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Old 08-30-2007, 08:38 PM    (permalink
nobodyinparticular
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Default Four to look for in Preason Game 4

Copy and paste from my post in the Gameday thread.

This Raider game will determine McCown vs. Culpepper and a couple other key battles for the Raiders.

1. Starting QB--McCown vs. Culpepper:

McCown has been solid throughout the preseason. He hasn't made mistakes and as such has felt no highs or lows from game to game. He hasn't made many great plays at all, but he is the most mobile of the 3 QBs on the Raiders' roster. That said, consistently mediocre is of no use at all.
Culpepper has had his good games and bad games. He has the better deep accuracy of the two QBs still vying for the starting spot, but he has made his share of mistakes. He continues to be plagued with bad center exchanges--the only one of the 3 QBs to do so--and head coach Lane Kiffin will not put up mistakes this year. That is doubly true for unforced errors (idiot mistakes) like fumbling or bobbling the snaps. All eyes will be on who makes the deep throws, the 1st downs and who minimizes the mistakes.

2. Backup RB--Justin Fargas vs. Adimchinobe Echemandu (Etch-a-Sketch): Fargas returns this season as the leading rusher from the Raiders' 2006 team.
Echemandu comes in as a perennial also-ran, a practice squad RB. However, Etch-a-Sketch flourished in training camp behind the newly refurbished offensive line in a new zone blocking cut back scheme. FB Justin Griffith, who has experience in the same running scheme from his days in Atlanta, said that Echemandu is the only RB he has seen immediately take to the cutback system. "He's a natural," says Griffith. Etch-a-Sketch has not been a letdown in the preason either, providing a big play on screens and runs every game so far.
Fargas, on the other hand, has had a solid preseason and is the only Raider running back with the speed to be a home run threat out of the backfield. Look for both backs to get extended time in the game as Jordan and Rhodes (who will be suspended the first 4 games of the season) will receive a couple token carries and then watch from the sidelines the rest of the year. There is question, however, if his attacking style of running suits the patient, wait for the right hole, cutback style of the Raiders.

This battle will also have a great effect on what the team chooses to do with Michael Bush in regards to the PUP and the IR. If either or both of these players struggle, the Raiders may activate Bush from the PUP in the middle of the season, but if the Raiders are comfortable with right RBs after Rhodes comes back from his suspension, you will likely see Bush placed on the injured reserve, regardless of his actual health.

3. WR #3--Mike Williams, Travis Taylor, Johnnie Lee Higgins:
Mike Williams comes to the Raiders on the heels of two seasons of underperforming for the Detroit Lions after they made him 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft. Williams, however, has the advantage of being tailor made for coach Kiffin's offensive system and would make for a great red zone threat and safety valve for whoever lines up under center. He is still a little overweight and doesn't get great separation, but he has shown that he has great concentration catching in traffic and can leap over defenders for the jump ball and fade route in the endzone.
Travis Taylor also comes into the season as a first-year Raider and a 1st round disappointment to this point in his career. With that said, he still has more career receptions than any other Raider and his skillset should fit well as a good possession/slot receiver in Kiffin's offense. The only problem is that so far his hands have proven to be suspect at best and if he continues to be plagued by the 'dropsies' he may not only see a drop down in the depth chart, but he may also be dropped from the Raiders' roster entirely. The wild card in this mix is rookie receiver
Johnnie Lee Higgins who was the final 3rd round pick of the Raiders and the final draft pick on the Day 1. Like RB Justin Fargas, Higgins brings the speed and home run ability that the rest of the Raiders' roster lacks. He has great hands and amazing game speed. While the speed of Higgins is a great draw, it's the versatility that he brings to the table that may make Kiffin drool. As shown in last week's preseason game against the Rams, Higgins can be used very effectively on WR end around plays, drag routes, slant routes and deep seam routes. The ability to stretch the defense to open up the underneath routes should not be underestimated. This battle will be determined on who doesn't make the mistakes. If Williams and Taylor continue to struggle with dropping passes, look for the rookie to get the most time in the regular season. All three wide receivers should get a long look in a game that will see starters Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry out of the game after the first offensive series.

4. Starting C--Jeremy Newberry vs. Jake Grove:
Jake Grove was the 2nd round pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 2004 draft that was supposed to bring about a new era in the Raiders offensive line that would see Robert Gallery and Jake Grove anchor the line for a decade to come. As everyone knows, that hasn't happened. As much as has been made about Gallery's lack of performance, Grove has performed just as poorly. When Grove was not being man handled by opposing tackles he was standing still while watching the MLB blitz right past him to hit the QB before he could reach the top of his drop. But that was last year with the terrible trio of Shell, Eatman and Slater, and--to his credit--Grove has looked much more comfortable in the new scheme that was set in place by the new trio of coaches--Kiffin, Knapp and Cable.
Jeremy Newberry, like many others fighting for starting spots on the offense, is a first year Raider. He comes to the Silver and Black after a great Pro Bowl career across the Bay. The only problem is that those Pro Bowl days are many seasons and many knee injuries behind him. This year, however, he has come to Oakland more healthy than he has been in years. With experience in offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's system in San Francisco and Tom Cable's system at Cal Berkley, Newberry feels right at home in Oakland. He also brings a nastiness to a Raiders' offensive line that has been lacking for years. Raider coaches will look to see who shows the best strength at the point of attack and who handles the center exchanges the best. Don't underestimate the importance of calling protection schemes for the offensive line either.
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