By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders had one of the best teams in the AFC last season until they lost their starting quarterback Derek Carr right before the playoffs. After a first-round exit, the Raiders are looking to repeat their regular season success in 2017—and they got off to a greatstart in their first game of the season. The Raiders took on the Tennessee Titans, one of the favorites to win the AFC South, and won in dominating fashion, 26-13. Here is a look at the Raiders team grades after their opening win of the 2017 NFL season.
The Oakland Raiders have one significant difference between this season’s offensive unit and the one that took the field last year. While the Raiders had Latavius Murray running the ball well last season, the team signed former NFL superstar Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to be its lead running back in 2017. The hope for the Raiders is that Lynch can move the chains and take a lot of pressure off Carr when it comes to the passing game. While the Raiders said they would ease Lynch back into action, they wound up giving him a full load yesterday. Lynch carried the ball 18 times for 76 rushing yards, a 4.3 yards-per-carry average that was .2 yards more than Murray ran for last season.
Carr still carried the load for the Raiders. As he proved on the opening drive of the game, when he is moving the ball, no one can seem to stop the Raiders. Carr completed 68 percent of his passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. His top receivers in the game were Michael Crabtree (6-83-0), Amari Cooper (5-62-1) and tight end Jared Cook (5-56-0). Carr spread the ball around to seven different receivers and was only sacked twice in the game.
While the Oakland Raiders came into the season with a potent offense, they were shaky on defense. The linebacker corps was banged up and lacked depth. They had some weapons, but nothing that scared the Tennessee Titans. The team ended up sacking Marcus Mariota only once, and allowed him to throw for 256 yards while running for 26 yards and a touchdown.
However, what the Raiders did do well was limit what the Titans could do. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for a total of 69 rushing yards in the game, with only a 3.8-yard average. It was tight end Delanie Walker who led the way for Tennessee, with seven receptions for 76 yards. Neither team lost a turnover and Oakland’s defensive MVP Khalil Mack led the way with two tackles for a loss. Credit has to be given to the Raiders defense for allowing only one quarterback scramble for a touchdown while holding the Titans to three field goals.
Special Teams: A
The Oakland Raiders have to be very happy with their special teams performance in this game. The Raiders agreed to a new contract with Sebastian Janikowski last week, listed him as questionable on their injury report, and then ended up moving him to the injured reserve list yesterday. As a result, rookie kicker Giorgio Tavecchio started the first game of his NFL career, and he was perfect. The Raiders won by 13 points, and 12 of those were field goals by Tavecchio, who was a perfect four-for-four on field goals and two-for-two on extra points.
Punting was above average for Oakland with Marquette King averaging just under 52 yards on three punts, pinning one inside the 20 and putting one into the end zone. The only punt return for Tennessee went five yards. Jalen Richard of the Raiders didn’t do much better, with two returns for a total of five yards.
The Oakland Raiders had something to prove in their opening game of the 2017 NFL season. The Raiders showed right out of the gate that they wanted to set the tempo of the game. In four plays, Carr completed three passes and Marshawn Lynch ran for 14 yards, finishing with the Raiders putting up the first touchdown of the game. Oakland never trailed in the contest, and while they needed to rely on too many field goals in the game, they proved that they are one of the best teams in the NFL by working a clean game on offense and a bend-but-don’t-break game on defense. Oakland is 1-0 and looks sharp heading into their second game next week against the New York Jets.