The Raiders are 0-2. Being in a “transition” year – with a remade and aging roster – fans and coaches should be focusing on continuous improvement. The numbers show the team is improving in many areas and still lags in others.
No one wants to star the season 0-2. The statistical implications of a slow start for the Raiders indicate the playoffs are already a long shot. Despite that fact, as coaches and players, the team must get better each week as the organization sets building blocks for the future.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Derek Carr is on an Upswing
Yes, we only have two weeks to go on, but after many in Raider Nation already turned on their quarterback after a dismal second-half performance against the Rams in Week 1., Carr bounced back with a remarkable performance in a loss at Denver. According to Pro Football Focus, Carr’s quarterback grade increased the most week-to-week skyrocketing from 54.0 in Week 1 to 86.3 in Week 2. That’s a whopping +32.3 change. His improvement didn’t result in an Oakland win, but seeing him rebound after the world came down on him is encouraging moving forward.
Note: the Raiders overall offense, as a result of Carr’s performance and other improvements, climbed from a Week 1 grade of 60.6 to 73.4 in Week 2.
Gareon Conley is on the Field and Getting Better
In almost every sense of the word, Gareon Conley is really a rookie. Having missed significant time (all of his “true” rookie season in 2017) due to injury, the talented cornerback has come back in a big way. It’s a good thing as the Raiders need a true top-flight cornerback to improve their defense. Conley’s PFF grade for defense also saw a big jump from the Rams game to the Broncos loss. According to PFF grades, Conley finished Week 1 with a 47.4. After the loss in Denver and Conley’s solid game, his score rose 21.3 points to 68.7. Even Conley’s rush defense jumped 20-points from 56.0 to 74.5. Certainly an encouraging development for Jon Gruden’s winless squad.
Amari Cooper Takes Flight in Week 2
There weren’t any negatives to find in Cooper’s performance in Denver. He caught 10-of-1o balls thrown his way, and that would have been 11-for-11 if not for a penalty. Cooper’s overall offensive grade for Week 1 was a poor 55.6. After his monumental Week 2, that jumped to 79.4 – a 23.8 point swing. Could Cooper be on his way to a big season? Raider Nation hopes so but the NFL is all about consistency so we’ll see how the next few weeks go. Still, the fact Gruden’s offense, and Carr’s improvement, have included a heavy dose of Cooper is a good sign.
Big Mo Hurst Making Moves
Much has been bandied about regarding the Raiders “lack” of a pass rush. While many are using it as an ongoing platform to blast the team over the Khalil Mack trade, there are good things happening on the interior. One of the steals of the draft was Maurice Hurst. Hurst has recorded just one sack through two weeks but on an interior line that has sustained key injuries to the likes of fellow rookie PJ Hall, Hurst is steadily improving week-to-week. His overall grade rose from 58.9 in Week 1 vs. the buff Rams offensive line to 63.5 against another good offensive line in Denver.
Where Things Are Not Going Well
Pass Rush – Are there still big holes on the Raiders roster? Absolutely. The outside pass rushers need to help the interior and the backfield to start pressuring opponent quarterbacks – especially late in games. The Raiders rank dead last according to PFF with a 53.9 pass-rush grade. This will continue to be an issue until the team finds someone to help put pressure on the quarterback.
Pass Blocking – Despite not allowing many pressures against Denver last week, that wasn’t due to exceptional offensive line play. Carr was getting rid of the ball so quickly, Denver could get to him fast enough. The Raiders rank next-to-last in the PFF pass blocking grades with a disappointing 58.8. Blocking for the run, they’re not much better. Oakland ranks 27th with a 54.9 run blocking score.