COMMENTARY | After their first two exhibition games, the Oakland Raiders have been nothing less than Jekyll and Hyde.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, there was excitement and energy to go along with a 19-17 victory. Against the New Orleans Saints, however, there was miscommunication and inconsistency to go along with a 28-20 defeat.
The Saints would've dropped way more than 28 had their first-team offense stayed on the field the entire game. But there was no need.
The damage had already been done.
Led by Drew Brees, the Saints scored 17 points in the first quarter against the depleted Raiders defense. And, boy, did they make it look easy.
The Raiders are looking for a bounce-back performance against the Chicago Bears, but it won't be easy by any means. Chicago still possesses one of the nastiest defenses in the NFL, which means the inexperienced Oakland offense will definitely have its hands full.
Here are five Raiders to keep an eye on against the Bears:
Yes, it's only the preseason, but Darren McFadden hasn't shown any signs of improvement from his disaster campaign of 2012 where he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
So far, he's only touched the ball a handful of times and has recently been bothered by a shoulder injury. Although it doesn't appear to be major, Raiders fans always get nervous when they hear the words "McFadden" and "injury" in the same sentence.
With the starters set to play at least the first half against the Bears, McFadden is sure to get some sufficient playing time. He'll also have to do it behind a shaky offensive line that is going up against a stingy run defense.
Current NBC Sports analyst and former mediocre quarterback Shaun King blasted him by saying McFadden is only out to collect a check. It could light the fire under his belly, but Shaun King was never any good, so perhaps not.
Either way, McFadden will have quite the test against the Bears.
Boy, do the Raiders miss Jared Veldheer. He was the anchor of the offensive line that now looks lost, and he won't return until at least November.
Alex Barron struggled filling in for Veldheer at left tackle against the Saints, and now he must go up against the machine that is Julius Peppers.
It will, without a doubt, be a gargantuan challenge for Barron who will most likely rotate with rookie Menelik Watson.
The Raiders need him to step up one way or the other. Whether it's protecting Matt Flynn's blindside or playing at right tackle, Barron needs to be relevant.
Lamarr Houston has yet to play this preseason, but he'll make his debut against the Bears.
Houston returns as just one of two starters from last year's defense. And, please believe, he is the new anchor for the Raiders' defensive line that finished 31st in sacks in 2012.
Head coach Dennis Allen said he looks at Houston as an "elite player," which is something the Raiders desperately need. Houston compiled just four sacks last year but was always around the football.
He is poised for a breakout season in 2013.
The quarterback is kind of a big deal, and the Raiders are hoping Matt Flynn can be a big deal for a long time.
Thankfully, for Flynn, he's got two more preseason games to prove he can lead this team in the right direction.
Flynn will be busy having to deal with Peppers and Henry Melton, two of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. After all, he was sacked five times in the first half alone against the Saints, and he must get better from here on out.
Easier said than done.
When you play alongside Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, it's easy to get lost in the limelight.
That's exactly what happened to linebacker Nick Roach, whom general manager Reggie McKenzie signed in the offseason to anchor the linebacker unit formerly led by Philip Wheeler.
Roach was very impressive in camp, and the Raiders are looking to him to lead this completely new defense that features nine new starters, Roach included.
Roach filled in for Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker during Chicago's final four games in 2012 when Urlacher was out with an injury, and did a phenomenal job by compiling 31 tackles and knocking down two passes.
Along with Houston and Charles Woodson, Roach will be a playmaker for a very unknown Raiders defense.
Steven Slivka is a freelance writer for the Oakland Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.
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