COMMENTARY | After an ugly performance against the New Orleans Saints where they trailed 17-0 after the first quarter, the Oakland Raiders will face one of the best defenses in the NFL in their third preseason game.
The Chicago Bears come to O.co Coliseum on Friday, and it could very well be a long day at the office for the Raiders.
The Bears' defense, albeit without Brian Urlacher, D.J. Moore and Israel Idonije, is still a top-notch unit. They're stacked on every level from the nasty defensive line to their stingy secondary, which spells disaster for Oakland, which struggled mightily offensively against a putrid Saints defense.
This is the time where the starters really begin to show what they can do. The Raiders have only two more games before opening up things for real against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 8, and several questions still linger.
Here are five things to look for when the Raiders take on the Bears:
The Mysterious D.J. Hayden
General manager Reggie McKenzie's choice to draft cornerback D.J. Hayden at No. 12 was arguably the riskiest pick in the first round.
Think about it. Hayden nearly died in November after he tore a vein near his heart when he was in college.
Although Hayden had told the coaching staff he was ready to go, they felt there was no need to rush him into action just yet. He will make his NFL debut against the Bears, and all of Raider Nation will be itching to see how he fares on the field.
Tracy Porter got destroyed against the Saints, and the Raiders are hoping Hayden can come in and make a difference immediately.
After all, that's why they took him in the first round.
The Offensive Line
It's difficult to protect the quarterback when your best lineman goes down. The Raiders found that out the hard way when Jared Veldheer required surgery for his torn triceps last week.
Alex Barron tried to fill in for Veldheer against the Saints. Tried.
He struggled to protect Matt Flynn's blindside and now must go up against one of the premier pass rushers in the league in Julius Peppers. Ouch.
Menelik Watson, Oakland's second-round pick this year, has been limited this offseason due to a calf injury. He will also be looked upon to fill the duties of left tackle if Barron struggles again.
Oh yeah, and right guard Mike Brisiel is still nursing an ankle injury. It could be a very long day for the Raiders' offense.
The Defensive Line
The Oakland Raiders will not be relevant this year if they cannot get to the quarterback. Period.
They finished 31st in the NFL in sacks last year, and McKenzie made it a priority to dump the overpaid players and replace them with cheaper ones for salary-cap purposes.
Pat Sims, Vance Walker and Lamarr Houston have not played in the preseason thus far, which has made the defensive line's perception a bit skewed. Houston will start against the Bears, although the other two are still uncertain.
David Bass and Jack Crawford made plays against the Saints, so it will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Jason Tarver decides to use them.
Is this the time where Denarius Moore finally takes advantage of that No. 1 spot?
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson told the Bay Area News Group (via NFL.com) that he's looking for Moore to finally mature into the No. 1 receiver the Raiders so desperately need.
Moore and Matt Flynn connected for an 18-yard touchdown toward the end of the first half against the Saints to finally put some points on the board.
The Raiders need more of that from Moore, only now he has to do it against a real secondary.
The Impact of Darren McFadden
Darren McFadden is the Raiders' best player who is entering a contract year. With a return to the power-blocking scheme, it was hopeful that McFadden would return to his 2010 form when he rushed for over 1,100 yards and took the league by storm.
But as everybody knows, McFadden has always had a problem staying healthy.
The fact that the Raiders' offensive line is paper-thin, how much will it really impact McFadden's game? And if this is a consistent problem throughout the season, how will McFadden deal with it?
He wants to prove to the Raiders (and the rest of the league) that he is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He will no doubt be the focal point of Oakland's offense, and line or no line, he needs to prove that he can perform and stay healthy at the same time.
Also, he has to do it against a defense that ranked 8th against the rush last year.
Steven Slivka is a freelance writer for the Oakland Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.
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