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Injuries mount in Raiders’ season-opening win over Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While the Raiders managed to sneak out of North Carolina with a 34-30 win over the Panthers on Sunday, it might take some time before they recover from some of the injuries they suffered along the way.

It all started with right tackle Trent Brown leaving the game after three plays with a calf injury — a situation he dealt with last week in practice — followed by his backup, Sam Young, suffering a groin injury.

It left the Raiders digging so deep into their depth chart they needed Denzelle Good, their reserve guard, to play the majority of the game at right tackle.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Henry Ruggs and cornerback Trayvon Mullen also left the game with minor injuries, although both ended up returning.

That wasn’t the case for linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who suffered a pectoral injury.

“It’s unfortunate. We are very concerned,” Gruden said of Kwiatkoski’s injury. “Hopefully we get some good news on Nick.”

Big day for Abram

Raiders safety Johnathan Abram played just part of the season opener of his rookie year last year before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Not only did Abram make it through the whole game against the Panthers in Sunday’s season opener, he also finished with a team-high 13 tackles and made his presence felt the entire game.

“The most exciting thing for John is that he gets to play in week two,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr joked. “He’s still here, man.”

Abram was ecstatic after the game. “It felt great to be back out there with my guys,” he said.

The contributions Abram brought went beyond the boxscore. The physical element he creates in the back end of the defense is undeniable.

“The energy he brings with those hits, we saw some on (Christian) McCaffrey and some across the middle, it sets the tone,” Carr said. “In this day and age, when we’re not gonna have fans this year and you’re on the road, you’ve got to bring your own energy. … And he’s that type of player that can bring the energy. Those things can’t be overlooked.”

Carr said even he got pumped up by a big hit Abram made as he was sorting through some images of the Panthers’ defense while standing on the sideline.

“I was going over the last series on my I-Pad and I just heard WHOP,” Carr said. He looked up and there was Abram hitting McCaffrey. “That stuff ignites a sideline for sure.”

Receivers produce

Much talk beforehand centered on the young receivers the Raiders would start. Each contributed but in different ways.

Ruggs made his presence known as the rookie caught three balls for a team-best 55 yards. Ruggs tweaked a knee late in the first half but returned after intermission.

Second-year pro-Hunter Renfrow was solid returning punts, including one for 27 yards, helping to begin a drive that ended in a Raiders’ field goal. Bryan Edwards, another rookie wideout, had one catch for nine yards but was praised for his blocking on key plays.

“We have a lot of weapons now,” Carr said. “We have a group of guys who couldn’t care about (statistics). You saw that today and that’s not easy for (young) receivers. They didn’t care. They went right at them.”

Backing up nicely

Some were surprised when the Raiders kept Devontae Booker on their 53-man roster, but he showed Sunday to be a veteran more than capable of backing up Josh Jacobs. Booker rushed four times for 29 yards, with a long of 15. He also caught three balls for 23 yards.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com.

Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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