in 2008. Although the score was close in the first half, the Cardinals would blow the Raiders backups away in the second half and win 24-0. Kurt Warner attempted just four passes and he was the key for the Cardinals run to the playoffs.
In 2009 it was the aforementioned Saints blowout in week three. The halftime score was Saints 31, Raiders 0. Saints win Super Bowl. Raiders finish 5-11. The Raiders don’t want to repeat this performance.
2010 49ers 17, Raiders 14
The 49ers would win six games, the Raiders eight. It was a sign of just how mediocre both teams were in 2010. Did the Raiders have their moments? Absolutely, but everyone could see how mediocre the 49ers were and the Raiders couldn’t put them away at home during the preseason and later turned in a hapless performance in San Francisco during the regular season.
One theme was apparent in just about all of these games. The Raiders could not stop the run and aside from the 2010, the Raiders could not score. Hue Jackson may have solved the offensive woes and if the Raiders can pass more effectively in 2011, they should be more consistent offensively as well.
The questions still remain: Can the Raiders stop the run? Can the Raiders pass protect? Can the Raiders contend for the playoffs?
Those questions may just be answered tonight at O.co Coliseum in Oakland.
Place your attention squarely in the trenches and leave them there for this game only straying to see how the young corners are doing against Drew Brees.
Stefen Wisniewski may win a starting job at left guard instead of center. Samson Satele has played well and Daniel Loper has played terribly so this is a logical move for the Raiders. Pay close attention to how the rookie handles playing guard with the first team.
Bruce Campbell needs to shine brightly tonight to have any chance of supplanting Cooper Carlisle as the starter at right guard. Carlisle has looked solid enough to hold off Campbell so far, but if and when Campbell learns leverage he may get his chance.
The Raiders also haven’t settled on the starter at right tackle. Stephon Heyer is the favorite, but he needs to continue to play well. The Raiders have started using Khalif Barnes as a sixth offensive lineman again, a sign that he may no longer be in the running to start, but will almost assuredly be on the roster. Rookie Joseph Barksdale needs to impress, but is likely headed for a reserve role in his first season. Still, things can change rapidly, pay close attention to who is lining up with the first team.
The Saints are commonly known for their prolific passing game with Drew Brees. This is a very important game for the Raiders young secondary.
The nickel corner job is still very much up for grabs, the Raiders didn’t bring in Lito Sheppard last week for no reason.
Sheppard will not play, so that leaves the young quadruplet Demarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa, Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware to battle for jobs.
The young group will need to hold down a very skilled set of receivers and an elite quarterback. No small task. Sterling Moore figures into the mix as well.
Quentin Groves. Is this guy really a starting linebacker? Will the Raiders rush out to sign a linebacker once players start being cut? Groves needs to show up and prove that the Raiders don’t need to worry about adding depth. The Raiders do need to add linebacker depth whether Groves plays well or not, but Groves can put their mind at ease.
Pressure Brees. The Raiders have a dizzying array of pass rushers. Put the pressure on Brees to give the young secondary a chance.
Have fun watching Taiwan Jones in the second half. He has special speed. If he gets loose he could go for a long one.
Players to watch: Stefen Wisniewski, Quentin Groves, Bruce Campbell
Positions to watch: Offensive line, cornerback
Score prediction: Saints 21, Raiders 17 at the end of the first half.