5 Takeaways from Oakland Raiders' Week 1 Loss to Cincinnati Bengals

Ethan Bailey@@ebai_todayFeatured Columnist ISeptember 14, 2015

Jack Del Rio's Raiders didn't perform well in a blowout, season-opening loss at home on Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jack Del Rio's Raiders didn't perform well in a blowout, season-opening loss at home on Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals.Associated Press

Another season opener ending in another blowout loss for the Oakland Raiders is only slightly surprising. 

The Cincinnati Bengals dominated the Raiders from the very beginning of Sunday's 33-13 romping in the Black Hole. To an extent, this outcome isn't shocking—the Bengals have an established coaching staff and have had a consistently talented roster.

The Raiders, meanwhile, have neither of those things. Jack Del Rio is the third head coach in Oakland's last two seasons and has inherited a roster with an intriguing young nucleus of players, but not much else.

Those facts still don't excuse one of the Raiders' most disappointing performances in recent memory, though, and with that said, let's get to the details of what went wrong on Sunday. 

1). Unimaginative Play-Calling

Oakland's offense looks to be better than it has been in a long time, at least in terms of talent on the roster. But on Sunday, the players expected to make a splash for the Raiders did nothing of the sort—partly due to poor execution, but more so because of poor play-calling from offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

It was advertised all offseason that this team would be a run-first group on offense. Yet the Raiders started the game with a series of passes from Derek Carr that were off target and predictably aimed at Amari Cooper.

The inability to commit to the run made Oakland's offense far too predictable, and Cincy's talented defense capitalized.  If you're going to go into panic mode after an early deficit—as the Raiders did—at least consider throwing the ball down field to get chunks of yardage. But they didn't, as Associated Press' Josh Dubow broke down in a recent tweet:

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Josh Dubow @JoshDubowAP

Del Rio said deep passes in #Raiders game plan but Carr 1-2 on passes 10+ downfield; McGloin 1-5. Just 2 passes 20+ downfield

Out of 61 total plays for the Raiders offense, only 16 of them were runs. That is not the balanced attack Raider Nation was expecting to see from the team's offense in 2015. With Derek Carr nursing a bruised thumb, the play-calling must be more balanced and imaginative going forward.

2). Bad Linebacker Play

When analyzing Oakland's linebacker play on Sunday, it's easy to see why the Bengals had their way with the Raiders. 

Let's start with the beginning of the end for the Raiders defense—a first-quarter touchdown run by running back Jeremy Hill on fourth down. As you'll see in the video below provided by Jeremy Rauch of Fox 19 in Cincinnati, Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton makes the right call to stop the play: 

Jeremy Rauch @FOX19Jeremy

.@JeremyHill33 scores and gets his groove on. #Bengals lead 7-0. http://t.co/8SfYRZFggn

But despite Ray-Ray Armstrong and rookie Ben Heeney being in position, they both whiff on their respective tackles. Most frustrating for Raiders fans here is that recently traded linebacker Sio Moore would've been in Armstrong's place and would've likely made the tackle because of his speed.

The team's linebackers didn't only struggle against the run, though, as Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert essentially ran free all day. According to Dubow, Armstrong and former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith were non-factors in trying to stop Eifert:

Josh Dubow @JoshDubowAP

Per @PFF, Tyler Eifert 9 catches for 104 yds, 2 TDs on 10 targets. The incompletion came vs Woodson and he was 5-for-5 vs Smith, Armstrong

Considering Del Rio and Norton are former NFL linebackers, the way the group played yesterday was excessively disappointing. 

3). Nonexistent Pass Rush

The Raiders' defensive front-four was supposed to be the team's strong point in 2015, but the talented group of linemen were a no-show in Sunday's loss. 

In this context, the stat line for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton tells the whole story. Dalton was 25-of-34 with 269 yards and two touchdowns, both to Eifert. The Raiders failed to tally a single sack during the game, which is a haunting reminder of last year's inability to sack opposing quarterbacks. 

Take a look at how clean Dalton's pocket is on this TD pass to Eifert:

For a defensive line featuring Khalil Mack and newly signed defensive end Aldon Smith, the lack of pass rush in Sunday's game was simply inexcusable. 

4). Susceptible Secondary

Against the Bengals, the Raiders secondary was susceptible to underneath throws, throws in the middle of the field and deep passes, too. They were consistently outmatched by a talented group of Cincinnati receivers in terms of speed, quickness and size. 

But that talent doesn't excuse some of the errors committed by Oakland's defensive backs, which include lost footing, blown coverage and blatant penalties. At one point in the second quarter, D.J. Hayden literally hugged receiver A.J. Green to keep him from getting open in the end zone. 

A specific highlight couldn't be found, but this tweet from Raiders Beat tells not only the story of Sunday's game but of Hayden's entire NFL career thus far: 

Raiders Beat @RaidersBeat

DJ Hayden with a costly penalty. Wasn't playing the ball at all.

Hayden's status as a starting cornerback for Oakland must be considered by the coaching staff. Hayden continually shows bad habits of playing too soft on short-yardage situations and not turning his head to find the ball. The latter is why Hayden has drawn 11 accepted penalties since 2013.

5). Troublesome Injuries 

Entering Sunday's game, the Raiders were as healthy as they've been in years heading into a season opener. 

But as CSN Bay Area Insider Scott Bair's recent tweet indicates, the Raiders left the game with a multitude of injuries to key players: 

Scott Bair @BairNBCS

In addition to Allen, Woodson, Carr, Ellis, DJ Hayden limped out to the parking lot with ankle/lower leg wrapped, heavily iced.

While the injury to quarterback Derek Carr's thumb isn't inspiring, it also isn't feared to be serious, as Jimmy Durkin of the Mercury News reported from Monday's press conference: 

Jimmy Durkin @Jimmy_Durkin

Jack Del Rio on Derek Carr: "He has a bruised hand. We think he's going to be OK."

Carr's status for Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens is unknown, but it wouldn't be surprising if the coaching staff sits him ahead of a more winnable Week 3 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

Remember that susceptible secondary we talked about? It's now even weaker after injuries to both starting safeties. Adam Schefter of ESPN detailed the injuries to Nate Allen and Charles Woodson in a recent tweet: 

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Raiders fear safety Nate Allen tore his ACL; more tests today. Oakland's other starting safety Charles Woodson injured shoulder, MRI today.

Remember, Raider Nation, that it's only one game in a long season in which anything can happen. The Raiders do technically have time to fix some of their more obvious problems, although it's anything but guaranteed. 

The Raiders face another quality AFC North opponent this week in the Ravens. As of now, the team can only hope it puts up a better fight against them than it did against Cincinnati. 


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