There was much to be learned about the Raiders once they gave us our first impression of them. You can see from last night that this isn't the same team we saw lose all of their preseason games.
I wouldn't call it a Super Bowl team, though, as there was both bad and good in the game
Let's sort it all out.
Do the Raiders even have a collective foot anymore?
They shot themselves in the foot so many times that I have to wonder if they do. The Raiders were flagged 15 times for a total of 131 yards and many of them sustained drives where the Broncos offense did nothing.
In fact, all of the Broncos drives that produced points were aided in a big way by penalties on 3rd-and-long. To me, that was the only difference between last year's blowouts and Monday night.
If the Raiders are going to go anywhere this year, this has to be fixed. It was raining water and flags out there.
In the beginning, the Raiders couldn't get any push off the line of scrimmage to run the ball up the middle. The running game lived on big plays by Darren McFadden on a draw and plays run to the outside.
Cooper Carlisle was pancaked on a play going into his gap and it was not successful. The Raiders did start to run the ball with ease in the second half, and credit has to be given to head coach Hue Jackson for adapting.
He saw that with the exception of a couple big plays, the offensive line couldn't "bully" anyone enough to the running game going. Jackson then went to zone blocking in the second half and the results were the Raiders icing the game with it.
Either Carlisle needs to be replaced by a bigger power blocker or the Raiders should zone block.
Otherwise, the Raiders won't be able to run the ball inside.
That's not a "bully."
I know Raiders cornerback coach Rod Woodson wants to "mix it up," but now is not the time for that. We just had a lockout and Raider corners are not used to playing zone, so they aren't very good at it.
The Raiders started out in mainly man coverage in the first half and Kyle Orton was held to 10-of-22 for 128 yards and an interception. The Raiders then mysteriously went to a lot of zone in the second half and Orton finished with over 300 yards passing.
The Raiders need to be who they are this year without too much practice at zone defense.
I predicted Jason Campbell would have himself a breakout season this year. He was horrible like he was in his first game last year but he needs to make throws when there is a chance to make a play.
Darrius Heyward-Bey blazed past his man and Campbell plain missed him! Plays like that need to be made when you play against better teams because those better teams will make those plays.
The Raiders can't afford to wait until the second half of the season for Campbell to come alive this year—at least they can't if they want to go far this season.
I have to give Heward-Bey a pat on the back for making some crucial third-down catches. However, it wasn't consistent enough because Heyward-Bey was covered like a blanket for most of the game.
He needs to create separation, present himself to the quarterback and make the grab more often. Louis Murphy is out and Chaz Schilens usually takes a few games to get into it coming back from injury.
So, Heyward-Bey has a chance to really take that No. 1 receiver spot now.
He won't at this rate.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I was wrong about Jared Veldheer.
Going into the game, many predicted the Broncos would win the game due in part to their explosive pass rush. They all talked about Elvis Dumerville looking like his old self and first-round outside linebacker Von Miller looking like a beast.
I was prepared to give Veldheer a high grade if he came back and played will after giving up a sack. I have to give him a higher than high grade now because he shut both Dumerville and Miller out.
It looks like the Raiders have their franchise left tackle.
The Raiders played outstanding run defense and that's a huge step they took toward building it. The Broncos were held to 38 yards rushing in the game with a meager 2.9 yards per carry.
Everyone stayed in their gap and the defensive line penetrated for seven tackles for a loss on the night. The Broncos' rushing average would have been even worse if Orton of all people didn't have a 13-yard run.
The Raiders just need to be consistent with it.
Rolando McClain did a good job of lining the defense up right when the weren't already. He was also around the ball a lot and it didn't show up on the stat sheet but he made his impact in the run game and in coverage.
However, the question mark I had going into game was outside linebacker Quentin Groves and he answered. He still needs a little work in coverage but was outstanding setting the edge against the run.
He also showed some physicality as he forced a fumble.
Let's see where he goes from here.
Stanford Routt showed he was prepared to replace Nnamdi Asomugha as the Raiders' No. 1 corner. The Broncos unsuccessfully tested him early before going away from him.
I thought Chris Johnson played well for coming off of a groin surgery and will only get better as the weeks go on. Michael Huff did a good job as a nickel corner, too, as Bronco receivers were targeted 22 times for 11 completions for 175 yards, most of it coming in the fourth quarter with the Raiders in zone.
The corners were also helped by the defensive front seven with five sacks, two by leader Richard Seymour. The only reason why Seymour doesn't get his own slide is because Seymour isn't something we just learned.
The one touchdown the Broncos had was one a pass to a running back that the Raiders forgot to cover.
This isn't something I personally already knew, but some citizens of Raider Nation actually learned last night. Going into the season, there were some that actually thought Darren McFadden was a one-hit wonder.
They must have forgotten the way McFadden played in his first start against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 before he started getting hurt. The man is simply healthy now and running the way he's supposed to run with the football.
McFadden had 22 carries for 150 yards, including three runs of more than 20 yards and one of more than 40.
He will be among the league leaders if he stays healthy.
This team is not a bully yet, but it can still bully the AFC West.
All the Raiders need to do is strengthen the middle of their offensive line and they are good to go. One thing I was impressed with is this young team shook off an early turnover and won a close game in a hostile environment.
The defense would have given up nothing if it weren't for penalties, which is something the Raiders need to fix. The run defense looks like it's on its way as it shut down the running of a team it was supposed to in my eyes.
McFadden and Michael Bush make a heck of a starter and closer closer combination running the ball. Campbell needs to take that next step now and not in Week 9 so the passing game can take off, too.
One more thing: Leave Groves alone!