Well, that did not go well.
The Raiders’ 33-13 loss wasn’t as lopsided as the scoreline might indicate, but it was 100 percent a calamity for a Raiders team that was looking to stat off the second Jon Gruden era with some win and some serious momentum.
Instead, the Raiders furthered some already pertinent questions and raised some questions along the way.
Here’s what we learned in the Raiders’ Week One loss:
1. Dink and dunk Derek is on the hot seat
(Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group
Derek Carr threw away Monday’s season opener with his three interceptions. That’s impressive, considering that he challenged downfield two, maybe three times all game.
Technically, he threw the ball more than 10 yards in the air seven times Monday (with one being a throw away) but the point stands. Carr was dreadful.
So dreadful, in fact, that I have to wonder if he’s fully capable of running Gruden’s offense.
Watching the game live and then once again afterwards, I didn’t see anything that Carr did on Monday that a backup quarterback couldn’t do — he hit the underneath man again and again and again. Running back Jalen Richard had 11 — count ‘em, 11 — targets Monday. Tight end Jared Cook was targeted 12 times, catching nine balls for 180 yards.
In all, Raiders wide receivers were targeted a total of nine times (that’s a generous number, NFL…) and had a catch total of five.
There’s being pragmatic, taking what the defense gives you and attacking a weakness (LA’s linebackers), and then there’s being timid (that’s the nice term).
Carr was undoubtedly the latter.
He simply refused to try to go downfield and I’m sure Gruden — as much as he loves the short passing game — will be infuriated by the game tape.
Upon further review, Carr’s solid first half, when he went 20-of-24, wasn’t even that impressive. It was competent but uninspired.
He followed that with a second half that was about as bad as a quarterback can play.
You can’t pin the poor quarterback play on Gruden either — as desirable as that might be to some.
For all intents and purposes, the Raiders and Rams ran the same plays on Monday. There were a few signature touches (Gruden used more 21 personnel than Rams coach Sean McVay) here and there, but the concepts were more-or-less the same.
And Carr was roundly embarrassed — at home — by Jared Goff, who is hardly an elite a quarterback.
Even Carr’s best throw of the game was bad — he nearly sailed Cook on a slant that turned out to be a 45-yard gain.
It’s Week One — there are going to be mistakes and there’s nothing but time for maturation and progress — but Carr was so dreadful that I have to wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the Fresno State product.
There’s a long way to go before Gruden gives Carr the hook, but history tells us that it’s not as far as you might think.
Gruden is notorious for being impatient with quarterbacks. He coaches them hard, gives them a ton of responsibility — asking them to be extensions of him on the field — and if they prove they cannot get the job done under pressure, Gruden doesn’t provide much mercy.
Carr just took strike one.
If he bounces back in Denver on Sunday, everything will be fine, but forgive me if I don’t see that coming.
Not only was Carr timid, he was skittish Monday — he began feeling phantom pressure in the second half and everything fell apart after that. It was 2017 all over again.
And so now, on a short week, he gets to go play Von Miller and Bradley Chubb at altitude.
I’d love to be proven wrong — Carr is a blast to watch when he’s at his best — but forgive me if I’m not expecting a bounce-back in Colorado.
It’s only Week One, but Gruden held up his end of the bargain and Carr didn’t… at all. That’s the worst-case scenario for the quarterback.
For the record, the Raiders have a reasonable contract out on Carr’s deal at the end of the year — the Raiders can take a cap hit of $7.5 million in 2019 but save themselves $86 million total over the next four years.
Add in the facts that Gruden went out and signed AJ McCarron, a system quarterback for Gruden’s offense (he might not be any good, but he has garnered starting consideration), and that Gruden has two first-round picks in the next two drafts (perfect for a trade up), and you have a situation ripe for change both in the short and long term.
More performances like Monday’s and it needs to happen. Will it? I don’t know.
I just wanted y’all to have that information — it’s important to be prepared and you might need it sooner than you think.
2. The Raiders could use a really good pass rusher
(Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Gruden actually offered this line — without irony — following Monday’s game, in which the Raiders had a grand total of two quarterback hits:
“Obviously we didn’t get to Jared [Goff] enough and we didn’t dig early enough. We will take a look at the reasons why we didn’t.”
I might have an idea…
(By the way, the gall of that guy…)
Is it really a shock that a few days after trading away arguably the NFL’s premier pass rusher, the Raiders had problems getting to the quarterback? Of course not. But they better find that solution to the problem fast, because other teams won’t be as gracious as the Rams were Monday.
The Raiders’ defense was bend-but-don’t-break mode in game No. 1 and after a solid first half, they eventually broke.
That’s what happens to a secondary when an opposing quarterback has all day to throw and Todd Gurley gets good blocking in front of him.
Goff didn’t take a snap in the preseason and it was apparent in the first half, but he was on his game in the second half and that, paired with the Raiders’ woeful quarterback play, flipped the game.
Ultimately, I like what defensive coordinator Paul Guenther schemed up for Monday’s game — the Raiders’ defense gave their offense a chance to win. That’s all you can ask of them this season — they’re simply not talented enough to do anything more.
And holding the Rams to 20 points going into the fourth quarter is an accomplishment (the 10 of the points the Rams put up in the fourth quarter stemmed from turnovers.)
The Raiders will need a lot more defensive performances like Monday’s and frankly, that’s a tall order.
Yes, Arden Key might turn in better games than his poor debut, but can you expect him to be a force this year?
Is Bruce Irvin really an impact player these days?
And are the rookies on the interior line capable of getting a consistent push?
I’m not optimistic on any of those counts and that does not portend good things, no matter how well the Raiders’ secondary plays.
The game within the game is quarterback vs. pass rush. With Carr, you can see exactly what a good pass rush can do to a quarterback. The Mack-less Raiders don’t appear poised to do anything like that this season.
3. Gruden’s backs are giving away the game
Oakland Raiders’ Jalen Richard (30) reacts after missing a catch against the Los Angeles Rams in the third quarter of their NFL game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Gruden has always valued running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield or line up out wide.
That’s why I found it strange that he kept Marshawn Lynch and signed Doug Martin this offseason. Lynch is a power runner — an elite one, if used correctly — but he’s not someone you throw the ball to, and Martin, while more versatile, isn’t a game-breaker.
They’re not ideal Gruden backs.
So, sure enough, when either of those running backs was in instead of the more classic Gruden back Jalen Richard, the Rams were able to key in against the run. When Richard was in, the Rams knew the pass was imminent.
Gruden called a few plays in an effort to keep the Rams honest, but the cat is out of the bag — Gruden is tipping plays (in the vaguest sense at this juncture) through personnel.
That’s bad news, as unpredictably (in a good way) is a tenet of a good offense.
Ultimately, though, I have no idea how Gruden handles that conundrum outside of giving Richard the vast majority of snaps for the rest of the season. Not a bad option, for sure, but there were better ones available this past offseason.
Put another stike on Gruden the GM’s record.
4. The Raiders will always be the Raiders
Oakland Raiders’ head coach Jon Gruden, left, yells at an official in the second quarter of their NFL game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (Randy Vazquez/Bay Area News Group)
The Raiders have always been known for their penchant for penalties.
It’s one game, but 2018 looks like it will pay proper homage to the franchise’s history.
Monday, the Raiders took the NFL lead for penalty yardage before the first half of the game was over. That’s skill.
The Raiders had 11 penalties for 155 yards on Monday, with three false starts, two pass interferences, a too-many-men penalty, and five offensive holding calls going against them.
The pass interference calls are concerning, for obvious reasons, but the holding calls might loom larger. Yes, the Rams have an elite defensive line, but this is a Raiders’ offensive line that’s in a new blocking system and clearly, they were having some problems with it, too. Not great.
The Raiders didn’t lose because of the penalties Monday — Carr took care of that — though they didn’t help the cause. But more performances like that and it will directly cost them contests.
Carr-Gruden union looks good — for a half
Raiders stink up the joint in second half of 33-13 loss to Rams
Raiders long snapper tears his ACL, so who’s next?
Derek Carr’s woeful debut raises serious questions for Jon Gruden, the Raiders
Rams 33, Raiders 13: Five takeaways from a season-opening mess
Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Kurtenbach: What we learned in the Raiders’ loss to the Rams