Preseason Week 1: Oak vs ARI Review

When watching preseason games, don’t pay too much attention to the score. Realize that not every player has the same goals in preseason. Some veterans just need a tune up and are trying to get to the regular season healthy. Other veterans might want to experiment with new techniques or are trying to acclimate to a new scheme. Some rookies are fighting for a roster spot, while other rookies are trying to validate their draft postion.

These factors and more have to come to mind when evaluating preseason performances. An example of the paradox of the preseason is examining how the starting defense played. If you just look at the numbers, you would see that the starting defense played for most of the first half and gave up 17 points.

However, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin sat the game out and a lot of the breakdowns in defense were a result of poor play from their back up Shalique Calhoun and the Cardinals picking on Sean Smith.


On the first drive, Sean Smith was called for a pass interference. The interior defense played well- the Cardinals running backs had 0 yards in 3 rushing attempts up in the middle. They rushed for a total of 16 yards on two attempts running to Calhoun’s edge. On one of those outside rushes, Calhoun actually forced the ball carrier to Amerson, who have would have a tackle for no gain but missed the tackle.

On the other outside run, Calhoun’s deficiencies were on display.

Calhoun is responsible for the D gap which is where the running back, Andre Ellington runs through. Calhoun gets doubled by two tight ends but doesn’t get any penetration even though the double team looks lackluster. This allows the second tight end to leave the double team and go straight to Karl Joseph, opening up a lane. Luckily, James does a good job of scrapping over or this run would have been a much bigger gain.Khalil Mack would have likely knocked that double team into the backfield and this play would have went no where because everyone else did their jobs.

The defense does eventually stop the Carson Palmer led drive and force the Cardinals to kick a field goal but an iffy special teams penalty forces the defense back on the field. They then give up the first touchdown of a game on a secondary miscommunication.

The Raiders played a lot of quarters coverage, which is a scheme that fits with the Raiders secondary personnel a lot more than the single-high Seahawks system the Raiders tried to emulate. With learning a new system though, there are growing pains. Second-year safety, Karl Joseph is one of the veterans using the preseason to acclimate to a new scheme.

On third and long, he should have let the shallow route go to a waiting linebacker and doubled the deep receiver. Palmer would have had nowhere to go and defensive tackle, Eddie Vanderdoes, who hit a great spin move, would have likely sacked him.

Other than this play though, Karl Joseph looked like the heat seeking missile that he was at West Virginia. Now that the defense is playing more two- deep safety coverages, Joseph is a able to get a head of steam coming down the alley, which is bad news for ball carriers.

Not only is he making big hits, he is making quick run reads and filling the alley with authority. He isn’t just being a reckless head hunter, he is doing so within the defensive system.

The play of Corey James and Marquel Lee has to be very encouraging for Raider fans. James had the better game and was all over the place, covering for other’s mistakes, playing well in pass coverage, and stuffing the run. Lee was also stout against the run, but had a tough time covering Andre Ellington man to man. To be fair, Ellington is a very difficult match up for most linebackers.

This play was designed to allow Cowser to jump inside and get the running back outside. Cowser did exactly what the offense wanted and shot inside. James sees this and does a good job of replacing him as a contain player and turning the ball carrier back inside. Lee does a good job of avoiding a block on the inside and scraping over to help on the tackle.

The return of Mario Edwards Jr. ,the emergence of Eddie Vanderdoes, and the resurgence of Justin Ellis, who is in a contract year, could make this defensive line an actual strength instead of a weakness. All three played well individually and were stout against the run and provided good interior pressure.

The second touchdown that the Cardinals scored was once again caused by the failure of an edge player.

Denico Autry gets instant pressure on this play and flushes quarterback, Drew Stanton out of the pocket. Calhoun doesn’t stay outside which allows Stanton to buy all sorts of time outside. The secondary actually do a good job of keeping their zone integrity but the tight end does a good job of stepping in front of Joseph at the last second to get open for the touchdown.

Overall, the defense played well. They gave up one touchdown because of a special teams penalty and defensive miscommunication. The drive that resulted in the second touchdown started at midfield because the offense turned the ball over on downs. Stanton has been in Arian’s system for years and looked comfortable taking advantage of good field position and picking on Sean Smith, who should see less of the field with the return of Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu. There were a lot of things to remain hopeful that the defense will improve. Coach Del Rio stated that secondary communication has been better at camp and that they just have to carry it over to game situations. If that’s true, then we should see a much better defensive unit with the return of a few players.

Ted Nguyen is a football coach, offensive coordinator, QB coach, teacher and blogger. He graduated from UC Davis with his degree in English-Critical Analysis. He enjoys long walks on the beach and researching and writing about the latest developments and trends in football strategy.

4 comments on “Preseason Week 1: Oak vs ARI Review

  1. Great insight Ted. I struggled to find Calhoun in the game and now I know why. Hopefully Latroy Lewis gets his chance to run with the first team this preseason so fans can compare. Also gotta love how Corey James disrupted in those clips.

  2. Stormtrooper2817

    Didn’t realize Calhoun had such a bad game. Not liking Ward and Calhoun’s back to back selections so far.

    But if the secondary played alright then thats a huge step up!

  3. Good work as always. Just one thing. On the run where you show that James replaced contain you said it was Cowser that did what the O wanted. Except it was Calhoun. Cowser come from the backside unblocked and was in on the tackle.

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