AFC West: 2011 nfl preseason week 3

OAKLAND -- A look at the Oakland Raiders' 40-20 defeat to visiting the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night:

What it means: The Raiders bounced back well offensively after a flat performance at San Francisco last week, but their defense continued to be leaky in the third (and most important) preseason game.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Raiders’ first-team offense was solid. Quarterback Jason Campbell looked good. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 150 yards. He looks like he is improved from last year and he seems to be responding well to his coaching. If Campbell can continue to make strides, this offense has a chance to be strong. There is young, good talent here (I love rookies Denarius Moore and Taiwan Jones). The Raiders have potential to light up scoreboards.

Trending: The Oakland secondary is a concern in its post-Nnamdi Asomugha world. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw at will. He had 189 yards passing before leaving late in the second quarter. New Orleans converted six of eight third-down plays when Brees was on the field. Pass defense has been a problem for Oakland all summer and it continued Sunday night. I don’t know if newly signed Lito Sheppard is the answer, but he may get the chance to show he can still play. Rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke is not ready for the regular-season lights.

What’s next: The Raiders complete their preseason Friday night at Seattle. The game will have interest because rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor is expected to play. Oakland drafted the former Ohio State quarterback in the supplemental draft on Monday.

Halftime notes from Oakland

August, 28, 2011
OAKLAND -- Notes from halftime as the New Orleans Saints lead the Oakland Raiders, 17-10 in a preseason game:
  • New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, a long-time Raider killer, ripped the Raiders apart again. He threw for 189 yards before being taken out late in the half. The Saints were 6-for-8 on third-down conversions with Brees in the game. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham had five catches for 73 yards in the first half.
  • The Raiders’ offense looked great on their first series. Everyone looked sharp as they cruised down the field 91 yards for a touchdown. Running back Michael Bush was tremendous as he had 32 yards on five carries in the first half. He looks to be in midseason form.
  • Rookie Taiwan Jones had 10 yards on four carries and he had a nifty run on a short pass called back by penalty. Yes, he is as advertised -- the fourth-round pick can fly. Expect Oakland to feature him on third-down screen plays during the season.
  • Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski showed off his monster leg with a 57-yard field goal. I’m not one to make outrageous predictions, but mark me down for this one: Janikowski breaks the NFL record for the longest field goal this season. He has the leg and Oakland coach Hue Jackson trusts him. The record is 63 yards.
  • Brees picked on rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke at will. Van Dyke is getting great experience, but if he doesn’t make fast strides, teams will challenge him early and often when he is on the field.
  • Veteran receiver Derek Hagan scored on a 35-yard pass from Jason Campbell on the team's first possession. The journeyman receiver is having a strong summer and he could be in Oakland’s receiving rotation.
  • Campbell was sharp. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 150 yards. He looked good in the two-minute drill on the final drive of the half before he was picked off on a deflected pass. Campbell did well in the two-minute drill late last season.
  • Oakland’s offensive line looked solid. It’s a work in progress, but it is making strides. I like rookie Stefen Wisniewski at left guard and veteran Samson Satele at center. Wisniewski is very athletic and seems to play with a nasty streak. He excelled in the first half in run blocking.
  • Defensive lineman Richard Seymour is being held out with a hamstring injury.
  • Running back Darren McFadden and receiver Jacoby Ford also are among those not playing. They returned to practice this week, but they are being held out as a precaution. Expect to see them when the regular season begins in Denver.
  • Pass-rusher Trevor Scott played for the first time since suffering a knee injury in November.
  • Oakland second-year middle linebacker Rolando McClain looks very active. He is always near the ball.
  • Nick Miler muffed the opening kickoff. Not a great move for a guy on the bubble.
  • NBC reported during its telecast that quarterback Terelle Pryor will not play Sunday night, but he will play Friday in the preseason finale at Seattle. Oakland took the former Ohio State quarterback in the supplemental draft Monday.
  • Jeff Miller, the head of NFL security, is at the game as part of the league’s investigation into the fan violence following the Raiders’ game at San Francisco last week. He said the league hasn’t made a final decision on whether or not the annual preseason series between the two Bay Area teams will be postponed next year. That recommendation has been made.
Random thoughts on San Diego’s 34-31 win at Arizona on Saturday night:

For the first time in the preseason, the Chargers’ starters struggled. The first two preseason games were a lark. Saturday night, the Chargers were punched in the face a few times.

The San Diego defense, which played without Antonio Garay, Shaun Phillips and Larry English, was hit hard at times. It gave up an 80-yard pass play for a touchdown. Arizona starting quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 205 yards and Arizona starting running back Beanie Wells had 63 yards rushing.

The Cardinals took a 17-3 lead with starters from both teams in the game. The Cardinals led 24-17 at the half.

San Diego’s offense struggled early. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who was nearly flawless in the first two games, threw an interception that was returned 34 yards for a score by rookie Patrick Peterson. The San Diego first-team offense did improve as the game went on. Rivers ended up throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing. Starting receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd both came up with some big plays.

Rivers said after the game that it was good for San Diego to experience some difficulty in the preseason after the easy start. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t put much stock in the preseason. It’s all about getting situational experience. This game will benefit the Chargers.

Rookie Ryan Mathews showed his explosiveness with a 48-yard run. He finished with 69 yards on 10 carries.

Young inside linebacker Donald Butler continued his strong summer with five tackles.

Defensive lineman Vaughn Martin had a sack. He had two sacks last week.

Backup quarterback Billy Volek showed his worth by taking his team on the game-winning 90-yard drive. While the Chargers don’t want to think about playing without Rivers, they know they have one of the NFL’s best backups in Volek.

Random thoughts from Denver’s 23-20 win against Seattle on Saturday night:

I know some folks are going to be excited that Tim Tebow led the Broncos to the game-winning field goal. But the real story in Denver was the pass rush.

If the Denver Broncos are going to be legitimately improved in 2011 it’s not going to be because Tebow can lead the backups. It will be because the defense -- ranked No. 32 in the NFL last season -- is improved. It looked improved all camp, and Saturday night it looked like it has a special ability -- it can get to the quarterback.

Denver had five sacks. Rookie linebacker Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, is showing immense potential. He had two sacks. He has three sacks in the past two games. Miller hit the quarterback four times against Seattle. Elvis Dumervil added 1.5 sacks. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 before missing all of last season. Dumervil has excelled this camp at defensive end.

Miller and Dumervil took over this game. If that continues during the season, Denver could have something nice on its hands defensively.

The rest of the defense played well. Denver’s starters outscored Seattle 17-3 until they left in the third quarter.

Denver did lose defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (knee) and linebacker D.J. Williams (elbow). The Denver Post is reporting Williams will be out 3-4 weeks. Denver opens the season against Oakland in 15 days. So, the Broncos will likely be without their leading tackler last season for the opener. That, of course, will, put more pressure on Miller and Dumervil to make plays.

The Broncos hope neither injury is serious. Denver is thin at defensive tackle. It’s no surprise that Denver put in a claim on defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer before he was awarded to Carolina. That is Denver’s biggest need area. Expect it to scour the waiver wire at the spot in the next week.

Tebow was Tebow-ish. He completed 6 of 11 passes for 93 yards. He fumbled two balls. As Denver coach John Fox said after the game, it wasn't always pretty, but Tebow did find a way to move the ball.

Brady Quinn didn’t play Saturday. This was by design to get Tebow more repetitions. Last week, Quinn spelled starter Kyle Orton and he threw 16 passes compared to Tebow’s two passes. It will be interesting to see if Tebow gains on Quinn this week in their battle to be Orton’s backup. Orton continued to look solid Saturday night. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 236 yards.

Rookie tight end Julius Thomas continued to look like a weapon. He had 70 yards on four catches. Expect to see a lot of him early in the regular season. Receivers Eddie Royal and Eric Decker both contributed four catches as well.

Denver’s running game was solid but not spectacular. Knowshon Moreno had 47 yards on 10 carries. Denver would be happy with a 4.7 average from him. Willis McGahee had just 25 yards on 10 carries. Denver’s run game will be counted on, and it still needs to prove it can handle the responsibility.

Denver needs to work on special teams this week after it allowed a 105-yard kickoff return for a score Saturday night.

Breaking down Chiefs vs. Rams

August, 27, 2011
Random thoughts of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 14-10 loss to visiting St. Louis on Friday night:
  • It is clear Kansas City coach Todd Haley doesn’t put a premium on the preseason. The Chiefs are now 1-10 in the preseason in three seasons under Haley. The Chiefs take the preseason simply as a time to get some repetitions. I can’t blame Haley nor do I think it is a bad sign of things to come. I have never been a believer in the importance of winning in the preseason. I can’t be counted among those who are freaked out by the lack of spunk shown by the defending AFC West champions in this string of August football.
  • The Chiefs clearly weren’t interested in being the kings of summer Friday night. The Rams were better on both sides of the ball. Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel was 6-of-13 for 59 yards and running back Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones -- who led the way for the NFL’s No.1 run offense last season -- were held to a total of eight yards on four carries.
  • Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ defense allowed Sam Bradford to pass for 95 yards in a limited duty and it allowed Steven Jackson 72 yards on the ground. The Chiefs’ first-team defense allowed the Rams’ only two scores. Are these offensive and defensive deficiencies cause for concern? Time, of course, will tell, but I don’t think so. It is obvious Haley doesn’t like to show much this time of year.
  • What I do take seriously in the preseason is penalties. It is a matter of discipline. That tone has to be set early. The Chiefs had eight penalties for 55 yards. That needs to be cleaned up.
  • Running back/receiver Dexter McCluster continued to get a lot of action. He had five catches for 37 yards. Expect to see him a lot third down.
  • Rookie Ricky Stanzi made strides as he pushes Tyler Palko. Stanzi led the Chiefs’ only touchdown drive. He threw for 121 yards. Palko also had a solid game as he threw for 92 yards. It was the second decent games for both players as they try to convince the Chiefs not to go out and get a veteran backup for Cassel.
  • The Chiefs’ offensive line improved. The Rams had just two sacks. Last week, the Chiefs allowed five sacks against Baltimore.
  • Jared Gaither played some at left tackle. That is a good sign. If he can stay healthy, expect him to be in starting lineup at some point.
  • Third-round pick Justin Houston continued to look impressive. Expect him to be in the mix for serious playing time early in the season.
  • It was a good learning night for second-round pick Rodney Hudson. He played the first half at left guard and he played the second half at center. He is going to have a role and his versatility will help the line.
  • Underrated Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt was his usual fantastic self. He pinned the Rams inside their own 10-yard line four times.