Pass Offense: Don’t be fooled by the almost respectable stats. Derek Carr went 7-for-12 for 61 yards before hurting his hand trying to stiff-arm Pacman Jones (who should have been ejected several plays earlier for his assault on Amari Cooper, but that’s another story). Matt McGloin was 23-31-142, with 2 TDs and 1 INT, but all well after the game was out of reach. (The total between both QBs is just under five yards per attempt on average.) The Raiders did not start an offensive play beyond the 50-yard line until the fourth quarter. Amari Cooper looked very good in his rookie outing, showing the poise and great hands that got him picked 4th overall this spring. Michael Crabtree had a couple of clutch catches. Marcel Reece caught both of McGloin’s TD passes. Grade: D+
Rush Offense: Latavius Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry, which sounds decent, until you see that that means 44 yards on 11 carries. The Raiders could not generate sustained drives until garbage time, and by then they had to abandon the run. There simply wasn’t enough to get a decent assessment on line push and run blocking, not to mention rushing. Grade: C-
Pass Defense: What pass defense? Oakland’s pass rush generated no sacks, allowing Andy Dalton to carve up the Raiders secondary at will, going 25-34-269, with 2 TDs and no interceptions. Tight end Tyler Eifert, who missed almost the entire season last year, had 9 receptions for 104 yards and 2 TDs, frequently on basic seam routes that kept confounding the Raiders’ secondary. DJ Hayden continues to be a liability, alternating between getting burned in coverage and blatantly molesting AJ Green to prevent a touchdown (which of course gave the Bengals a fresh set of downs inside the Raiders’ 5-yard line). Either a true pass rush is going to have to develop to take pressure off the secondary, or one or more of the DBs is going to have to step up. Otherwise this team is going nowhere. The offense is simply not built to get into shootout-type games.Grade: D-
Rush Defense: Running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard gashed the Raiders defensive line early and often. A key early play was on the Bengals first scoring drive, when the went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1, and Hill ran around the left side, leaving linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong grasping at air. I don’t know what Sio Moore did to get in the doghouse of the current coaching staff, but it’s not like the LB corps is any better without him. Hill and Bernard totaled 126 yards on 27 carries (4.67 yds/carry), not catastrophic but not exactly much of an improvement either. Grade: D
Special Teams: Kicking and punt returns were serviceable enough, which given the other facets of the game almost qualifies as a bright spot. Marquette King set a league record for number of punts last season, and it would probably be a good idea to keep his leg in shape this time around as well. Most of his six punts were fine, though he shanked the first one. Sebastian Janikowski had no field goal attempts. Grade: C
Coaching: During the course of the game, Derek Carr, Nate Allen, and Charles Woodson left with injuries. Until the extent of those injuries is known, it’s tough to say what head coach Jack Del Rio and his crew have signed up for. But this was a thoroughly underwhelming inaugural outing in all phases. The offense had trouble gaining first downs, and never even crossed the 50-yard line until the end of the 3rd quarter. The infield dirt of Oakland Coliseum, the last such intrusion of a baseball diamond on an NFL field, serves as a middle finger throughout. It would be one thing if the Raiders could use the dirt as a tactical advantage over other teams, but they’re as prone to it as anyone else. It is an obstacle to be dealt with, and this is not a team built to handle obstacles.
The condition of the field is bullshit, but it’s not the fault of the coaching staff. What is the coaching staff’s problem is that they fielded a team that was clearly underprepared and overmatched. The Bengals, no doubt exhorted by their offensive coordinator (and former Oakland head coach) Hue Jackson, came out strong right from the start on both offense and defense. The Raiders did not seem to have that sense of urgency on either side of the ball, and failed to execute at critical moments.
The next time a cheap-shot asshole like Pacman Jones takes the Raiders’ star #1 draft pick receiver, rips his helmet off after he’s been tackled to the ground, and slams his head into the helmet, one of the special teams players needs to take Jones on his next punt/kickoff return, and snap him over his knee. Don’t worry, Mark Davis will pay your fine. But the Raiders’ failure to respond at all to that was all the Bengals needed to know. Del Rio may feel that he’s instilled a stronger team culture of discipline and execution, but the results did not show on the field. The team needs to play with aggression and purpose, and Jones’ conduct alone — mauling Cooper and knocking Carr out of the game — should have been something to rally around. The old Raiders would have sent a backup DE in to late-hit Dalton and knock his ass out of the game in retaliation. Instead they derped their way around their own side of the field until it was 33-0 in the 4th quarter.
With most teams, you can spot “easier” parts of the schedule where they don’t have to worry as much about a blowout or an automatic loss. Part of that is parity, part of that is just the general level of competence in teams, coaches, and players. Every team should be able to point at a few games and say to themselves, “Yeah, we got that one.”
But looking at how the team performed today, there are no such games on the Raiders’ schedule. The Ravens next week, even though Steve Smith is their only real offensive weapon, are a threat. The trip to Cleveland in two weeks is no joke. And so on. Even the lowly Titans — you saw Marcus Mariota beat down the Buccaneers today, but did you also know that the Raiders have only won in Tennessee once, and that was in 2005? Did you know that in 11 visits to Oakland, today was the first time the Bengals won? The Raiders are clearly going to have to fight and claw for just a chance at victory this season, whether the opponent is “good” or “bad”.
As such, the coaches need to install a game plan that emphasizes the run game, ball control, low-risk passing, keeping the opponent off the field. They didn’t do that, and they failed to adapt long after the score got out of hand. As a general observation, the best thing that the coaches can do for this team is to get them to play so that other teams will fear and respect them. They need to know that if Pacman Jones takes their star receiver, sits on his chest and beats his head against his own helmet, Pacman Jones is going to leave the game with some broken bones, preferably a sternum or collarbone or fibula. The Raiders’ meek response instead showed that they were to be neither feared nor even respected, but merely pitied or laughed at.
And the sooner the A’s season is done and that goddamned dirt infield is gone, the better. Grade: D