Oakland Raiders: Week 3 Grades

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Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws a pass under pressure by Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Randy Starks (94) and linebacker Karlos Dansby (56) in a NFL game at FirstEnergy Stadium.The Raiders defeated the Browns 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Gayle

Quarterback: A-

Given the lack of talent Oakland has had under center in recent years, it’s hard not to view Derek Carr’s performance in Week 3 as an A+ simply based off how much of an improvement he is at the position. However, Carr did not play a perfect game, as there are still some areas of his game that can be developed to heighten his success.

While this was rather limited in comparison to his first two performances, Carr still struggled to remain consistent with his accuracy. Of his 12 incompletions, at least four could be considered as poor throws from Carr. Though four inaccurate throws doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s still a statistic that will need to improve as the Raiders begin facing tougher teams.

Carr still earns an A- this week due to the gradual improvement he has made with his accuracy and touch issues, and for his ability to find receivers downfield while maintaining poise in the pocket. Now that Bill Musgrave is allowing Carr to go through multiple reads instead of limiting to safe, quick throws, the Raiders offense is firing on all cylinders and showing no signs of turning back.

Carr finished the game 20-32 for 314 yards and two touchdowns.

Running Backs: A

Latavius Murray thrived in his increased role within the Raiders offense, as he turned 26 carries into a career-high 139 rushing yards and a touchdown. Murray continued to demonstrate his ability to stay patient enough in the backfield to consistently hit the correct hole, while also exhibiting his big-play speed on a 54-yard run early in the third quarter. Another aspect of his game worth noting is his physical presence in-between the tackles, as he did a great job of wearing down the Browns defense with his ability to shed arm tackles and fight for extra yards.

Backup running back Taiwan Jones also flashed some big-play potential, as he made several defenders miss in his limited action. He finished the game with 16 yards on two carries.

Roy Helu Jr. had little overall impact, but he did make a nice adjustment on a screen pass on Oakland’s first possession of the ballgame that turned into a quality 12-yard gain.

Wide Receivers: B+

Amari Cooper did it again.

Despite being matched up against Pro Bowl defensive back Joe Haden for most of the game, Cooper still managed to consistently get open and make plays with the football in his hands. Although Cooper did have a costly fumble late in the game, the young stud continues to live up to the hype, as he brought in eight receptions for 134 yards.

Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes were the two receivers to catch a touchdown on Sunday. Holmes’ three-yard touchdown turned out to be his only reception of the day, while Roberts finished the game with three receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. Roberts still continues to make questionable drops, but he continues to improve from week-to-week.

Despite his 11 targets, Michael Crabtree didn’t have too big of a game statistically, as he had just four receptions for 36 yards.

Tight Ends: C+

Oakland’s tight ends were again not a big part of their offense, as Lee Smith earned eight yards on the only reception for the group, but I was generous enough to add Marcel Reece to the group to somewhat increase their grade.

Reece had one reception for 55-yards on a drive that resulted in a six-yard touchdown run from Murray. Although, Reece might have been able to get in the end zone himself on that play if he wasn’t tripped up by the infamous turf monster.

Offensive Line: A

While skill players like Cooper and Murray are getting a lot of the glory after their Week 3 performances, Oakland’s offensive line is the group that should be given most of the credit.

According to ESPN.com, Donald Penn and company allowed zero sacks and zero quarterback hits against a Cleveland defense that entered the game with seven sacks on the season.

The Raiders’ offensive line was also an obvious contributor to Murray’s success on the ground, as they rarely allowed their front seven to penetrate in the backfield and consistently finished blocks through the whistle.

Defensive Line: B+

After not having a sack in either of their first two regular season matchups, Oakland’s defensive line was finally able to put pressure on the quarterback somewhat consistently. While there were some plays where Josh McCown was simply given too much time to deliver the football, the Raiders still finished the game with five sacks and 10 quarterback hits.

Although three of Oakland’s sacks came from members of their linebacking corps, Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith still did a solid job of creating pressure off the edge, while the Raiders interior defensive line made a constant effort to create pressure in the face of McCown.

Mack finished the game with two sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble.

While creating pressure on the quarterback was much more of glaring need heading into Sunday’s game, it is still important to note that Oakland also held Cleveland to just 39 rush yards on the ground. Justin Tuck and Dan Williams did a great job of shedding offensive linemen and holding Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. to a lot of short gains.

Linebackers: C+

For the third consecutive week, Oakland allowed an opposing team’s tight end to wreck the middle of their defense. Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge was the leading receiver for his team on Sunday, as he brought in six receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. While the stat line is embarrassing in itself, the fact that four of Barnidge’s six receptions were for a first down or a touchdown on either third or fourth down is simply unacceptable.

On a lighter note, Malcolm Smith again played well, as he has turned into a reliable tackler in open field and an effective leader for Oakland’s young defense. He registered seven combined tackles, a sack, and one pass deflection.

Neiron Ball also had a solid game given his limited opportunities, as he registered a big sack on Cleveland’s final drive of the game and recovered a fumble on a muffed punt from Travis Benjamin.

Secondary: C

Despite having some positive plays in Oakland’s Week 2 matchup against Baltimore, D.J. Hayden still remains a liability in coverage for the Raiders as the season progresses. Benjamin was able to get behind Hayden on a couple plays, while Hayden also struggled to make tackles in the open field and simply allowed too many easy throws to reach his receiver.

Although he allowed a number of catches in his Raiders debut, free agent addition David Amerson still displayed solid coverage on a lot of the throws that came his way. Given how thin Oakland is in the cornerback position, it’s nice to see that Amerson is somewhat capable of making plays in the secondary.

With T.J. Carrie making the move to strong safety for Sunday’s game, cornerback Neiko Thorpe got the start opposite of Hayden. While Thorpe didn’t quite have the performance he had in Baltimore, he still held his own on the outside as Carrie continued to look like Oakland’s top defensive back with four combined tackles and two pass deflections on the day.

While their secondary continues to slowly improve as each game progresses, it still stands as Oakland’s worst position group by far. Even with the added pressure on the quarterback, the secondary still allowed McCown and company to earn over 300 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Next: JBB Week 3 Grades: Pete Camarillo