September 10, 2017 - 6:30 pm
How the team performed in a 26-16 victory at Tennessee.
Derek Carr said afterward the offense, beginning with himself, can play much better. Probably. But when you complete 22-of-32 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions on the road against a Dick LeBeau-coached defense, you don’t need to put an apple on the teacher’s desk for extra credit.
RUNNING BACK: B
This high a grade for a unit that produced 109 yards on 29 carries for a 3.8 average? When the game’s most important four minutes hung on the feet of Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard for eight straight runs, yes.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-minus
We might have to put second-year man Vadal Alexander — responsible for 1.5 of two sacks against Carr — in the corner for a spell, but it’s also true the critical four-minute offense was about the guys up front crushing the other guys. One of the league’s best lines still has an issue at right tackle.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: B-plus
Lynch is nicknamed Beast Mode, but Amari Cooper (5-62, TD) and Michael Crabtree (6-83) are the real giants. Physical and tough, the wide receiver combination will give opponents fits all season. Jared Cook (5-56) looked terrific at tight end and Seth Roberts made the most of his lone catch, a 19-yard score.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B-plus
Khalil Mack (three tackles, two for loss) was double- and at times triple-teamed as you might expect a reigning defensive player of the year, but he still found ways to disrupt. Eddie Vanderdoes (tackle, quarterback hurry) composed himself well for a first NFL game and Mario Edwards Jr. combined with linebacker Cory James on the team’s lone sack. Tennessee had just 95 yards rushing.
Bruce Irvin sort of lost his mind and thought he was The Hound on one fourth-quarter play, flagged for unnecessary roughness upon lifting Delanie Walker into the air and throwing him to the turf. That came a snap after Irvin was called for offside, all of which aided a fourth-quarter Titans scoring drive. The Raiders struggled all last season covering tight ends across the middle, and considering Walker (9-76) was more open than Nashville is to Memphis all afternoon, not much has changed.
Things were shaky early, when the Titans were converting on third down at will. But then safety Karl Joseph started making huge plays in the red zone and the one area where folks usually cover their eyes and pray when it comes to the Raiders actually tightened things up.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-plus
Christopher Columbus. Leonardo da Vinci. Gianni Versace.
For a day, you can add him to a list of famous Italians, as the 27-year-old rookie placekicker nailed all four field goal attempts (20, 52, 52, 43) in replacing the injured Sebastian Janikowski. Credit also Shalom Luani for recovering the onside kick that Tennessee opened its season with, and punter Marquette King for a 44.3 average, including one downed at the Titans 2.
A season-opening win on the road as an underdog when your team doesn’t turn the ball over and wins time of possession. Jack Del Rio and staff did well.
UP NEXT: A
Home against the Jets.
New York might have a better chance if Riff was playing quarterback, because when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette, to your last dyin’ day.
And that day might come Sunday.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.