Looking fresh and ready for football, the Oakland Raiders head to Dallas on Thursday night to take on the Cowboys to open their preseason. The Cowboys already opened theirs, with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL's annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. If anything is clear from that game for Oakland, it's that they'll need to stay healthy and stay away from Dallas' defense.
Linebacker Brandon Sharpe picked off Bengals quarterback Jordan Palmer to get the first score of the game from six yards out. It was a slower game from then on, with the Bengals only picking up points late. Offensively, the 'Boys saw a couple good things, the least of which wasn't Roy Williams snagging a 21-yard completion early in the game. Williams had issues last year with consistency and getting the big play to go his way.
Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell figures only to be in the game for a short while, perhaps the same amount of time in which Tony Romo went 5-for-10 against the Bengals. Campbell is one of the most integral pieces in the machine that is the (hopefully) new and improved Oakland Raiders. Then again, I could probably trot out our editor David Fucillo wearing the Silver and Black and he'd have a higher completion percentage over the course of a season - and wouldn't be caught with illegal substances, either.
Still, going from JaMarcus Russell to Jason Campbell is an improvement of amazing proportions. Campbell has been a good player in his years in the league, always looking like a decent starter but seemingly falling just short of his expectations. His shortcomings may be able to be explained away, however - the guy has had decent years with rotating offensive coordinators and an unstable coaching situation.
Either way, he doesn't figure to play much on Thursday and we'll likely get a good dose of Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Kyle Boller and perhaps Colt Brennan if he's ready to take a few snaps. The Raiders, however, have to feel that their quarterback situation, for once, isn't the point of focus in the preseason for offense - it will likely be their group of receivers and running backs that get the most looks.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, the 2009 first rounder, has worked on a lot this offseason, putting in the work in all aspects of his game and will look to show the organization they didn't make a mistake by picking the blazing receiver with questionable hands a round too soon.
Rookie offensive linemen Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell will make their first appearance in a Raider uniform and, as the rest of the o-line unit, will look to solidify their place on the oft-struggling line.
Enough with the offense, how about the defense? Rookie linebacker Rolando McClain is looking to get his first action as an Oakland Raider and I'd wager the majority of fans are looking forward to seeing him the most. McClain represents one of the few perceived "good picks" for Oakland in the first round of the NFL Draft in the last few years.
Jay Richardson, LaMarr Houston and Matt Schaughnessy are competing for two defensive end jobs on a line which figures to be one of Oakland's stronger points this coming season. Michael Huff and Hiram Eugene are competing for the free safety job, with Huff being the front runner.
The game kicks off at 6 p.m. PDT. Oakland holds a 17-9 edge in preseason competition against Dallas. The last time the two met in exhibition football, the Raiders won 31-10. Last year in the regular season the Cowboys "avenged" the loss, with a 24-7 victory.