1. The Rookies
The biggest surprise of the day came in the early morning of Sunday, when Adam Schefter tweeted out that Karl Joseph would be inserted into the starting lineup.
It was known he would play, but to start? That was a surprise. Better yet, Joseph appeared in 90 percent of the snaps, only missing time to get an IV to help with cramping. And even better than that — Joseph led the team in tackles, with ten on the day.
Joseph’s best play might be one that doesn’t even show up in the box score. On a blitz, he forced Marcus Mariota to scramble out of the pocket, and teammate Bruce Irvin forced a fumble.
It was an impressive debut for the 2016 first-round draft pick, and Raider Nation should feel very optimistic about Karl’s future in Silver and Black.
But Joseph wasn’t the only rookie who impressed on Sunday. Sixth-round pick Cory James also made his debut as a starter, replacing Ben Heeney at inside linebacker.
So Joseph led the team in tackles, but guess who was right behind him? James, with seven. Including a beautiful tackle for a loss on Derrick Henry.
James was also competent in coverage, which is a big upgrade for the defense. Having played in 96 percent of the snaps, the only time Cory missed was after that hit on Henry, he sat out a couple of plays with some shoulder soreness.
All in all, it was a great day for the two rookies. Both should be staples in the starting lineup for the rest of the season, and hopefully for years to come.
2. Michael Crabtree
Michael Crabtree is very good. For my money, he’s the best number two wide receiver in the NFL — no offense to Eric Decker.
But Crabtree, time and time again, has proven to be a reliable weapon for this offense. After recording 85 catches for 922 yards and 9 TDs in 2015, Crab is picking up right where he left off.
After a day in which he posted 8 catches for 102 yards, here is what Crabtree is on pace for:
101 receptions, 1,173 yards and 5 TDs. But Latavius has surprised with three consecutive games with touchdowns, so it’s only a matter of time before Crabtree picks up the pace there.
Crabtree is such a luxury for this offense to have. He operates as a fail-safe — a sure-handed receiver who can make tough catches on third down.
And he can also be a deep threat, who hauls in jump-balls thrown by his quarterback.
As you can see, he did both on Sunday.
3. The Secondary
Week over week, there was no bigger improvement than that of the secondary.
After getting torched for an average of 404 yards per game through the first two weeks, Mariota was held to 214 yards passing, completing 17 of 33 attempts. Most importantly, Mariota threw zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He also fumbled once, which was recovered by a member of the secondary, Reggie Nelson.
Sean Smith, who was on the receiving end of much of the torching those first two weeks, had a bounce back performance against Tennessee. On six targets, Smith only allowed one catch for 18 yards. He also had an interception, in which he ripped the ball away from Rishard Matthews.
But the star of the show was David Amerson. Which has become a regular statement for him since he joined Oakland early in the 2015 season.
Amerson allowed only 4 catches for 38 yards on 11 targets, and he had five pass breakups, one of which led to an interception by Reggie Nelson.