With the first game of the 2009 season in the books for the Oakland Raiders we now have a full game performance by the starters. This is the question' What's the score? Not the game, that was recorded as a 20-24 loss by Oakland on Monday Night Football. The score I am talking about is the score or grade given to their performance?
Oakland was said to be dominating the Chargers in the first half by ESPN's commentators Mike & Mike along with quarterback great Steve young. That is a shocker considering Chargers are picked by many to be a Super Bowl favorite for the AFC. Also since most Sports analysts only don't give Oakland more than 5 wins this season. Oakland was vastly improved compared to the week 1 blowout by Denver last season. So to those of you who saw the game or the highlights whats the score?
First off the quarterback JaMarcus Russell had a less than dazzling performance going 12/30 for 208 yards,1 TD, 2 INT's. He had some good passes but struggled with accuracy. I think he also needs to look through his progressions more and do a better job of looking the D of of the receivers. Most of all his mechanics will need to improve. Simple things like getting your feet set and not throwing off your back foot, or not throwing against your body to the other side of the field. Pocket presence was much improved due to a better protection however there is room for improvement. Overall I give Russell a B- in his performance.
Defense would have had an A+ if the didn't screw it up by going into prevent with 2:20 left in the game. Way too much time to just sit back and give Rivers time to pick you apart. Rivers is an elite QB and will not force the ball in those situations. He and Sproles sure took while we gave without making any effort to stop the underneath plays or apply pressure. In these situations they will make you pay. They did a great job at getting pressure, breaking up passes, and stopping the run. These are all things that had question marks prior to this game. Sounds good all around but they still gave up crucial yards when it counted and could have done a better job in tackling on some plays. All things considered they contained an elite RB and QB to minimal success. Overall I give the Defense an A
O-line did an outstanding job in giving Russell some time to throw but did have penalties and lost steam for the running game in the second half. This group which has been horrendous in the past has shown signs of coming together as a solid unit. JaMarcus Russell had more time to throw than ever and running backs had clear lanes to the second level on most carries. As the season moves on and Khalif Barnes returns to the lineup expect them to continue to improve. Overall I give them an A.
Wide receivers with the exception of TE Zach Miller did a mediocre job with some drops and didn't do a very good job getting separation. Murphy had 4 catches 1 for a TD and one TD stolen for not hanging on to the ball all the way to the ground. Higgins had one great effort but couldn't hang on after taking some brutal punishment. Tony Stewart had a good catch along with the backs providing 3 more. This unit also had some big question marks in the off season with no solid answers until Schillenz returns. Heyward-Bey was a non factor and Walker didn't play. Overall I give this unit a C.
Running Backs were expected to be the one sure bet in Oakland. They did an excellent job in the first half but slowed in the second. Also showed great blocking skills including a lights out hit by D-Mac. Second half production could have slowed due to O-line fatigue and Gallery in and out with a back injury. There were a few big catches from the flats and on screens which kept them involved and sustained the drive. This unit will continue to punish D-linemen in the weeks to come and still have 1 more back to add to the rotation when Justin Fargas returns from an injury. Overall I give this unit an A.
Coaching is a huge factor in any game and Oakland has found a motivator in Cable. He did play fearless against former Oakland coach Norv Turner. At one point Cable called the TD pass on 4th and 15 catching Chargers completely by surprise. It's also notable that they didn't seem to open up the playbook and do anything spectacular other than a reverse for a nice gain. The focus was on trying to sustain the run and get JaMarcus into a rhythm. They did have a nice opening drive but unfortunately ended in Russell's first INT. Definetly failed in stopping the short gains by the Chargers on the last drive to win the game. A mistake that should not be repeated. Coaching gets a B for all coaching staff.
Now for some other units that get the score. Special teams gets a C- for not being a factor and giving up mass amounts of real estate to Sproles and not tackling well. DB's did a great job in staying with coverage until Routt who looked like he could have reached out and intercepted the TD to Jackson giving up the lead. To his credit Nhamdi was also out of position on that play. DB's get a A-. Linebackers did well in stopping the run and helped with pressure but will need to do better in stepping into gaps in the running game and be more adaptable against the pass. LB's get an B+. D line gets an A+ showing mass amounts of pressure when Seymour is in the lineup. D-line A+.
Anyway that's the final score for week 1 or at least my opinion, feel free to disagree.