Not quite the thriller of 12 months ago, as in the 35-34 shootout @ New Orleans! However, I believe that this composed and measured 26-12 win @ Tennessee shows the Raiders are heading in the right direction, despite many fans’ (including my own) reservations over the lack of defensive improvement in free agency…
The Titans are rated as a potential contender in the AFC South and a playoff team at that, yet the Raiders outplayed them in all three phases of the game.
Offensively, crucial contributions from a hungry and healthy Derek Carr #4, rejuvenated Beastmode #24 and our trio of receivers constantly stretched the Titans’ defence.
Defensively we held last season’s third ranked rushing offence to under 100 yards and conceded only 6 points in the second half, Mack was solid as always and the emergence of Eddie Vanderdoes #94 is encouraging.
Then finally step forward last minute kicking addition Giorgio Tavecchio #2, who kicked 4 from 4 field goals including 2 from 52 yards, impressive.
Derek Carr #4
The return of QB1. Can’t praise Derek enough and having him lead my team fills me with confidence. Not a spectacular collection of figures with 22 of 32, 262 yards and 2 TD’s but he seems to grow in composure and maturity with every game, as well as being a true leader. His ability to select a pass and spread the ball around must be a defensive coordinator’s nightmare in using 8 different targets during the game. Including the spectacular strength shown after catch by Amari Cooper #89 for the first quarter TD score and the one and only use of Seth Roberts #10 in a 19 yard fourth quarter and decisive TD. The newly formed connection to Jared Cook #87 has provided another option with his elite catching ability, allowing us to convert 4 first downs and a solid 5 for 56 yards. Just stay healthy Derek!
Marshawn Lynch #24
Solid Raiders debut with 18 carries for 76 yards, beastmode is back! The initial questions over his acquisition over Adrien Peterson was a topic of debate amongst Raiders fans due to the year off Lynch had taken after retirement, though these have been answered although were never really in doubt for me. Lynch is a complex character who has to play when he’s hungry and I believe he lost this in Seattle. Returning to his native Oakland has rejuvenated him and the year off only seemingly made him more healthy and hungry. His game is power running and we saw that against Jurell Casey in the 4th quarter, steamrolling a pro bowl defender with ruthless efficiency. Aside from the highlight reel many will focus on, he was crucial in moving the ball the hard yardage and keeping control of the clock and the game. This ability to rely on him will give us a security and ruthlessness in games which we did not have last year for all Latavius Murray’s qualities.
Giorgio Tavecchio #2
The seemingly last-minute loss of the iconic Sebastian Janikowski #11 looked to be a crushing blow with an 8 week layoff due to an injured back. To many Raiders fans including myself, Seabass is all we have known having been at times the Raiders best player! and with the team since 2002. In truth Giorgio did not have the best of preseasons, in this his fourth with the Raiders he missed a fairly routine field goal attempt and an extra point but was retained I suspect largely due to him being a left footed kicker which allows less adjustment for the special teams in such short notice. Who would have seen what happened next! 4 from 4 Field Goals from 20/51/52/43 yards respectively followed up by 2 from 2 PAT’s and a game high 14 points…… and now the AFC special teams player of the week! An amazing start to his NFL career and long may it continue!
Eddie Vanderdoes #94
My surprise player of the week was Eddie Vanderdoes #94.
After an off season with very little defensive addition in free agency except Jelani Jenkins who didn’t even make the team, I was worried about our pass rush in particular with Mario Edwards Jr #97 injury prone and defensive player of the year Kalil Mack #52 being targeted for double and triple team schemes. The draft helped allay my fears with 6 from 9 picks on the defensive side including highlights Gareon Conley #22 (1st round) and Obi Melifonwu #20 (2nd round). But with both guys injured for week 1, up steps Eddie Vanderdoes #94 (third round and 88th overall pick) a little known defensive line man from UCLA. Not overly impressive in size at 6’4 and 20st but wow! can he get off the mark quick and powerful with great hand speed to evade the block. Check out his push off against Jack Conklin at 01:06 in the second quarter on YouTube as an example, he simply destroys a highly rated lineman to pressure the QB. Eddie went on to play over half of the defensive snaps, second only to Mack and more than veterans Justin Ellis #78 and Denico Autry #96, which as a game 1 rookie shows his impact to the coaching staff. Even this week Pro Football Focus rated him as the third best interior pass rushers of week 1, outstanding start and I’m hoping for big things from him.
His pre-draft tweet dated 27/04/17 sums up his attitude “Whoever drafts me I these next few days is getting the biggest steal of the draft” @vanderdoes94.
My initial scepticism around our defence has been lightened by the manner of the performance in Nashville, however not completely alleviated. There are positives though, in the emergence of Vanderdoes who could be an unaccounted for gem, the return of Conley hopefully for week 2 and the improved performance of Sean Smith #21 (after a terrible pre season!). The linebacker position is still a worry but at this stage we go with what we have and hope Marquel Lee #55 and Corey James #57 can step up and deliver.
Offensively we are set. The trio of Amari Cooper #89, Crabtree #15 and Seth Roberts #10 is electric either side and in the slot. The addition of Jared Cook #87 is a passing and blocking upgrade on Clive Walford #88 who could still develop. With Carr #4 and Lynch behind that strong offensive line I believe we will test even the best NFL defences.
I have faith in Jack Del Rio and Reggie McKenzie #inreggiewetrust and think we will push through the upcoming Jets (without complacency) to a strong 11-5 record, which with one of the hardest schedules and division in the league is gonna be tough.