Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos Full Report Card Grades for Oakland

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2017

Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos Full Report Card Grades for Oakland

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    The Oakland Raiders wrapped up a 12-4 season that exceeded most expectations, but they'll limp into the postseason after a 24-6 loss to the Denver Broncos.

    Above all, another injury adds an extra layer to the quarterback issues in Oakland. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, signal-caller Matt McGloin left with a trapezius injury after starting in place of the injured Derek Carr. McGloin often misfired through 25 minutes of action, and he never established a rhythm.

    McGloin’s backup, Connor Cook, looked more fearless against the Broncos secondary. The rookie quarterback engineered the Raiders’ first and only scoring drive late in the third quarter. Ultimately, turnovers led to his downfall. However, unlike his starting counterpart, Cook moved the ball downfield.

    Unfortunately, the Broncos jumped off to a good start. Denver’s offense scored on the opening drive and finished the first half with a 17-0 lead.

    In the second half, the Broncos defense expected the Raiders to attempt a few deep shots to catch up on the scoreboard. Denver recovered a fumble and picked off a pass to keep the game out of reach. 

    The Raiders will go on the road for an AFC Wild Card matchup against the Houston Texans on Saturday, and there’s a huge question mark at the most important position. Head coach Jack Del Rio has already told local reporters McGloin’s injury status will factor into his decision.

    How did the Raiders perform in other areas? Which position groups must turn the page on a poor showing in the regular-season finale?

Quarterbacks

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    The Raiders started the contest with four consecutive run plays, indicating the coaching staff’s lack of confidence in McGloin. Once he started throwing the ball, he looked rusty after a three-year layoff from the starting role.

    The fourth-year veteran delivered passes too high or simply out of reach. He missed wideout Amari Cooper on a deep route in the first quarter, squandering a big-play opportunity. Before halftime, McGloin went into the locker room with discomfort and returned as a fixture on the sideline. 

    Cook fumbled and threw an interception, but he didn’t look shell-shocked in the pocket. He showed more moxie than McGloin, resulting in some completions but also shortened drives due to turnovers. Nonetheless, the rookie signal-caller can address his ball protection issues while taking starter reps through the week.

    Grade: D-

Running Backs

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    As a whole, the ground attack didn’t look remotely similar to the rushing offense that gutted the Broncos for 218 yards in Week 9.

    Running back DeAndre Washington logged a 20-yard carry. Otherwise, Denver's defense stacked and swarmed the box to stop the Raiders’ methodical approach. After falling behind 24-0, the ground game became an afterthought.

    The Raiders attempted to utilize their backfield in the passing attack, but Denver didn’t allow a lot of yards after the catch. Oakland will certainly need more from its backfield on Saturday against the Texans.

    Grade: C-

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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    Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib purposely popped wideout Michael Crabtree’s gold chain, but the Raiders receiver didn’t have a high-quality passer to help answer Talib’s antics. Nonetheless, Crabtree led the group with five catches for 47 yards.

    After McGloin overthrew a ball down the seam intended for Cooper, the second-year wideout caught a touchdown pass from Cook to bust the shutout. Before scoring, the Raiders’ young receiver logged three receptions for seven yards.

    Unfortunately, wide receiver Seth Roberts drew a costly false start penalty, which put the Raiders in one of many 3rd-and-long situations. In one of wideout Johnny Holton’s few appearances on offense, he lost a fumble. Tight end Clive Walford also dropped a potential first-down catch.

    Grade: C

Offensive Line

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    The offensive line allowed two sacks and the running lanes shrank from the last meeting between these teams in Week 9. The Raiders’ front five didn’t look close to the second-best blocking group in the league.

    Offensive tackle Donald Penn hobbled off the field briefly, but he returned to finish the game. Whether it’s McGloin or Cook at the helm, the offensive line must be the driving force that sets the running back free and keeps the signal-caller safe from the Texans’ pass rush. 

    Grade: C-

Defensive Line

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    In consecutive weeks, the Raiders finished without a sack. Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian looked comfortable in the pocket and running back Justin Forsett, at age 31, turned the clock back as the lead ball-carrier. He broke off a 64-yard run and accumulated 90 total rushing yards.

    As a unit, the Broncos' rushing offense racked up 143 yards on 40 carries, demonstrating a true commitment to the run against the Raiders’ defensive line. Despite Denver's offensive line issues, the Raiders grew frustrated with their attempts to put Siemian on the ground between whistles. Oakland also struggled to fill holes in run defense.

    Grade: F

Linebackers

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    Two weeks after earning recognition as Defensive Player of the Week, Bruce Irvin committed two of the team’s 13 penalties. Malcolm Smith also drew a flag for defensive pass interference.

    On the Broncos’ first drive, Siemian relied on the short passing attack, which included two completions to tight ends.

    Despite turning the page for the new year, the Raiders still struggle to cover tight ends and intermediate pass routes. Denver running back Devontae Booker led all receivers for his team with two catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.

    Grade: F

Secondary

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    As previously mentioned, Siemian inflicted his damage in the short passing attack, which seldom gave the perimeter cornerbacks action. Broncos wideout Emmanuel Sanders failed to catch a pass—he exited the game early due to a foot injury. His running mate, Demaryius Thomas, only caught four passes for 47 yards.

    However, the referees flagged cornerback David Amerson twice, and one of those penalties put the Broncos on the 1-yard line. The safeties didn’t plug the holes within the run defense or stymie the short passing attack. Brynden Trawick's interception was the lone bright spot within the secondary play.

    Grade: C-

Special Teams

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    The Raiders left storied placekicker Sebastian Janikowski on the sideline due to a fragmented offense and a two-point conversion attempt. Fortunately, Oakland didn’t allow a special teams touchdown.

    On the bright side, punter Marquette King continued to drive kicks downfield. He pinned the Broncos inside their own 20-yard line five times. Then again, he had plenty of chances, as the Raiders punted eight times overall.

    Grade: B

Coaching Staff

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    The Raiders came into the contest with a golden opportunity to show team effort and lock up a first-round bye. The Broncos went down the field with ease on the very first drive as if the Raiders skipped film day. Furthermore, Oakland committed 13 penalties, costing the team 125 yards. The sloppiness shows poor preparation and lack of discipline.

    Someone must tell offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to spice up Holton’s role within the offense. The rookie’s end-around carry has become stale, and he fumbled on the play against the Broncos. Musgrave should also incorporate more targets to the tight ends to avoid negative yardage on screen passes.

    The calls to fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. have reached a high pitch. Rightfully so, the defense came out flat and committed several poor-choice penalties. It’s also worth noting the Raiders defense spent 11 more minutes on the field than the offense.

    Without offensive continuity and Denver’s sustained drives, Norton’s unit likely felt gassed by the final quarter. Overall, the coaching staff must put together a more innovative game plan to attack the Texans on Saturday.

    Grade: F

    Stats provided by NFL.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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