by Carmichael Dave, KHTK Sacramento

Football is back!!! But not really. Both local NFL teams kick off their preseason schedules this weekend, and every year I feel the same.

I pop the proverbial popcorn, cook up the (for real) pizza, grab the beer of choice, and try to fight off those excited butterflies generally reserved for the prom or speaking in front of large crowds. This is it…..the hot weather will soon be gone, the crisp bite of the autumn wind (it’s a raider by the way, a pirate) will soon blow through my baggy clothes, and before long I will be fat on turkey with my family watching Thursday Thanksgiving games.

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Then I watch the first 30 minutes of preseason. Then I remember what I’m really watching. Almost football.

Being that we are basically sheeping for glorified scrimmages, there are still things we as fans can look for with our team(s) as we cycle closer and closer to the real deal.

  1. Is Kurt Warner the Colin Whisperer?

We all know that Colin Kaepernick worked with the former grocery boy and Super Bowl champ. But did it do anything? Will he allow the pocket to partially collapse without freaking out and running into three 400-pound linemen? Can he make his happy feet turn into “in a decent mood” feet? We shall see.

  1. Derek Carr got early Xmas presents. Does he like them?

Hype galore surrounds Raider fans going into this season. And no, not the roll-your-eyes, dumb-Raider-fan-does-this-every-year hype, but real, actual hype. Will they win the Super Bowl? No. Will they make the playoffs? Doubtful. Will they finish with a better record than the whiney, cheesy, too cool for school Niners across the Bay? Perhaps.

One of the biggest components of the well-deserved goodwill is second-year QB Derek Carr. Worries that he was the second coming of Brother David have been pushed aside, and he has been given the tools (at least at the skill positions) to make something happen. He already had TE Michael Rivera, who showed great promise last season at times. Latavius Murray makes Raider fan drool, if he can stay healthy. Add in Reggie Bush and Michael Crabtree, and now we’re talking about some serious movement.

(Cues Star Wars Emperor’s Theme) But wait!! What’s that? Oh, its Amari Cooper everyone!! This is the alpha and omega of Raider Nation excitement, or at least it should be. I’ve heard everything from “Pro-Bowler” to “Best rookie prospect since Calvin Johnson”.  Cooper is the guy fans have been waiting for, and the hopes are simply that he and Carr will become the next Manning-Harrison. Montana-Rice. Brady-Moss (but longer). Stockton-Malone. In other words, no pressure at all.

  1. Finally, how bout those defenses?
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There are legit questions on both sides. The obvious ones are with the Niners, who lost basically an entire defense, wizard coach Vic Fangio, and the one ring that unites them all. Seriously, they lost a lot of talent and brain. But the experts say (and they’re always right) that Trent Baalke was smart in stockpiling projects due to their extreme depth, to ward off issues exactly like this one. Quite simply, it all starts with Navorro Bowman, and whether or not he can even come close to regaining his form. We certainly won’t find that out this weekend, but we can maybe get a glimpse of a few of those projects hungry and ready to deliver.

On the silver and black side, young guns Khalil Mack and Sio Moore head the class. The veteran presence is anchored by the ultimate professionals- Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck. DJ Hayden is already running his mouth about the defense, and he’s part of their biggest question- the secondary. The scary thing?

Of all the players just mentioned, the guy with the chance to be the best of the bunch is rookie Mario Edwards. Those who watched him tear things up for Florida State in the ACC are currently nodding their heads. For those fans who haven’t? Get ready, he is a BEAST.

If the Raiders can work their defense as a cohesive unit that communicates well, and their secondary can even be AVERAGE, this group has a chance to be a top 5 defense in the NFL.

DJ Hayden might be right.

  1. Remember, its preseason.

The key to this weekend is to remember, as a fan, boring can be good. There’s no point in pulling out all the stops in a meaningless game. See some young guys make plays, and don’t let any starters get hurt. Accomplish both, and you’ve won. The score could NOT matter less.

And yes, soon we will be seeing real, actual football. Vince Lombardi’s trophy may not be visiting Northern California this year, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some very exciting stories yet to be told, and questions yet to be answered.

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