Every season, the opening weekend of the NFL comes with most fans having dreams of playoff runs and a possible Super Bowl title for their favorite team. For fans of the Oakland Raiders, those dreams took a stinging body blow as the team fell to the visiting Los Angeles Rams, 33-13.
It is of course only one of 16 games. This squad will play this year and those dreams are all still possibilities. The final result was a far cry from the tight back and forth contest of the first half, though it is only the end result that counts. Let’s look at a few key takeaways from the Raiders first real game action under Jon Gruden.
Carr didn’t look comfortable for much of this game though defensive pressure had a lot to do with that, his decision making really cost the team.
Derek Carr struggles
Even though Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is entering the first season in Gruden’s offense, he didn’t get much action in the preseason. After the number of lopsided results from this first week, teams may reexamine their philosophies surrounding these exhibition games. Carr didn’t look comfortable for much of this game though defensive pressure had a lot to do with that, his decision making really cost the team. He would complete 29-of-40 pass attempts (72.5%) for 303 yards, no scores, and three incredibly costly interceptions.
“(I) thought he did some good things tonight,” Gruden said of Carr after the game. “Obviously there are some critical errors that we have to eliminate. He knows that, you know that, we all know that.”
The first interception in this clip is the most perplexing. When asked about the play specifically, Carr stated that he intended to throw the ball away while still giving wide receiver Jordy Nelson a chance to make a play. He changed his mind in mid-motion but lost the ball as he attempted to pull it back down. The result was a gift to the Rams defense. Already down two scores, this seemed to be the final nail in the Raiders coffin.
The second interception is not Carr’s fault. Tight end Jared Cook stopped on his drag route. He seems to have felt the open space in the field and read the coverage as a zone. He “sits down” while Carr expects him to continue his route. This opens the door for the ever-lurking Rams cornerback Marcus Peters to add a pick 6 to his growing career highlight reel. If the last miscue was the final nail, this was the hammer that drove it in as well as the shovel that buried it. It is only week one and there is still plenty of time for the offense to gel.
“Losses with coach Gruden feel a little bit different than I ever felt before,” Carr said after the game. “Just the positive coaching, the next step, the demanding what he needs from me next time. I just talked to him for 10 minutes and I already feel like we’re gonna be better next week.”
Next week will be here in six days so there won’t be any rest time beforehand. This is the best coaching staff Carr has been surrounded by during his professional career and he seems to know it.
Jared Cook picks up where he left off
Tight end Jared Cook led the Raiders in receiving yards last season and has started this years campaign the same way. He leads all receivers in the game with 180 yards on nine receptions while averaging 20 yards per catch.
Cook looks more like a wide receiver running routes yet has the sheer size to win one on one matchups. If teams continue to focus on shutting down the Raiders outside receivers, Cook is going to have the best statistics of his career this season.
“We called some, we called their numbers,” Gruden said of the other receivers. “We tried. Obviously, Jared Cook came up huge today. The nature of their coverages allowed us to get the ball to our tight end and backs. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get more out of it.”
Being the third option isn’t so bad when the opposing defense has to focus on other players. Expect to see Cook have a few more big games this season. The Raiders and Gruden are just hoping they lead to victories in the future.
If the commentators from ESPN reminding fans, ad nauseam, of the fact the team traded away Khalil Mack, the complete lack of pressure on the Rams quarterback would have. Jared Goff had plenty of time in the pocket and utilized it to rack up 233 yards while throwing two touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks in clean pockets is a site Oakland fans are all too accustomed to.
As a group, the defense was credited with one sack and a measly 2 quarterback hits. If this trend continues it will be another long season watching a defense that is unable to get the passer on the ground. Just going of the game clock, Goff had 4 seconds in the pocket on this play. What is more concerning is he may have had a few more as no defender was really near him. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther may need to expand his blitz packages if the defense is going to hold it’s own this season.
The Rams did a great job of staying balanced in their attack and had an effective run game. Having to guess if the play will be a run or a pass can have an effect on the pass rush. Hopefully as the defense jells and plays the run better they will find a more effective and aggressive pass rush.
With the first game in the books, the Raiders look like a team that will finish in the middle of the pack. They do however have a coaching staff that has seen almost everything but more importantly, has an answer. The next two to three weeks will set the tone for Oakland’s 2018 NFL season. Will they regroup and rebound? Or is this a rebuilding year as so many people have claimed? Whatever they do, they need to do it fast. A divisional rival in the Denver Broncos is on the horizon and will be here before they know it.