Programming note: For comprehensive coverage of the Raiders exhibition game against the Lions, tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 6 and 10:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
The Raiders believe they’ve grown as a football team since last week’s preseason loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
They’ve certainly pushed themselves since then, with a pair intense of joint practices against the Dallas Cowboys that followed technical work during their last two days in Napa.
They have a chance to show progress on Friday night against the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum.
The team’s second preseason game and first at home offers an opportunity to improve on what didn’t go right against the Vikings.
“I’m hoping to see improvement from the first game to the second,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “We have to clean up penalties. That’s been a big point of emphasis. I’m looking for us to go out and make some plays offensively and defensively. Our guys have worked extremely hard. I think these couple of days (practicing against Dallas) will help us get ready for that.”
Generally speaking, last week’s game was a disappointment for the Silver and Black. The Raiders had 13 penalties for 94 yards. There were several drops that halted drives. Defensively, the secondary struggled to break up passes despite decent coverage.
The first unit especially needs to come out firing against Detroit, which may not be easy. The Lions have front-line talent on both sides of the ball and will offer a stiff challenge to the starting group.
The Raiders focus, however, remains inward. They’ve done little in terms of Lions-specific game planning, as is common for the second preseason game.
“At this point, a team has to progressively get better each week of the preseason,” guard Austin Howard said. “Can you see growth from one preseason game tape to the next? That’s what we’re looking for.”
The Raiders fared well running the football.
They averaged 4.8 yards per carry last week, including strong showings by top rushers Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden.
“I like the direction our run game is headed,” Allen said. “I think we have to make some strides in the passing game in time. There are a lot of new pieces in that part of our offense.”
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Starting quarterback Matt Schaub produced just one first down in three series last week, though, if a few third-down drops had been receptions, his performance would look much different. It wasn’t the momentum building start he or the Raiders had hoped for, but he’ll get a few more opportunities to get cranking in a game where he could play as much as a half.
The passing game certainly looked better in physical joint practices against the Cowboys. Receivers generally held on to the ball and throws were largely on the mark.
“We’ve been better, and working towards our best,” tight end Mychal Rivera said. “You can see improvement, but we have to keep taking steps in the right direction.”