ReFo: OAK @ SEA, Preseason Wk 4
Two teams in very different places heading in very different directions squared off in Seattle to round out preseason. Both teams gave their starters reps as the Seahawks got one efficient touchdown drive from their offensive starters while the Raiders’ offensive starters got a full half to try and kick start some chemistry and get things moving forward ahead of the new season.
The Raiders showed enough to suggest that they may not meet the expectations of them being thrashed in every game, but they also showed why they might struggle to win more than a couple of games. The upgrades they have made with second and third tier free agents have made them solid everywhere, but they’re lacking a spark on either side of the ball that would propel them to many wins. The biggest bright spot for the Raiders was a potential fix to their problem at left tackle with rookie Menelik Watson putting in an encouraging debut.
For the home team there was plenty of quality displays on defense to give Pete Carroll and co. plenty to think about as they make their final cuts. The defensive starters sat after one three and out leaving the backups to compete for the rest of the game.
Oakland – Three Performances of Note
Bright start for Watson
It has been a rough offseason for Raiders fans, watching their offensive line struggle and then losing their young star at left tackle to injury. Last night’s game offered a brief respite to their concerns for the season ahead as second round pick Menelik Watson (+1.4) closed out the preseason with an impressive debut. Injury has held Watson out and considering he was making his NFL debut, at a position he’s never played against players who have weeks of training camp and preseason games under their belt, this was a debut to spark cautious excitement. There were, as you would expect, a couple of plays with apparent assignment breakdowns — but in both pass protection and as a run blocker he looked comfortable and in control. For such an apparently raw rookie tackle you would expect some growing pains for him at some point during the season but on this display Watson looks at home on an NFL offensive line. While most other rookies have had a month of preseason to find their feet Watson will be under pressure to carry the form of this one game straight into his regular season debut.
Lacking a standout but lacking a glaring hole?
This was a mixed performance from the Raiders’ defense and will raise question marks over how this unit will develop during the season. On the surface the Raiders have made some shrewd under the radar free agent signings, picking up value and solid performers but barring a breakout from Lamarr Houston this unit lacks a clear standout performer. Will that be good enough? The Raiders biggest problem in this game seemed to be picking up their assignments off of play-action with reserve defenders like Kaelin Burnett (-2.4 coverage) struggling in particular as the Seahawks seemed able to pick up yards off of rollouts and short dumpoffs seemingly at will. The defense only missed four tackles and among the starters the lowest grade went to Tracy Porter with a -0.7 grade for his 13 snaps. Will solidity be enough with a unit that is likely to be spending a lot of time on the field? Will a breakout season from Houston allow everyone else to fit into their roles? Time will tell but for a defense built around fundamentally sound players for the most part this will offer an interesting case study into whether a defense can be efficient without one or two standout players.
Reserve quarterbacks fail to shine
Starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor (+0.6 rushing, 0.0 passing) gained more yards on the ground than through the air but the second half saw a focus on the Raiders rookies quarterbacks who could easily have been auditioning for the final spot on the roster. In this game, at least, neither quarterback separated from the other. Former Penn State QB Matt McGloin (-1.9 passing) got better protection than Tyler Wilson (-1.6 passing) but fewer dropbacks and both quarterbacks showed issues with accuracy and decision making. Wilson was pressured on more dropbacks (eight) than he wasn’t (five) and was limited to short (6/9 for 40 yards) and intermediate passes (2/3 for 25 yards) while McGloin was able to send one ill-advised pass deep down the right sideline to a well covered receiver, nearly seeing that pass picked off by the free safety. Through preseason McGloin (60 snaps) is behind Wilson (42 snaps) in terms of PFF passing grade. McGloin has a -6.3 grade compared to the -2.4 grade that Wilson has earned.
Seattle – Three Performances of Note
The other Rice TE
Just to add another wrinkle to the 49ers vs Seahawks rivalry this season, there’s even an intramural rivalry between the number two tight ends on the roster. Vance McDonald got some talk during the pre-draft process and was drafted three rounds ahead of Luke Wilson, but there is the potential for a fascinating mini-battle between the two this regular season. This time out Wilson caught all four of his targets for 45 yards working on out breaking routes to cause the Raiders troubles underneath on all but one of his receptions. Through preseason Wilson has collected 79 snaps and a +2.4 grade without any major holes being exposed in his blocking. If he stays healthy Zach Miller will get the bulk of the Seahawks snaps at tight end but Wilson has shown an ability to contribute to the Seahawks as somewhat of a parallel to his former college team-mate down the coast in San Francisco.
Defensive backups make their mark
The Seahawks defense flourished into one of the league’s best last season, but in spite of that you still get a sense of competition in Seattle. Pete Carroll breeds that sense of competition in his teams and they always seem to respond. With the defensive starters sitting after one three and out from the Raiders the fringe defenders got plenty of chances to compete, stake their places for a roster spot, and even some playing time in some cases. Along the defensive line Michael Brooks (+2.2) took advantage of some sloppy Raider pass protection to collect a couple of hits to go with a stop in the running game. Filling the spot of Bobby Wagner in the second team defense Allen Bradford (+0.7) showed a similar nose for the football with a team leading eight tackles and three stops, doing some of his best work in the passing game with one pass defense and a third down stop. Walter Thurmond also backed up a strong showing last week (+3.3 at Green Bay) with a strong (+1.7) but brief outing (11 snaps) against the Raiders. Unlike some other teams this week the Seahawks didn’t take their foot off the gas when the backup defense came in.
Offensive line depth shows some cracks
The Seahawks ran through 13 offensive linemen in this game. Clearly, not all of them will make the final roster but on this showing, and preseason as a whole, depth on the offensive line does not appear to be a strength for the Seahawks. Third year tackle Mike Person got a start (as a sixth lineman), played a preseason high 70 snaps but again struggled as a run blocker. Through three performances Person has a -8.3 run block grade and also let up his first pressure of preseason giving up a sack and three hurries. Elsewhere Alvin Bailey was guilty of two penalties (a false start and illegal use of the hands) and hasn’t replicated his fine display from the opening week of preseason. In the heart of the line Lemuel Jeanpierre (-1.1) and Rishaw Johnson (-3.4) both had their struggles and at the end of preseason. Of the Seahawks five linemen who played the most snaps (all backups) only Alvin Bailey doesn’t grade negatively with Michael Bowie, Jeanpierre and Person all around or worse than a -3.0 grade. If the starters stay healthy this potential weakness won’t be exposed, if injuries do crop up, then this reserve group will be under pressure to improve and step up.
-Free safety Reggie Smith (-0.6) led the Raiders with 63 snaps in the game.
-In an attempt to knock the rust off before he goes on the shelf to start the season Bruce Irvin (+1.2 overall, +1.1 coverage) got through 44 snaps in his most extensive preseason display having registered only seven snaps in Green Bay last week.
-Second year linebacker Chase Thomas got 20 snaps with the Raiders second team and showed well in run defense (+1.6 run defense) diverting runners and making a pair of stops.
PFF Game Ball
You don’t want to read too much into one game and he certainly doesn’t need excessive pressure placed upon him but given the circumstances, this was an extremely impressive and encouraging debut from Menelik Watson. Raider fans will hope that this is a sign of good things to come from their second round pick and of a change in fortunes for their offensive line.
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