Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen had one word to describe his team’s 19-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2: sloppy. Yet it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, there were far more positives than negatives.
Running back Darren McFadden had his most productive day in nearly two years. Sebastian Janikowski made four field goals. And Oakland’s pass rush harassed Chad Henne all afternoon, knocking the Jaguars quarterback around like a rag doll.
That was more than enough to offset a subpar performance by quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a shaky effort from wide receiver Denarius Moore and an offense that converted just 29 percent of its third-down opportunities.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the things the Raiders did right and some of the things they did wrong against Jacksonville.
Michael Wagaman is an Oakland Raiders Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.
The Jaguars focused so much attention on taking away the outside running lanes for quarterback Terrelle Pryor that they forgot about Oakland’s main man in the backfield.
McFadden rushed for 129 yards on 19 carries and was the team’s leading receiver with four catches.
More important than the numbers was how McFadden ran. The injury-prone running back showed the acceleration and burst he had early in his career, ripping off runs of 30, 28, 26 and 24 yards. He could have had a few more yards, too, had he chosen to try to go around defenders instead of taking them head on.
It was McFadden’s best day since he ran for 171 yards against the New York Jets on Sept. 25, 2011.
Overall the Raiders rushed for 226 yards on the ground, with only 50 coming from Pryor.
“The coaches had a lot of faith in me,” McFadden said. “They put the ball in my hands and let me run with it. A couple plays they left the middle wide open and I was able to get up and down and get some big runs out of it.”
Wide receiver Denarius Moore only had two passes thrown his way. He dropped both.
Moore was also flagged for an illegal block penalty, though the flag was picked up. That was about the only thing that went right for the third-year wide receiver, who went into the season as the team’s No. 1 wideout.
Instead, it’s been Rod Streater who has become the favorite target of quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
While Moore was getting shut out, Streater caught three passes. Jacoby Ford and rookie Brice Butler had two apiece.
Moore could and should be the biggest playmaker in Oakland’s receiving corps. He had a fairly strong game in Week 1 but needs to back it up with more consistency. In a game where the Raiders struggled to throw the ball, his drops were magnified.
Normally reliable Sebastian Janikowski got off to a rough start for the second straight week when he shanked a 35-yard field-goal attempt wide left. That’s normally a gimme for Janikowski, who missed a similar makeable kick a week earlier in Indianapolis.
The Polish Cannon shook off the miss, though, and came back to make his next four attempts from 46, 30, 29 and 29 yards out.
There was concern last week that Janikowski might be struggling to adjust to new holder Marquette King after working with former Raiders punter Shane Lechler for the past 13 seasons, but Janikowski denied that was a factor in his miss against the Colts.
Janikowski wasn’t around to talk about the miss against Jacksonville. As is his normal method, the kicker was dressed and long gone by the time the media was allowed into the Raiders locker room.
Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne had a bandage on his right hand and walked a little slowly out of the press room after talking with reporters. Henne had spent most of the afternoon getting knocked around by the Raiders, and it showed.
Oakland’s defense recorded five sacks, giving Jason Tarver’s unit nine in two games after the team had just 25 for all of 2012. The Raiders also forced Henne into seven hurries.
As was the case last week against the Colts, the majority of pressure came when Tarver dialed up blitzes. Safety Usama Young had 1.5 sacks, cornerback Tracy Porter had a half-sack and safety Brandian Ross had one. The only two defensive linemen to get sacks were backup tackle Christo Bilukidi and defensive end Jason Hunter.
It helped the pass rush when Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. That allowed Tarver to call for more blitzes, which caused serious issues for the Jaguars and Henne.
Charles Woodson picked up his play after Branch went down.
Strong safety Tyvon Branch left the game early in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Depending on how long he’s out, it could be a pivotal blow to the Raiders secondary.
A Pro Bowl alternate in 2011, Branch was blitzing Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne when he went down. There were no replays showing exactly how he got hurt, and head coach Dennis Allen would only describe it as a “significant” injury.
“We’ll find out more later,” Allen said.
Brandian Ross replaced Branch and made three tackles and a sack in his absence. The Raiders also have Usama Young when they go to their Wolverine packages.
Still, Branch is a big key to what the Raiders do in their secondary. Any extended absence would be a big hit to Oakland’s pass defense.
Even when he’s not dropping quarterbacks for sacks, defensive end Lamarr Houston remains a workhorse along Oakland’s defensive line.
Houston made only two tackles but came up with the day’s signature play on defense when he dropped wide receiver Stephen Burton for a nine-yard loss in the third quarter.
Jacksonville had been unable to get much going at all offensively. Offensive coordinator Jeff Fisch was trying desperately to shake things up when he called for the end-around run to Burton.
But Houston sniffed it out perfectly and was in the backfield almost as soon as Burton got the handoff from Henne.
Houston just missed getting to Henne himself a few other times. Still, there’s no denying he’s the cornerstone of Oakland’s defensive line.
A week after hurting themselves with numerous ill-timed penalties and mental breakdowns, the Raiders played a fairly clean game against the Jaguars.
The only glaring mistake came late in the third quarter when the offense was called for an illegal formation penalty, which negated a 27-yard completion from quarterback Terrelle Pryor to Rod Streater. The play was actually a double-pass, with running back Darren McFadden taking a handoff and running right before stopping and throwing back across the field to Pryor, who then heaved the throw downfield to Streater.
But the wide receiver who was outside of left tackle Khalif Barnes lined up off the line of scrimmage, so the Raiders were penalized and the play came back.
Overall, Oakland was called for only five penalties for 30 yards against the Jaguars. The Raiders of old used to do that in one quarter.
The Raiders listed injured David Ausberry as their starting tight end on the flip-cards handed out to reporters before the game, even though Ausberry was one of the players declared inactive. Jeron Mastrud was the actual starter, but it was rookie Mychal Rivera who had the biggest impact out of all Oakland’s tight ends.
Rivera caught three passes for 32 yards, two of which went for first downs. He barely missed a third when he was stopped a yard shy of the marker on a 3rd-and-11 play early in the fourth quarter.
A sixth-round draft pick, Rivera has become increasingly involved in the passing game since the final game of the preseason. At 6’3” and 245 pounds, he is the ideal target and has been as sure-handed a receiver as anyone else on Oakland’s roster.