It's early yet to start predicting the effectiveness of any NFL team's offense or defense, since we're primarily seeing names on the backs of Raiders jerseys we might never hear of again.

However, if Monday night's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys is any indication, fans of the silver and black may be able to cheer on a defense that hearkens back to a more glorious era.

The Raiders' defense last season was abysmal, ranking 29th in the league.  This year they didn't fare much better with the critics, garnering the 28th spot out of 32 teams. So it doesn't get much worse in terms of grade. 

But before anyone panics over visions of another 8-8 season, let's remember that the Raiders had a defense ranked 11th in 2010 that starred some of the same veterans that appear on this year's squad.  Additionally, Monday's game, a difficult to watch 3-0 loss, showed some flashes of brilliance from the much maligned Raiders D.

The Raiders managed to hold the Cowboys to 202 total yards, 11 first downs, and a 2-10 third down conversion rate.  The defense also managed to notch two sacks and an interception en route to an ugly defeat.

Granted, it's tough to get excited about a great performance in a preseason scrimmage when coaches are generally more concerned with evaluating players than putting an "X" in the win column. But realize, the Cowboys had absolutely nothing going on offensively until the third quarter.

Another reason to believe things are looking up in Oakland is the Raiders' use of the 3-4 defensive scheme.

While the 3-4 was once viewed in the same dubious light as gold medallions and leisure suits it, like fashion, has come full circle and is once again in vogue. New head coach and defensive specialist Dennis Allen has repeatedly said he would make use of a hybrid of the 3-4 alignment. While we saw only a limited look on Monday night, since no team wants to give away their whole tactical plan, we can assume we'll see a lot more once the season starts.

At worst, the 3-4 can be used to confound offensive lines not accustomed to mid-game switches. At best, it becomes a showcase for the Raiders' aging defensive line aces Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. Kelly actually made one of Oakland's sacks on Monday.

Of course, the production of the defense as a whole is still dependent on the linebackers and secondary and the Raiders have some talent there. It also relies on an offense productive enough to keep the defense off the field for as long as possible, and Oakland's offense had it's own highlights.

As the season progresses, we'll find out if the Raiders defense has been handed a misdiagnosis by the football prognosticators or if there's still a lot of life left in the ailing patient.