The Oakland Raiders and RaiderNation hoped that their NFL preseason game against the Detroit Lions would be better early on, as opposed to the wreck that was game 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. As soon as the game started, the Raiders got their first down on the first series, something they could not accomplish last week against the Vikings, until the remaining seconds of the first quarter.
Matt Schaub had three nice completions throughout the game. Schaub connected with James Jones and Rod Streater on consecutive plays. Both Jones and Streater did not receive a single pass against the Vikings. Then Schaub hit Mychal Rivera straight down the sideline, who shook off a few defenders for a huge gain. It was unlike Friday’s game, where Rivera and Schaub could not get on the same page. However after having a big first quarter, everything began to breakdown. Schaub attempted to connect with James Jones on a crossing route and the Lion’s defender got a piece of the ball to knock it in the air where James Ihedigbo picked it off and got a pretty great return out of it.
The 33-year-old Schaub was traded to the Raiders to helpestablish and gain respectability. Heis expected to bring some credibility to the quarterback position after Matt Flynn,Terrelle Pryor and MattMcGloin created havoc in theprevious seasons.
After the Raiders second preseason game, a 27-26 win over the Lions, it became very apparent how big of a task it will be for Schaub to lead this Raiders team to victory over the course of the NFL regular season. Not only does he have to overcome his own limitations as a quarterback, but Schaub also has to deal with a an uninspiring offensive line, a receiving core that is known for frequent drops and a running game that frightens and challenges no one in the league.
If this is what Schaub inherited when he was acquired by the Raiders and signed a new two-year, $13.5 million contract, his greatest accomplishment would be keeping the Raiders from collapsing. It is clear that this team cannot throw effectively, which puts the quarterback of the future, Derek Carr, in a dangerous situation. The Raiders lackluster offensive performance became clear when Carr had to leave the game with a concussion with 5:35 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
It seems evident that the current plan for Carr, is to have him sit and watch. Carr definitely has a lot of developing to do before he can be considered a top NFL quarterback. The worst thing that could happen to Carr’s development would be for the Raiders start him behind a disastrous offensive line, without the ability of a strong running game, so he can throw to incapable receivers who may or may not catch the ball.
After proving that the Raiders have the ability of winning a game during the preseason, the next order of business for Schaub is surviving in the quarterback position. After two preseason games, he has completed just 55 percent of his passes for just 5.4 yards per attempt, no touchdowns and an interception. Whatever spark the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback used to impart to offenses has fizzled out.
On Friday, he showed a glimmer of his old ability. The offense line was like an unlocked gate for most of his 25 snaps. However, Schaub remained strong in the pocket and completed 8 of 13 passes for a total of 87 yards. Schaub did get sacked a few times, but the hits did not appear to affect his performance. When he did not have enough time to connect with his receivers, he was quick on his feet throughout the game to keep the momentum going. Eventually, the Raiders starting unit scored its first touchdown of the preseason, and it was largely because Schaub hung in throughout the game.
“I thought he held up fine,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of Schaub.
That definitely was not the situation last season with the Houston Texans, when he disintegrated under similar circumstances. He was intercepted 14 times in eight games last season, before eventually getting injured and losing his starting quarterback position. Raider fans got a glimpse of what it looks like when Schaub begins to crumble in the second quarter. Schaub’s pass to the left sideline was uninspiring and lazily thrown. Detroit corner Rashean Mathis jumped the route and was a half-step away from intercepting it and running it back for an all too easy touchdown.
Schaub is a system quarterback who needs all the elements working well to be at his best. If his surrounding systems are not working, Schaub cannot be an effective quarterback. In order for Schaub to succeed and to lead the Raiders to victory, he needs to be the veteran who manages adversity well. He needs to be aggressive about developing the young players in the huddle, keeping his players’ heads in the game after mistakes are made and having a positive attitude during difficult times. He needs to be on top of his game when it comes to reading defenses and making good decisions, embracing every advantage possible from his wealth of experience.
“Not everything’s going to go exactly how you draw it up,” Schaub said. “Going to be ups and downs, going to be adversity that you have to face. It’s how you respond to that.
Ideally, the Raiders struggles are just a product of it being the early stages. Perhaps the offensive line will develop some chemistry, the running game will grow to be effective and the receiving core will begin to jell. But if it the units do not improve, the Raiders will greatly need Schaub to turn the team’s misfortunes into fortunes. The alternative could have ramifications beyond this season, and the Raiders and Schaub just cannot afford that.
With a win finally in the bag, the Raiders are 1-1 in the preseason. The Raiders now turn their attention to play against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, August 22th, who are similarly 1-1 in the preseason.