The 2011 NFL Preseason is here, finally. After a long lockout, teams are itching to get out there and see where they're at. This preseason is more important because of the short training camp and absence of other OTAs. The Oakland Raiders will square off against the Arizona Cardinals in week one, and you can find more on the former over at Silver and Black Pride.
After one of the longest (figuratively) offseasons we've seen in the National Football League, we're ready to get back to some football. This year, week one of the preseason truly is the first bit of football we've seen since the Super Bowl, what with the cancellation of the Hall of Fame game. It's also the first bit of football we'll be seeing after a rather short period of training camps and drills, so there's a strong possibility that this will be the sloppiest week of professional football since the Arena Football League taped itself back together for the 2010 season.
We've got the ongoing training camp stream for the Oakland Raiders to follow along with throughout the preseason for news unrelated to the game, but now it's time to take a look at their Thursday matchup to get things kicked off, when the Arizona Cardinals will come to town. While week one will be a sloppy and perhaps even comical affair, it will show a lot about specific players and how they're responding to the little bit of coaching they've been exposed to thus far.
For the Raiders, they're going to be hoping their defensive investments hold up. They lost Nnamdi Asomugha, but gave big contracts to Michael Huff, Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley. They also would like Richard Seymour to take some snaps, (agreed to a two-year extension) but it's up in the air in regards to just how much playing time these guys will get. The starters don't usually play a ton until the third preseason game, but with this offseason, teams like Oakland and Arizona might be trying to get some more reps for their guys to work out the kinks.
Of course, the Raiders will be looking to improve their ever-struggling offense, and they'll be looking for any of the young receivers to establish themselves. There's a lot of spots up for grabs, with multiple rookies having a shot, and Jason Campbell will be looking to give them all the best possible chance. Kevin Boss should see some time, the newly signed tight end to replace Zach Miller.
For the Cardinals, it will be the first chance to see Kevin Kolb in action. He's been given the keys to the team and in this case, "keys to the team" translates to "a boatload of money." Kolb will be expected to perform, but head coach Ken Whisenhunt has acknowledged that it won't be perfect. He's also put it out there that the Cardinals are looking to win:
It will be a great chance for us to play together as a team and obviously we want to win the game because that's important for us. We're going to try and put our guys in the best position.
Clearly, the Cardinals need the confidence boost right now, and there's nothing wrong with that. Spirits have to be incredibly low in the clubhouse after the 2010 campaign (finishing last in the NFC West, only a couple years removed from a Super Bowl appearance). So they're hoping Kolb can connect with Larry Fitzgerald a couple times before giving way to backups to establish depth.
It's worth noting that, while the preseason is usually a place to finalize position battles all along the depth chart, this season it's going to serve as a means to even establish the position battles. We'll soon take a look at those, but note that the preseason has much more added significance this go 'round. Thursday, August 11th at 7:00 p.m. is the time to tune in, but stick around here at SB Nation Bay Area in the meantime for some more analysis and coverage.