This was an interesting game to watch – we saw Tony Romo and Jason Witten, among others in their first preseason action after sitting out the Hall of Fame game, as well as the second look at Dallas’ defense under Monte Kiffen. For Oakland, the quarterback position is in the spotlight with offseason acquisition Matt Flynn looking to take command of the offense.
The Raiders took the victory in what was a surprisingly competitive back and forth affair. It yielded some notable performances to take a look at.
Cowboys – Three performances of note
Back in Form
The last time we saw Sean Lee was Week 7 of last season when, until suffering a season ending injury, he was among the best inside linebackers in the NFL. If his performance against Oakland is any indication, he’s starting right where he left off. Despite playing just 15 snaps, Lee’s +3.0 was the game’s highest grade, some of it coming on the fourth offensive play when he got into the backfield for a sack-fumble. He was unblocked on the blitz, but still showed adequate burst to get home before Flynn could get rid of the ball. Showing proficiency in coverage, Lee also picked up a third down pass break up. Plays like that show that he’s a pretty complete player, and even on the snaps where he didn’t record a grade, he was almost always around the ball.
In his second NFL game, rookie center Travis Frederick (+0.3) was much improved over his effort last week. His 50 snaps were the most of any Cowboy player and he once again split time between center and right guard, with 25 snaps at each position. As evidenced by his grade, he didn’t have any ‘splash’ plays, but for the most part he was able to avoid the negative plays that plagued him against the Dolphins. He kept a clean sheet in pass protection, something he couldn’t manage last week, though he was beaten twice to the inside in the run game. Interestingly, both negative plays came with Frederick at guard. At this stage, improvement is probably all that the Cowboys are looking for, and their rookie center did just that.
Defending the Run
Among the Dallas second- and third-teamers, the standout was one who flashed last week in the Hall of Fame game. Reserve defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton made a strong case for making the roster, as he followed up his +2.0 showing a week ago with a grade of +1.2 (+1.7 in run defense). This was done in just 28 snaps, compared to the 45 he saw against Miami, meaning that he probably could have bested his first performance had he played more. With no pressures in over 40 snaps rushing the passer, Pendleton doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of getting after the QB. However, with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer on the team, pass rush isn’t much of a concern for the young DT. What he is, though, is stout against the run. No player had more than his two defensive stops and he did well in standing up blockers – at one point he blew up a wham run by occupying three Raider linemen. The 2012 seventh-rounder particularly gave reserve center Andrew Robiskie trouble, including drawing a costly holding penalty. We’ll see if Pendleton can keep this up, but it’s certainly looking good through Dallas’ first two preseason games.
Raiders – Three performances of note
A receiver with just a pair of receptions doesn’t often stand out, unless one of the two is a spectacular diving touchdown catch like the one made by Brice Butler (+2.1) midway through the third quarter. The seventh-round draft pick took the other ball he caught for 40 yards, 25 of which came after the catch when he showed off some impressive movement in the open field. Targeting Butler wasn’t always fruitful, however, as two of his other three targets saw a defender get a hand on the ball, one of which was intercepted. With Darius Heyward-Bey gone and not a whole lot else at receiver, Butler has a chance to earn a spot if he can replicate this type of effort going forward.
Is Flynn the guy?
Our first look at Matt Flynn (+0.1) in a Raider uniform was largely unremarkable. After fumbling on a blindside sack on Oakland’s opening drive, Flynn moved the ball some in 15 snaps, but never managed to lead the offense into the red zone. He completed four of five passes for 37 yards, with most of those being of the short or check-down variety. His first pass of the game was a flare route in the flat to Darren Mcfadden, and it was much of the same for the rest of his showing. So while Flynn managed not to screw up in his short stint, he wasn’t terribly impressive either – probably what you’d expect in his first action of 2013. With the preseason slate just underway, he’s a player that we’ll be watching closely to see if he shows signs of being anything more than a mere game-manager.
Behind Flynn was Terrelle Pryor (+0.1), who probably won’t challenge for the starting job, but was much more interesting to watch. It’s clear that the Oakland coaching staff is conscious of tailoring the offense to take advantage of his considerable athletic ability. They ran a number of read-option plays with a full house backfield and from the pistol formation, and Pryor ran the ball well – he averaged 10 yards per carry. He also fared decently as a passer, completing six of eight aimed passes, and showed more of a willingness to go downfield with four of those attempts over 10 yards in the air. However, he ended his first drive with a killer end zone interception, committing the QB cardinal sin of throwing back across his body, late over the middle into traffic. Not what the Raiders want to see out of the second-year player.
With an offense that will probably put a lot of reliance on the running game, the blocking effort of their two tight ends, Davis Ausberry and Richard Gordon, was uninspiring. Gordon opened the game poorly, beaten on an inside move for a tackle for short gain. In Gordon’s defense, it occurred against Demarcus Ware, someone that few players can contain. However, he was also beaten to the inside by George Selvie a few plays later. Likewise, Ausberry (-2.3) didn’t fare much better, as he surrendered two tackles himself and picked up a holding penalty.
In terms of backups, second-year fullback Jamize Olawale struggled to block the Dallas defense as well. In just nine snaps in the run game, he accrued a -2.5 blocking grade. With Marcel Reece on the team, though, Olawale probably won’t be pushing for first team reps.
-Raider offensive lineman Andre Gurode notched a +2.3 grade against his former team.
– Sean Lee wasn’t the only standout in the Dallas linebacker group, as both Bruce Carter and Ernie Sims graded at or above +0.8, each having played no more than 15 snaps.
– These two teams combined to miss just eight tackles.
PFF Game Ball
This one goes to Raider CB Phillip Adams, who didn’t allow a catch in coverage, while playing the run equally well with two stops.