Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets: Report Card Grades for Each Oakland Unit
Even in a loss, the Oakland Raiders hoped to walk off the field Sunday with some things to build off of going forward. But even the most optimistic observer will find it hard to find any positives after the team's performance in a 19-14 loss to the New York Jets.
After an encouraging start, the Raiders were unable to get anything done offensively for most of the game. During a stretch of the game from the second to fourth quarter, Oakland went more than 20 minutes of game time with only one first down. Whether it was passing or running the ball, nothing worked.
As ineffective as the offense was, the defense was arguably worse. The defense did hold the Jets to only 19 points, but that doesn't tell the real story. The New York offense was able to move the ball consistently throughout the game, and the Raiders defense regularly gave up big gains the entire game.
It became obvious toward the end of the third quarter that the Jets had begun to go conservative with their offensive play-calling, both because they felt they could push the Oakland defense around whenever they needed to and because they already knew the offense had become a non-factor. They were proven right on both counts.
While the play on the field was disappointing, some of the responsibility falls on the coaches. On both sides of the ball, the play-calling left a lot to be desired.
It's only the first game of the season, but Oakland was alarmingly ineffective for much of it. The offense couldn't get anything going with the exception of a few drives, the defense was pushed around for four quarters and the coaches seemed clueless as to how to fix it.
There's plenty of time to fix the problems Oakland exhibited against the Jets, but it's going to be a tall order. The Raiders should be a better team than what they showed this week, but "should be" doesn't help. If Oakland doesn't begin to perform much better starting next week, the problems will snowball, and this can quickly turn into a really long season.
As much as the team might want to forget this performance, there's something to be learned, even in a loss. Here's a full breakdown of the team's performance, both for the players and coaches.
Sunday was Derek Carr's first regular-season action in the NFL, and at times, he showed some of the issues you would expect from a rookie. He missed some receivers, forced some passes and was lucky not to be intercepted.
But he also looked like the quarterback the Raiders were hoping to get when they drafted him: poised, in control and not overwhelmed by the moment. More importantly, he showed he has the physical tools needed to succeed.
Despite the offense's struggles overall, Carr actually didn't put up bad numbers. He finished 20-of-32 for 151 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
As the quarterback, it's his responsibility to get the offense going when it sputters as it did against the Jets. He was somewhat limited by the conservative play-calling, but when he was given the opportunity to go down field, he showed that he can make plays.
Hopefully, as he gains more experience, the coaches will feel more comfortable letting him take more chances. It wasn't a great performance, but it also wasn't bad for a rookie debut.
Heading into the season, the running game was supposed to be the foundation of the Raiders offense, especially with two running backs capable of being among the NFL's best. But against the Jets, neither showed up.
Even if you add their three receptions—two for Jones-Drew, one for McFadden—they still only contributed a total of 44 yards.
There's no reason that these two should've seen so few touches, but there's nothing they can do about the play-calling or the blocking up front (more on both of those later). However, what they can control is what they do with the touches they get, and two yards per carry isn't good enough.
The team needs both of them to make an impact every game and force the defense to respect the running game, especially with a rookie at quarterback. The offense struggled for several reasons, and one of the major ones was the running game having no impact.
Jones-Drew and McFadden will surely find more success as the season progresses, but for this game, neither was a factor.
Marcel Reece has the potential to be one of Oakland's most dangerous weapons, but he wasn't on Sunday. He didn't even get a chance.
Despite his potential, Reece had only three touches against the Jets—one carry, two receptions—for a total of -1 yard. The negative total yards obviously isn't good, but it's extremely difficult for any player to make an impact with so few opportunities.
However, it's known that Reece is not your average fullback. For him to shine, he needs to be used creatively, sometimes as a runner, sometimes as a receiver. That didn't happen this week, but it should change going forward.
Whether he gets those opportunities or not, he still needs to be an effective blocker, especially in pass protection. As a fullback, his main responsibility is as a blocker, and in that area, he struggled along with the rest of the offense. Carr did what he could to buy time, but throughout the game, the Jets were able to get consistent pressure.
In this area, Reece didn't do his part.
Mychal Rivera had limited opportunities, but when he got them, he was as effective as expected. He finished the game with three receptions for 31 yards. Brian Leonhardt saw limited action and had only one catch for 12 yards.
Rivera possesses the skills to make a big play any time he touches the ball, but the struggles offensively limited his opportunities.
While receiving is a major part of the tight end position, blocking is just as important, and both struggled along with the offensive line. The running backs were going to have a hard enough time finding success against a very good Jets defensive front, but the blocking was far below effective. The tight ends were a part of that problem.
Still, Rivera was never intended to be top blocker. His biggest impact is always going to be as a pass-catcher, and he was effective when he had the chance to be. That's something to build off of going forward.
The Raiders' passing attack was limited all game, and it was completely absent for long stretches. But when Carr was able to connect with the wide receivers, they showed that they can be dangerous.
Neither starting wide receiver had a breakout game, but both had solid performances. Rod Streater led all receivers with five receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown, and James Jones was right behind him with 34 yards and a beautiful touchdown catch on three receptions.
Denarius Moore had a disappointing day as he finished with only eight yards on two catches. What's really alarming is that he was targeted eight times. Some of those were tough plays to make, but there were some catches that he just needed to make. No, they weren't easy, but he's expected to make plays. He didn't on Sunday.
The fourth active receiver, Andre Holmes, was not a factor as he finished with no receptions.
The Raiders don't have a true number one receiver, but they can collectively still be effective. It was a tough game for the group as a the offense never developed a rhythm, but they still produced Oakland's two scores.
Jones and Streater proved on Sunday that if they're given the opportunity, they will produce.
When the coaches decide to open up the playbook and go down field more often, the performance of this unit will reflect that with increased production.
When general manager Reggie McKenzie put together this offensive line, there was a clear goal: to be the unit doing the pushing. This would be especially important as the Raiders tried to establish a rush-heavy offense.
The unit wasn't terrible in pass protection, although it certainly wasn't good. It helped that Carr is a very mobile quarterback, and he was usually able to run away from the defenders as they regularly got into the backfield throughout the game.
As for the rushing attack? That was completely non-existent, and the responsibility falls largely on this unit.
Yes, the Jets are very tough up front, and it was always going to be tough to find big running plays in this game. But the Raiders didn't need a big day running the ball. They just needed an effective one.
What actually happened is that Oakland finished the game with 25 rushing yards on 15 carries, an average of only 1.7. That's not even bad. That's pathetic.
Struggling in the running game is one thing, but it's something completely different to have the opposing defense completely erase an entire facet of your game plan. This offensive line needs to take this game as a wake-up call, because opposing defensive lines are going to be chomping at the bit when they see this performance on film.
It could be coaching, discipline or just competitiveness. Whatever it is, the Raiders need to figure it out soon. On Sunday, this was a running team that couldn't run the ball. If that continues, it means that this offense was built on an unreliable foundation, and it could doom the offense for the entire season.
Justin Tuck. LaMarr Woodley. Antonio Smith. Pat Sims. These players were supposed to be the foundation for an effective defensive line, one that could stop the run and get after the quarterback.
Not one of these players showed up on Sunday.
Tuck and Woodley were brought in for their ability to get to the quarterback, but this never happened. They combined for seven tackles, no sacks and no tackles for a loss. Their performance could best be described as pedestrian. That is not what they were brought in for.
Geno Smith had time the entire game, he was able to pick his shots and he also ran for 38 yards on 10 rushes. The secondary is there to stop the passing attack, but it really begins up front, and the Oakland defensive line did nothing to make Smith's job more difficult.
In the middle of the line, Smith and Sims were just as ineffective. The fact that the Jets had so much success running the ball is bad enough, but how they did it was especially discouraging. They regularly ran the ball right at the middle of the Oakland defensive line, and this remained a successful approach throughout the game, highlighted by Chris Ivory's 71-yard touchdown run that went right up the middle.
As a team, the Jets finished the game with 212 rushing yards on 34 carries, an average of 6.2. The rush defense was as absent as the pressure on the quarterback.
A defensive line has two primary responsibilities: Stop the run, and get after the quarterback. This unit did neither of those against the Jets.
The linebackers came into this game missing their leader, middle linebacker Nick Roach. The unit was beaten at times, but overall, it played an efficient game.
Khalil Mack, Sio Moore and Miles Burris, Roach's replacement, found themselves in a tough spot given the struggles of the defensive line. Already expected to both rush the quarterback, help against the run and be involved in pass coverage, the unit was called upon to supplement the pass rush even further when it became apparent that the defensive line wasn't going to able to do the job on its own.
This took away from one of the linebackers' primary responsibilities in this game, which was keeping Smith from scrambling for any big gains. This group was inexperienced, stretched too thin and, at times, exposed.
Despite the challenging circumstances, the unit still had a positive impact. They combined for 32 tackles, a sack and three tackles for a loss.
There's still work to be done both in pass coverage and in run support, but the unit showed that it can succeed in both areas. As the players gain more experience, they'll continue to find more success and have more of an impact on the game.
At one point as I was watching the game, someone in the room exclaimed, "Why doesn't there ever seem to be a Raider on screen whenever a Jets receiver makes a catch?"
This might have been a bit of an overstatement, but it wasn't completely inaccurate. Far too often, Jets receivers were wide open down field, and it turned into a simple game of pitch-and-catch for the New York offense.
While the secondary struggled throughout the game, it did improve as the game progressed. This unit was also responsible for two of the biggest plays of the game for Oakland.
Charles Woodson made a beautiful play on a pass that he intercepted, leading to Oakland's first touchdown. And Tyvon Branch came up with a crucial sack on a safety blitz that resulted in a 19-yard loss for the Jets that put them out of field-goal range, keeping the game within reach.
Cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers continued to struggle, but they also didn't give any major plays. As effective as Smith was for the Jets, he managed only one passing touchdown.
It'll be interesting to see what, if any, adjustments the Raiders' coaches make heading into next week. The cornerbacks gave up a lot of space, but this seemed to be at least in part by design. This plan didn't work out so well. The coaches could decide to go with tighter coverage for next week's game.
Things are only going to get tougher for Oakland's secondary going forward. Smith is improved, but he's certainly not elite, and he still went 23-of-28 for 221 yards. If the Raiders provide the same opportunity for quarterbacks like Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning, the results will be a lot worse.
It was a quiet day for special teams as Janikowski kicked only two field goals, both extra points, and made them both. Without any field goal work, he was never really involved in this game.
Marquette King had a busy day as he was asked to punt the ball away nine times, and he was as solid as ever. He averaged 44.6 yards on those attempts, including a long of 61 yards.
Overall, special teams provided a mistake-free performance, which is what's expected of them. The only thing missing was field goals from Janikowski, but there's nothing he can do about that if he isn't given the opportunity.
That might not be the most scientific term for describing the play-calling in Sunday's game, but it could be the most accurate.
While grading each position group's performance, a common theme is the lack of opportunities to make a play. This was true both on offense and on defense.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson's play-calling was completely lacking in imagination. The Raiders were a single score from taking the lead for most of the game, yet the same types of plays kept coming in: short passes and runs up the middle. These plays continued to not work, and he continued to call them.
Where were the screen passes? Or a reverse? Bunch formations? Four- or five-receiver sets? How about a deep pass or two down the sideline to test the Jets' depleted secondary? If Oakland has these plays, they apparently weren't in Sunday's playbook.
A tell-tale sign was the lack of touches for Jones-Drew and McFadden. The running game might not have been working, but there are other ways to get them involved. When you have two running backs of that caliber, there's no excuse for getting them only 16 touches combined.
The same can be said for the defense, although defensive coordinator Jason Tarver at least tried to mix it up as the game progressed. When he realized the front four wasn't getting the job done, he began to call different blitzes, and the defense finally managed to get some pressure on Smith later in the game.
The responsibility for this ultimately falls on head coach Dennis Allen. The game was close throughout and there for the taking, even with the Jets piling up yards and the offense accomplishing virtually nothing for two quarters. Yet Allen made no adjustments to try and steal a win. The team continued to struggle, and Allen did nothing about it.
When the defensive play-calling began to get creative, Smith finally felt some pressure. When Carr was finally given a chance to test New York's secondary deep with only a few minutes left in the game, it resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jones. Why not call these plays throughout the game?
The one positive is that while the defense was pushed around all game, it only gave up 19 points, and while the offense struggled mightily, the team was still within one score of winning the game.
But that won't be the case against better teams that are capable of making Oakland pay for mistakes and putting a game away.
Going forward, the coaches need to put this team in a position to make plays, something they didn't do against the Jets.
|Position Unit||Overall Grade|
There's no way to describe Oakland's performance other than disappointing. There's no area that the team did well in. There's only area where the team did less poorly.
What was most evident in this game is that the team does have potential, but it's up to the coaches to tap into it. The play-calling simply wasn't good enough. Not only did it not help the team, it actually hurt it.
The defense has athletes, and it'll be up to the coaches to put them in positions to succeed. This won't be an elite defensive unit, but it shouldn't be pushed around the way it was by the Jets. It should at least be able to cause more havoc than it did on Sunday. More creative blitz packages need to become the norm for this group.
Offensively, Carr is going to go through the normal growing pains for a rookie quarterback, but he showed that he can make all the throws. The coaches can't keep protecting him by sticking with shorter routes. They might be protecting him, but trying to keep him from failing is also going to keep him from the opportunities to make plays.
The biggest disappointments were the offensive and defensive lines. It's partially a question of play-calling, but it has more to do with pride. Both units were pushed around. They have to make a conscious decision to not let it happen a again.
Of course, this was only one game. The Raiders have a week to prepare and show that they're better than what they showed in Week 1.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from ESPN.com.