Oakland Raiders: Week 1 Grades

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Sep 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders raiderette cheerleader Cassie Cox performs against the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Gayle

Quarterbacks: D

Derek Carr had a rough debut to his sophomore season in the NFL, as he completed just 7 of his 12 passes for 61 yards in four drives before leaving the game with an apparent injury to his throwing hand. Though the injury sidelined him for the rest of the game, early signs point to a relatively quick recovery.

To put it simply, Carr did not play well. He struggled with accuracy on nearly every passing attempt, as most of his balls either were thrown too high or behind his intended receiver. Despite the general admiration for Carr’s rocket of an arm, he couldn’t throw an accurate, catchable ball consistently. Carr constantly made his decision on a receiving target before the snap, and in turn, either missed his intended target or forced a bullet into tight coverage.

Matt McGloin didn’t get much going for the Raiders’ offense either, but I couldn’t help but be optimistic about some of the decisions he made and his moderate level of production.

The former Penn State star came off the bench to complete 23 0f 31 passing attempts for 142 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Initially McGloin struggled to make anything happen offensively, as he earned just two first downs on his first five drives, but it wouldn’t be fair to call his performance a complete disaster.

McGloin looked comfortable in the pocket on most of his drop backs, and he made a constant effort to throw to the designated check-down receiver after going through his reads. He also delivered accurate, catchable balls with consistency, something we didn’t see much of from Carr in the first half. Though I don’t expect him to earn the nod in Week 2 based off his performance, I still believe his play shouldn’t go unnoticed moving forward.

Running Backs: C-

Due to the fact that Oakland was playing from behind most of the game, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave seemed forced to try and make things happen through the air, but lead running back Latavius Murray did find some success with his limited touches.

Murray carried the ball 11 times for 44 yards and led the team in receptions with seven for 36 yards.

Though the running lanes were often clogged due to the talent of the Bengals’ front seven and several questionable play calls, Murray showed promise in the backfield with his ability to stay patient in the backfield and make people miss in space.

Backup running back Taiwan Jones looked relatively uncomfortable at the position, as he finished the game with five yards on three attempts.

It would be a mistake not to mention backup fullback Jamize Olawale’s play throughout the game, as he looked explosive with the ball in his hands. Olawale had just one carry for six yards and three receptions for 19 yards, but he also had a 62-yard run that was negated by two Oakland penalties.

Wide Receivers: D

Though statistically rookie receiver Amari Cooper didn’t have much of an impact, he still put together a respectable performance in his NFL debut.

Cooper brought in five receptions for 47 yards, his longest reception coming on a nice out route on third and five where he caught the ball short and made a couple defenders miss in the open field for a 24-yard gain.

Though at times the Bengals’ physical defensive backs got the best of him, Cooper still ran consistent, crisp routes and made plays that a receiver hasn’t made in an Oakland uniform in a long time.

Michael Crabtree also had a couple of quality plays opposite of Cooper, as he made a nice grab on a low thrown ball from Carr on third-and-ten in the first quarter. He finished the game with five receptions for 37 yards.

Despite my relatively positive reviews of the two starting wide receivers, they still combined for just 84 receiving yards. Though most of that is because of the tendency for Musgrave to call short passing plays, Cooper and Crabtree will have to put up a lot bigger numbers in order for this offense to be successful.

Seth Roberts also had quite an ugly performance, as he had a couple bad drops and just three receptions for 12 yards.

Offensive Line: D+

Besides the fact that Oakland’s offensive line struggled to pick up the blitz in pass protection and failed to open up significant lanes in the running game, the worse aspect of their game was penalties.

Though right tackle Austin Howard’s two penalties were offset by a penalty against Cincinnati, it was still unfortunate to see Olawale’s long run called back due to both his holding penalty and unnecessary roughness at the end of the play.

Also, center Rodney Hudson was called for a false start on a crucial third-and-one. Oakland still managed to convert the longer third down, but those are the type of mistakes you simply can’t make.

The offensive line allowed two sacks on McGloin, one of which resulting in fumble recovered by the defense.

Defensive Line: D-

Despite an impressive performance rushing the passer in the preseason and the exciting signing edge-rusher Aldon Smith, Oakland did not put any pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

Khalil Mack struggled to make an impact against either of their tackles for most of the game, while the pressure from the opposite defensive end spot was non-existent.

On a lighter note, veteran defensive end Justin Tuck did finish the game with two pass deflections, as he constantly attempted to disrupt the play by getting his hands into the throwing lanes. He also earned a tackle for loss on Jeremy Hill late in the third quarter, one of the team’s two tackles for loss in the game.

Though Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s offense is designed to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand early, Oakland’s defensive line still needed to do a much better job than they did on Sunday.

Linebackers: D-

Ray-Ray Armstrong struggled to set the edge on two of Cincinnati’s big plays on their first drive of the game, one of which coming on Hill’s fourth down touchdown run and another coming on a key third down that head coach Jack Del Rio mentioned after the game.

“I mean, the first third-down was a leverage issue,” Del Rio said, via Raiders.com. “It should be a tackle for loss, and they end up going around the corner and getting some positive yardage to keep the chains moving.”

His effort and energy on the field are what create for his high ceiling as a starting outside linebacker, but Armstrong has to stop making fundamental mistakes on significant plays if he is to remain a starter on this defense.

Inside linebacker Curtis Lofton had a relatively quiet Raiders debut with just two combine tackles, while Malcolm Smith showed solid effort and tackling ability. Smith finished the game as the Raiders’ second leading tackler with seven total (six solo).

While their poor play against the run were significant, Oakland’s linebacking corps also couldn’t stop Dalton from attacking the middle of the field. Whether or not this was due to a scheme issue, Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert had a field day attacking the middle of the field, as he finished the game with nine receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Even though some of the big plays can be accredited to some mistakes from the Raiders’ defensive backs, their linebackers must work to become more fundamentally sound in coverage.

Secondary: D

The Raiders lack of talent within the secondary has been a repeatedly visited topic throughout the offseason, and the group only solidified that idea in their Week 1 performance.

D.J. Hayden unfortunately played just as we expected. The former first-round pick in 2013 allowed receivers to get behind him often and gave up a few easy throws underneath, while also committing defensive holding penalties on two separate occasions. On top of an overall poor performance against Cincinnati’s talented wideouts, Hayden also managed to allow Eifert to catch his second touchdown while his back was turned.

T.J. Carrie flashed some talent in coverage, as he broke up one pass and earned six combined tackles, but his performance still wasn’t enough to mask the overall poor play by the Raiders’ secondary.

To make matters worse, starting safeties Charles Woodson and Nate Allen both ended up leaving the game with injuries. The status of both Allen (knee) and Woodson (shoulder) has yet to be determined.


Taiwan Jones didn’t have a fantastic game returning kicks, but when he was given the opportunity to take it out of the end-zone he earned some respectable yardage.

I still don’t understand why Carrie is still returning punts, as Oakland is already thin in the secondary and shouldn’t risk having an injury to their No. 1 corner. He also only averaged nine yards a return.

Marquette King finished the game with mediocre net average of just 36.2 yards per punt, but his six punts did put him on pace to lead the league in punts again in 2015. I don’t know how one can’t be excited about that.

Next: JBB Week 1 Grades: Matthew Lorscheider