To say the Oakland Raiders’ off-season has been a roller coaster ride would be an understatement, it’s been crazy. From the unretirement and subsequent trade of Marshawn Lynch, the drafting of Gareon Conely in the first round days after being accused of rape, the holdout of Pro-Bowl LT Donald Penn, the arrest of starting CB Sean Smith after he was charged with fellony assault on his sister’s boyfriend, to just days before the start of the season when the Raider with the longest tenure kicker Sebastian Janikowski was placed on the IR. So yeah, the off-season was a bit wild. Finally, it has ended and now is time to play some ball.
In the season opener visiting the Titans of Tennessee Oakland looked past all that drama and put together a complete game in a 26-16 victory. Offense, defense, special teams, all three phases of the game were on point.
In honor of my Canadian heritage, I’m going to do what they do after every NHL game. Announce the game’s 3 stars.
QB Derek Carr 22-32 262yards 2TD’s 0 ints 114.3 QBR.
From the first drive of the game Derek Carr looked sharp, going 3-3 and hitting Amari Cooper for an 8 yard TD. Amari must have been inspired by Marshawn as he went full “Coopmode”, spinning off would be tacklers and dragging three guys nearly 5 yards into the end zone with him. Carr’s second TD pass was a 19 yard laser beam to Seth Roberts was a thing of beauty and a throw not many QB’s in the league could complete. Carr was routinely pressured by a formidable Tennessee front, but was able to get the ball out quickly and didn’t comit a turnover.
K Giorgio Tavecchio 4-4 FG, 2-2 PAT.
After toiling away as a training camp leg for the Raiders for four seasons, Giorgio Tavecchio was finally given an opportunity to prove he belongs. Boy, did he ever. Janikowski’s last minute replacment was a perfect 4 for 4 including setting an NFL record for making two 50+ yard FG’s to start his career. GT’s 14 points were the difference in the game. It was an impressive debut to earn him the game’s 2nd star. For his efforts Tavecchio was named AFC special team’s player of the week.
Marshawn Lynch 18 carries 76yards 1catch 16yards.
If anyone questioned whether Beastmode lost any of his power during his one year hiatus from football just ask Jurrell Casey, the 300+ pound DT of the Titans felt first hand what Marshawn Lynch has left in the tank. That lesson came in the form of an absolute steam roll when Donald Penn missed his blocking assignment, Casey came in to meet Lynch untouched. Marshawn welcomed the contact by lowering a shoulder and knocking the DT flat on his ass…..it was a thing of beauty. I will admit I have some bias towards Number 24 as I’ve been a big fan of his since his days at Cal and actually getting to see him don the silver and black was surreal for me. I haven’t had this much fun watching a guy run for a 4 yard gain since Barry Sanders was playing Houdini behind Detroit Lions sieve of an offense line over a decade ago. Going forward, I believe Beastmode will only get better as the team learns he doesn’t go down on first contact. What teammates need to do is get behind him and start pushing a la rugby scrum. Often times in this game Marshawn was pushing against 3 or 4 titans players as he fought for extra yards. Its a far cry from Latavius Murray and his “go down on first contact” style of last season.
They only gave up 95 yards on the ground to one of the best rushing team’s last season and aside from the first drive, kept Marcus Mariota in check most of the game. Khalil Mack, although he didn’t register a sack, was a force as usual with 5 QB pressures and 2 tackles for a loss. This helped Mack lead all edge rushers in PFF rankings, as he did all of last year. Rookie DT Eddie Vanderdoes was impressive in his NFL debut ranking 3rd for all DT’s per PFF, and completely mauling Pro bowler Taylor Lewan on his first NFL snap. If Vanderdoes can continue this kind of play, the defense will improve tremendously as the season plays out. Even the secondary looked good as last year’s first round pick, FS Karl Joseph, was flying around the field all day making the kind of plays the organization knew he was capable of when he was selected 14th overall in the 2016 draft. Heck things were going so well for the defense even struggling CB Sean Smith was lights out. If the defense continues to play this way they will be a difficult team to play all season against anyone.
Oakland has it’s first home game of the season and fans are in for a treat as the lowly NY Jets (0-1) come to town in what should be a blowout. Vegas has marked the Raiders as 14 point favorites in this game and I’m thinking Oakland can cover that. After the Titans matchup, Carr mentioned he wasn’t happy with the offensive performance and the team “left too many plays on the field”. This is a team looking to make a statement and unfortunately for the J-E-T-S they will be on the wrong end of that statement.
Prediction- Raiders 38 Jets 10
Photo Credits: USA Today