Raiders vs. Chargers: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Oakland

Joe LevittContributor IIIDecember 30, 2012

Raiders vs. Chargers: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Oakland

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    The Oakland Raiders fell 24-21 to their AFC West rival San Diego Chargers in the final game of the regular season.

    It was a valiant comeback effort by the Silver and Black in Week 17, but one that ultimately fell short. Oakland finished the 2012 season at a disappointing 4-12.

    Let's take a look at the final report card and player grades for Oakland.

Quarterback

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    Terrelle Pryor — B+

    All things considered, Terrelle Pryor played a fantastic game for the Oakland Raiders.

    The rookie quarterback threw his first two touchdown passes in the NFL and ran in another when it mattered most. He successfully orchestrated two fourth-quarter drives that brought the Raiders within three points of the Chargers.

    Pryor’s athleticism and consistently wise decision-making was on display for the majority of the game. He avoided multiple sacks, ran for 49 yards and limited himself to just one turnover—an interception that did not lead to any points scored by San Diego.

    Yes, his interception in the red zone and lack of arm strength on numerous passes cannot be ignored completely. There certainly isn’t any denying the missed opportunities left on the field.

    That said, he displayed phenomenal poise inside and outside the pocket, and exhibited great touch on a score of different passes. One has to credit him for generally throwing to areas where only his receivers could make a play on the ball.

    (And for punching the ball out of bounds and away from SD defenders in the fourth quarter—the penalty clearly being the better outcome than a turnover.)

    If given the opportunity late in the final quarter, one has to think Pryor would have at least led the Raiders into a situation for a game-tying field goal.

    Not a flawless performance by any means, but a damn good one for a rookie QB making his first professional start and working his way out of NFL purgatory.

Running Backs

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    Darren McFadden — C+

    19 ATT, 57 YDS, 3.0 AVG, 8 LNG, 0 TD; 2 REC, 2 YDS, 1.0 AVG, 3 LNG, 0 TD

    On the surface, it would appear that Darren McFadden did very little against the Chargers on Sunday.

    But look a little deeper and his contributions to the Raiders offense become evident.

    McFadden served as Pryor’s right-hand man throughout the game—a sort of necessary partner in crime, if you will.

    He provided another dimension to the offensive game plan by establishing a consistent rushing attack. His 19 carries helped produce a 29/28 split between the run and pass—the type of balance that is so crucial to an inexperienced rookie.

    He took pressure off the young quarterback and put him in manageable third downs with runs of five, four, seven, five, eight, three and six yards against San Diego’s formidable No. 4 ranked run defense.

    These aren’t remarkable, game-changing plays by any means. But they allowed Pryor to settle into a comfort zone and avoid 3rd-and-long. And operate with a little swagger after seeing his guy stiff arm Antoine Cason to the ground like he was a ragdoll.

    The Chargers simply couldn’t gear themselves full-bore towards the pass and sick defenders on Pryor. They had to respect the run.

    Pryor’s “escapability” notwithstanding, McFadden deserves credit for the Chargers’ zero sacks on the afternoon.

    Failing to reach the end zone, and not breaking a big run on the ground or in the passing game keeps him at a C-level grade.

    But make no mistake—this is one quality C+ when considering McFadden’s D-level efforts for the overall season.

     

    Mike Goodson — INC

    It seems that NFL referees are going a little overboard these days.

    That is, if you asked one Mike Goodson.

    Goodson was tossed from the game on just the fifth play of the second quarter. He and Takeo Spikes rather harmlessly jostled with each other—without even throwing a punch, mind you—yet were ejected in short order.

    What happened to a couple division rivals being allowed to blow off a little steam?

    In any case, the Raiders backup RB totaled one carry for nine yards and 15 yards off a lone kickoff return.

     

    Marcel Reece — D

    Reece registered a few decent blocks, but was a complete non-factor offensively. He did not receive a carry and had zero catches out of three targets. He also dropped multiple passes.

    He receives a D, and not an F, because it was the coaches who should have better implemented the talented jack-of-all-trades into the game plan.

Wide Receivers

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    Darrius Heyward-Bey — C

    2 REC, 13 YDS, 6.5 AVG, 1 TD, 9 LNG, 4 TGTS

    The Raiders’ No. 1 wideout played as such in one moment, while failing to do so the next.

    Heyward-Bey outmuscled San Diego’s top cornerback Quentin Jammer for a corner end-zone touchdown in the second quarter. He may have pushed off a bit, but gained the upper hand over the Charger’s No. 1 guy nonetheless.

    His back-shoulder TD put the Raiders on the board and brought them within three points of San Diego.

    On the other hand, Heyward-Bey didn’t generate separation nearly enough and produced just one other catch for four yards on the afternoon. He dropped an underthrown—but very much catchable—ball deep down the field on third down as well.

    Considering the subpar quality of the Chargers secondary, the Raiders simply need more from the former top-10 draft pick.

     

    Denarius Moore — C-

    1 REC, 5 YDS, 5.0 AVG, 1 TD, 5 LNG, 6 TGTS

    Moore continues to baffle the careful observer on a weekly basis.

    The ultra-talented receiver used his speed and route-running abilities in the early goings. Yet, after Pryor missed him when he gained separation from Chargers’ defenders, Moore disappeared until Oakland’s final drive.

    It was as if minimal effort and cutting off routes were acceptable at that point.

    The second-year wideout managed a TD catch in crunch time at the end of the fourth, but credit belonged mostly to the Raiders QB.

    Pryor utilized his impressive elusiveness outside the pocket and accurately lobbed a pass over the Chargers swarming defense. Moore snuck behind in the back of the end zone for the easy catch.

    It was a heady play, but not one that would totally exonerate Moore from his lack of production otherwise.

    And that includes a 6.0-yard average on returns, a muffed punt and general indecision on special teams.

     

    Rod Streater — B+

    4 REC, 77 YDS, 19.3 AVG, 0 TD, 38 LNG, 5 TGTS

    The undrafted rookie receiver was once again the most productive Raiders wide receiver.

    Streater tied for the team-lead in receptions and was a reliable weapon for Pryor all game long.

    He hauled in a first-down catch on 3rd-and-2 that helped keep alive Oakland’s first scoring drive. He then advanced the Raiders 29 more yards on consecutive snaps in the fourth quarter.

    To be sure, that third catch came just before an absolutely bone-crushing hit by Eric Weddle.

    Instead of leaving the game, though, Streater got himself open just four plays later for a 38-yard grab on 3rd-and-7. It placed the Raiders on the San Diego 2-yard line, in which Pryor scored a touchdown on the very next play.

    Third-down target, big-play threat, generally one tough hombre—Streater is consistently the go-to guy for whoever lines up under center for Oakland.

    He’d receive an A- if not for a fumble in the third quarter (fortunately negated by an SD penalty).

Tight Ends

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    Brandon Myers — B

    4 REC, 53 YDS, 13.3 AVG, 0 TD, 22 LNG, 7 TGTS

    As the Raiders’ leading receiver on the season, Brandon Myers had a pretty solid outing against the Chargers.

    Myers contributed 17 yards to the Raiders’ opening scoring drive and made a dazzling 22-yard catch high off the ground on 3rd-and-10 during a subsequent series. In the fourth quarter, he fought his way just outside the goal line and helped set up Pryor’s late TD pass.

    All three receptions were significant plays for the Raiders.

    Myers mishandled a couple passes and was called for an illegal formation. But the tight end also provided some of the better run blocking for McFadden.

    A B+ grading seems apt.

     

    David Ausberry — D

    Backup tight end David Ausberry made one tackle on special teams, as well as a few decent blocks in the run game. What earned him a D, however, was a potentially touchdown-preventing false-start penalty when the Raiders were less than one yard away from the end zone.

Offensive Line

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    LT Jared Veldheer — B-

    There was a notable element of “feast or famine” associated with Jared Veldheer on Sunday.

    The Raiders left tackle helped spring McFadden to multiple runs of five, six and eight yards. At the same time, the Chargers halted DMC for negative yardage and no gains when rushing off the left side on numerous occasions.

    Veldheer ultimately pushed McFadden for positive yardage and helped sell the naked bootleg on Pryor’s three-yard TD run. The blind-side protector didn’t allow a sack either.

     

    LG Cooper Carlisle — C-

    Carlisle didn’t give up a sack, but also wasn’t a productive force in run-blocking schemes. He committed a 10-yard holding penalty as well.

     

    C Stefen Wisniewski — A-

    Oakland’s burley center gained consistent leverage up front against the Chargers defensive line.

    On top of clearing the way for some of McFadden’s longer runs, Wisniewski handled exchanges with his rookie QB to perfection. Fumbled snaps were not a factor in the game.

     

    RG Lucas Nix — C+

    Nix started over the underperforming Mike Brisiel at right guard. The rookie did not commit significant blunders in blocking assignments and generally stayed out of any negative focus—much to the delight of offensive line coach Frank Pollack.

     

    RT Khalif Barnes — B

    Oakland’s often-maligned right tackle greatly improved his on-field performance compared to what transpired in the Week 1 meeting between the Raiders and Chargers.

    Barnes’ pass protection broke down on occasion, but he eliminated sacks and reduced the number of QB hurries allowed. He also helped open up lanes for multiple runs of eight or more yards by McFadden and Goodson.

    That said, he still must address downfield blocking when offseason practices begin.

Defensive Line

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    DE Lamarr Houston — A

    13 TOT, 9 SOLO, 1.5 SACKS, 2 TFL, 2 QB HITS

    Lamarr Houston was without question the most dominant member of the Raiders defense.

    He led the team in tackles, sacks, tackles for loss and QB hits. He immediately set the tone on the Chargers’ first series by manhandling Rivers for a six-yard loss on third down. The defensive lineman added another sack at the end of the first half, which quashed a Sand Diego scoring drive and kept the deficit at 17-7.

    Jackie Battle and other Chargers backs found essentially zero success running the ball against him as well.

    For good measure, Houston made up for his offside infraction by inducing a false start penalty and generally wreaking havoc all over the gridiron.

     

    DT Tommy Kelly — B+

    5 TOT, 3 SOLO

    The Raiders defensive tackle won his matchups with the big-bodied Jackie Battle by an overwhelming margin. Kelly stopped the 6’2’’, 240-pound back three times for no gain, including on third down attempts.

    His five tackles ranked second among linemen sporting the Silver and Black.

    An encroachment penalty was a minor blemish on an otherwise great Sunday resume for Kelly.

     

    DT Desmond Bryant — B

    3 TOT, 1 SOLO, 0.5 SACKS, 2 QB HITS

    Bryant anchored the interior of the Raiders D-line.

    He helped Houston bring down Rivers in the second quarter and provided as much overall QB pressure as his defensive brethren. False-start infractions by Chargers linemen, as well as game film (and not the box score) revealed that stellar work in pass defense.

    Bryant’s performance against the run was also superb. He was a main reason why the Chargers averaged a mere 2.3-yards per carry.

    Unfortunately, Bryant put a late hit on Rivers that resulted in 13 additional yards and eventually a 10-0 San Diego lead. Even though the Chargers had to settle for a field goal on that drive, the deficit increased due in part to Bryant’s mistake.

    That costly infraction lowered his grade to a B.

     

    DE Matt Shaughnessy — B-

    2 TOT, 2 SOLO

    Oakland’s right defensive end recorded only two official tackles. That said, Chargers running backs really wanted little to do with Shaughnessy.

    No. 77 put Battle and Ronnie Brown in their rightful places from start to finish. He tag-teamed on a tackle for loss and notched a no-gain stop of his own.

    The Raiders, though, would still like to see improvement in Shaughnessy as a pass-rusher.

Linebackers

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    OLB Miles Burris — B-

    7 TOT, 5 SOLO, 1 TFL

    Per usual, the Raiders rookie linebacker operated with max effort in the run game. He hawked ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, getting in on multiple backfield stops. One of them preceded Oakland’s blocked punt and subsequent touchdown.

    Burris regrettably showed some first-year inexperience when Battle took him for eight yards and a first down on a pass play in the red zone. San Diego scored a touchdown one play later.

    Ranking second on the team in tackles keeps Burris’ grade at a respectable level.

     

    MLB Omar Gaither — B-

    6 TOT, 5 SOLO, 1 TFL

    Like Burris, Omar Gaither experienced a little bit of the good, and a little bit of the bad.

    He swallowed up Battle for a four-yard loss and helped disrupt Rivers in the passing game with an effective blitz from the middle linebacker position. He held his own on the gridiron for the most part.

    But in taking the good with the bad, Gaither misplayed a screen pass to Battle that gave the Chargers a pivotal first down. They also scored a touchdown shortly thereafter.

    Not actually being burned for the TD saves Gaither’s standing in the grade book.

     

    OLB Philip Wheeler — D-

    2 TOT, 1 SOLO

    Wheeler’s work in coverage on Sunday reflected the Raiders’ season-long deficiencies in this area of the field.

    Antonio Gates, as a dynamic and physically gifted tight end, schooled Wheeler (and another Raider to be mentioned later on) for an 11-yard TD and 17-7 Chargers lead (following the extra point). The Raiders strong-side backer was out of position on that defensive assignment and enabled Gates to locate an opening in the end zone.

    He also gave up an 11-yard first down prior to that Chargers score.

    If not for his performance in run defense, Wheeler would surely want to forget this game as quickly as possible.

Defensive Backs

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    CB Michael Huff — B+

    3 TOT, 1 SOLO, 0 PD, 0 INT

    The Raiders’ No. 1 cornerback shut down would-be pass-catchers on his side of the field.

    Two 11-yard catch-and-runs by Eddie Royal against Huff were inconsequential. They did not hurt Oakland in the grand scheme of the overall game.

    A quiet day for an NFL corner is often a good day. Huff produced just that.

     

    CB Joselio Hanson — C-

    4 TOT, 3 SOLO, 0 PD, 0 INT

    The former backup corner could not hold his own as Oakland’s No. 2 guy.

    Despite keeping the Raiders defense off the field with two third-down stops of Ronnie Brown and Micheal Spurlock, Hanson was torched by Royal for a huge 31-yard gain. The first-quarter gaffe led to a Chargers field goal.

    Hanson wrapped up tackles and covered fairly well underneath. But the Raiders needed much more, unfortunately.

     

    CB Brandian Ross — F

    5 TOT, 4 SOLO, 0 PD, 0 INT

    Brandian Ross was Public Enemy No. 1 among Raider Nation.

    Ross surrendered an eight-yard completion to Royal and subsequent conversion on 3rd-and-3 to Gates during the Chargers second scoring drive.

    Much worse, however, was Ross’ utter breakdown in man coverage against Danario Alexander. The Chargers’ 6’5’’ wideout took every advantage of the outmatched corner on a 34-yard TD pass from Rivers.

    It pushed the Raiders deficit to 17 points and effectively sealed the game for San Diego.

    It also symbolized everything that was wrong with the Raiders secondary in 2012.

     

    SS Mike Mitchell — D+

    4 TOT, 3 SOLO, 0 PD, O INT

    Mike Mitchell played about as well as he can play given his abilities.

    He operated proficiently as a thumper stacked in the box against the run. He contained Battle and Brown for gains of three yards or less, including a legitimate third-down stop that kept the Raiders in contention during the fourth.

    All that said, Mitchell can’t cover to the extent required of NFL safeties.

    The Ohio University graduate did not adequately track or move into proper position on Gates’ killer touchdown grab. He and Wheeler were all too noticeably outgunned.

    Mitchell plays with great heart, but does not possess the requisite skills of a starting safety. He’s better suited for a backup role.

     

    FS Matt Giordano — B+

    2 TOT, 2 SOLO, 1 PD, 0 INT

    The Raiders free safety made one of, if not, the defensive play against the Chargers.

    Matt Giordano covered an exceptional amount of ground and nearly picked off a deep sideline pass intended for Alexander. He broke up the big play nonetheless, and showed—however temporarily—that there are capable players in the back end of the Oakland secondary.

    Some might place blame on Giordano for the two passes that went for 30-plus. And we’d normally agree on most occasions.

    But in this particular instance, Raiders cornerbacks were the guilty parties, and not the free safety.

    Giordano also had a fair catch on a punt return in this final game of the 2012 regular season.

    Denarius Moore might want to take notice.

Special Teams

9 of 10

    Note: As mentioned, Moore compiled a 6.0-yard average on returns and a muffed punt, while exhibiting general indecision on special teams. The coaching staff should question his viability in this role during the offseason.

     

    K Sebastian Janikowski — C-

    Janikowski did not receive any opportunities to put points on the board aside from his three made extra points. That is no fault of his.

    What is, however, is not reaching the end zone on the opening kickoff. Especially when Micheal Spurlock returns it 99 yards for touchdown paydirt.

    The normally reliable Pro-Bowl kicker was not the lone special teamer responsible for the devastating blow. The coverage unit deserves ample blame.

    Even so, if Janikowski had booted it deep, or all the way through the end zone like he did on his subsequent kicks, the Raiders likely would not have fallen into such a big hole.

    Throw in the missed opportunity on the onside kick, and they can only wonder what could have been as they reflect on their three-point loss.

     

    P Shane Lechler — C-

    Lechler punted six times for a total of 277 yards and a long of 58. He averaged 46.2 yards per punt and also landed one inside the San Diego 20.

    In keeping with his thoroughly disappointing 2012 campaign, Lechler did not meet his season average and booted one of his shortest kicks of the year. His 33-yard punt afforded the Chargers with position inside the Oakland 50.

    They lead 24-7 four plays later.

    Lechler certainly didn’t cost the Raiders the game. But he also didn’t do much to help them, either.

    Holding the ever-dangerous Spurlock to 15 total return yards was his one saving grace.

     

    KR Coye Francies — A-

    Francies showed some big-time toughness on a kickoff return after getting absolutely crushed by a helmet-to-helmet hit by Melvin Ingram. He held on to the ball and didn’t fumble on any other return.

    But what qualifies his play as A-worthy derived not from anything accomplished on kick returns (including his pedestrian 23.0 average).

    Rather, Francies’ work on coverage units is what did.

    His incredibly clutch blocked punt (and subsequent recovery by Kaelin Burnett at the SD 11-yard line) was one of the biggest plays of the entire game. The Raiders received awesome field position, scored a quick touchdown and reduced the deficit to three points.

    They had a chance at a win with just under two minutes remaining.

    While it didn’t work out in the end, Francies did just about everything in his power to grant his team that opportunity.

Coaching

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    Overall Game Grade — B+

    Note to Raider Nation: Dennis Allen possesses an emotional capacity.

    The seldom fiery head coach visibly—and finally—amped up his team in a near comeback effort. Oakland played all out until the final whistle under the leadership of this first-year field general.

    The Allen- and Jason Tarver-led defense shut down San Diego’s offense at the most significant moments of the game. It stopped the run and brought effective pressure on Philip Rivers.

    Yes, the Chargers burned Oakland’s secondary for two scores. And yes, they had the luxury of nursing a big lead.

    But the D really clamped down when it mattered most. Those players showed progression from early mistakes and played beyond their normal capabilities in many aspects of the game.

    Even the much-maligned Greg Knapp created a game plan on offense that put the inexperienced Terrelle Pryor in position to succeed. He gave Pryor enough direction, while simultaneously letting him improvise with his superior athleticism.

    There existed balance and creative play calling as well, especially when you consider the circumstances (i.e. rookie quarterback playing on the road). Scoring three touchdowns for the first time since early November is surely nothing to scoff at.

    The stalled offensive drives and lack of gaudy numbers do not overshadow the positive developments.

    (It’s merely a shame that coordinator Steve Hoffman did not adequately prepare the corps of special teamers.)

    Call it too little, too late if you want. But we’d suggest giving Allen and (most of) his staff their due props. This is definitely something to build on for the future.

     

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