This preseason encounter featured a team that have had a stable quarterback situation since 2006, playing against one that hasn’t had a sensible answer at that position since before that time. While Drew Brees came out and looked as capable as ever, the Raiders were left working through their depth chart at quarterback with none of them looking likely to end the search for a legitimate passer anytime soon.
As far as the league has gone it’s not entirely about the quarterbacks, so let’s take a look elsewhere on both teams to see who stood out for better or worse in this game.
Oakland: Three Performances of Note
Dropoff from Veldheer
When Jared Veldeer went down with a triceps injury it was obviously going to be a major blow to Oakland, but the severity of that blow was always going to be dictated by who the Raiders tried to replace him with. Unfortunately for Raiders fans they tried to replace him with Alex Barron, who earned a -3.8 grade on only 33 snaps. Barron has been out of the league for over a year and has gone from a place in the last chance saloon in the NFL to protecting the blindside of the Raiders quarterback. After this display the Raiders are likely going to have some sleepless nights trying to come up with a better solution to the problem, but it might end up being a long season under center for whoever starts.
Cruel Injury Timing
Sometimes injuries can strike with the cruelest of timing. Oakland looked set to finally ramp up the role of TE David Ausberry, and in his 14 snaps during this game he was targeted three times, or 43% of the passing downs he was in on. He repaid that with two catches for 30 yards including a spectacular one-handed grab over Saints safety Roman Harper down the seam before an injury forced him from the game. He left the stadium with his arm in a sling and the reports are that it could be a potentially serious shoulder injury that would cause him to miss significant time. After seeing what he was capable of in this game, albeit in limited snaps, I can only say I hope that isn’t the case.
Linebackers Showing Well
After some significant turnover in the Oakland linebacker corps in recent years it was encouraging to see them performing well against the run all the way down the depth chart in this game. Veterans Kevin Burnett and Omar Gaither came up with key stops at times in the game and 2012 undrafted-rookie Kaelin Burnett also made a few big plays in that area of the game. That trio combined for seven defensive stops and looked impressive at times, shooting gaps in the line and stuffing run plays.
New Orleans: Three Performances of Note
Cameron Jordan’s Big Day
In order for the Saints new defense to be viable they need major production from DE Cameron Jordan. In this game at least he didn’t disappoint, earning a +4.8 grade overall thanks largely to a pair of sacks, a hit and three more pressures coming from his 22 snaps rushing the passer. The bad news is that Jordan is unlikely to face a unit in as much disarray as the Oakland O-line is, but you can’t fault him for ruthlessly taking to pieces what was in front of him. Fellow end Glenn Foster did an equally impressive job on the Raiders backups, matching Jordan’s pressure profile exactly but on only 15 pass-rushing snaps to earn himself a +5.2 grade overall.
Taking Your Chance
Preseason is all about making the most of your opportunities, and that’s all a player can do. Ramon Humber is seen as a special teams ace and depth player but was given the chance to start thanks to injuries in the Saints’ linebacker corps. With that chance he had himself a day, earning a +4.0 grade by making plays in both the run game and in coverage. This was the most impressive display I’ve seen from a Saints linebacker in some time, even with the caveats that it was only in preseason and coming against an offense that wasn’t exactly getting things done in Oakland. Humber led the team in tackles and defensive stops, and didn’t allow a catch into his coverage.
Vaccaro Showing the Quicks
This is a case of being more impressed with the look of a player than in any quantifiable measure of his performance in the game. Maybe I’m just used to inept play from New Orleans’ safeties, but the speed with which Vaccaro closed on plays was impressive to watch. On occasion it was his undoing, arriving at a speed too great to control himself and make a play, leading to a missed tackle on one occasion, but it also meant that he was arriving with a chance to impact plays you usually don’t see safeties involved in at all. He was meeting receivers at the same time the ball arrived on deep-dig routes that usually see safeties arriving a second late and just trying to limit the damage. It may not have shown up here, but I think the Saints will be very happy with Vaccaro in the long-term.
– The Saints missed just three tackles on defense, but the Raiders combined to miss nine.
– The Raiders appeared to have no idea how to use Terrelle Pryor, giving him bland quarterback keeper run plays that saw him simply trying to out-sprint unblocked defenders to the edge. For a coach hailed for his creativity that’s some weak sauce.
– Throwing at Tracy Porter in this game yielded a perfect QB rating of 158.3
PFF Game Ball
Cameron Jordan was a force in this game, dominating the line of scrimmage for the Saints and earning himself the game ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam