Sept. 16, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain (55) and tackle Jared Veldheer (68) during their game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 35-13. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Practicing with the Raiders

Next month, the Oakland Raiders will travel 6 hours south to Oxnard, California where they will practice with the Dallas Cowboys.  The joint sessions – to take place on August 12th and 13th – fall in between the first and second preseason matchups of 2014.  The two teams have somewhat of a history together, as long-time team-owners/friends Jerry Jones and Al Davis used to arrange such meetings often.

When news of these plans broke, many fans expressed, well, annoyance.  Frankly, people had hoped the ‘Boys would have picked a more successful bunch with whom to work.  But while the Raiders have not found much success over the years, the two teams actually matchup quite well.  Here, we look at three areas on the Cowboys which could be significantly improved after August 13th.

Man-to-Man Coverage

Thanks to a lack of consistency at the Quarterback position, many have overlooked the talented receiving corps Oakland has boasted for several years.  While names like Darius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford don’t exactly stand out, they do represent young, super-athletic players who probably would have done well in a better system.  This year, the unit sports an experienced leader in James Jones, along with the speedy Denarius Moore and a blossoming talent in 6’3 Rod Streater.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have three corners who are supposed to be studs in man-coverage, yet did very poorly last season.  This year, it is a chance to prove their talents.  So, as a way of shaking off the dust, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, and Morris Claiborne can try their hands at covering Oakland’s fast, strong receivers.  The Raiders may not have the best wide receivers, but their individual talents are perfect for breaking in a coverage team that needs a lot of practice.

Stopping the Run

Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.  One team.  Think the Raiders will run the ball a lot this season?  If that wasn’t enough, though, how about arguably the game’s best Fullback in Marcel Reece.  Add in a couple of quality interior linemen and you’ve got a good workout for the Dallas run defense.  This will be very important as Dallas is trying to find the right combination of not only defensive linemen, but also linebackers.  Of course, all eyes will be on Rolando McClain who is hoping to take Sean Lee’s job and meets with the team that drafted him.  So much focus has been put on pass rushers, but a lack of defenders that can stop the run would spell disaster for any team.

Protecting the Edge

If there’s one strength that the Raiders defense can boast this year, it’s a solid edge rush.  Both projected starting Defensive Ends are new additions, having come over with successful careers on other teams.  NY Giants transplant Justin Tuck will be a nice compliment to former Pittsburgh Steeler LaMarr Woodley.  It’s important that these edge linemen are solid contributors, as they need to make way for rookie linebacker Khalil Mack.  Call me cray, but this edge rush unit may be better than any in the NFC East.  Tyron Smith may have already proven himself, but Doug Free and the many young tight ends still have work to do.  Plus, if the Cowboys plan on performing any rush plays to the outside, that rotation needs to be perfect.  It will be exciting to see what happens when Zach Martin and Khalil Mack collide.

Tags: Dallas Cowboys Oakland Raiders Rolando McClain

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