“Final Grades: Raiders Go 2-1 against Cleveland; Unsung Heroes In Oakland”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Cleveland Browns; Week 3:

Cleveland Browns 16 (1-2)

Oakland Raiders 23 (2-1)

The first thought I had at the start of the game was did Katy Perry or Taylor Swift design the Browns new uniforms.  They are awful.  Now to the important thing, the game.

I had the Raiders winning 23-16, and they held on for a 27-20 win @ the Dawg Pound in Cleveland. The Raiders OL controlled the game and the Raiders dominated the first half.   Cleveland came on late keeping RB’s in the backfield to combat the Raiders blitzing rushers and made it close, but an interception on the final drive by Charles Woodsen sealed the victory.   Before this, the Raiders had only 2 wins on the road in 3 years and hadn’t won on the east coast in 6 years.

Right now, the Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals offensive lines are the best in the NFL. The Cardinals are the best team in the NFL right now and the Raiders are much improved.  Dan Williams is playing as good as anyone in the NFL against the run and Justin Tuck has also stepped up his game against the run.  These are the unsung heroes of the NFL right now.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr had all day to throw and he carved up a porous Cleveland defense. Cleveland had no answer for the Raiders passing game. As many non Raider fans said, this is a win against the Browns but a win on the road is a big win for a team that has struggled so much on the road. Carr used roll outs and quick throws to take control of the game.   No one in the NFL runs better routes than Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Cooper has personally disbanded the “we should draft Kevin White” fan club with his great play. Cooper dominated in college and he’s doing the same in Oakland. Carr has great chemistry with his WR which is very important.  He’s really looked good in the last 2 weeks.

GRADE: A

Week one he struggled big time but the OL is playing out of their minds and he’s taking full advantage of it and has shined the last two weeks. I love his confidence and his comments saying he has a lot of work ahead of him and a long way to go to be where he wants to be. That is a winning attitude. He’s humble and a hard worker. Leadership matters. I like everything about Carr and look for continued growth.

Running Backs:

Isn’t it crazy how the run game improves when teams actually realize you can pass the ball?   Last year there were times where some teams had NINE players in the box to guard against the Raiders running game, literally daring the Raiders to throw the ball. With the success of the passing game, you are seeing much less of it.   All of the RB’s looked good and Latavius Murray had 139 yards on 26 carries. I still want Marcel Reece to get at least 5 touches a game but he had 1 run and one 55 yard pass reception and run. He’s too talented to see the ball so little.

Grade A-

Everyone contributed in some way and they looked solid. As long as Murray is healthy, these guys look good.

Offensive Line:

Carr has all day to throw and they ran for 97 yards against a tough run defense with Baltimore, and 155 against a bad one in Cleveland. Carr needs to buy steak dinners for these guys because they are not getting the credit they deserve. If they stay healthy, this is a really solid group.

Grade A+

Can’t get any better than what they did today. The most thankless job in football but one of the most important.

Wide Receivers:

Even at Texas Tech, I loved watching Michael Crabtree run routes. He’s precise and takes his craft seriously. If you look at his career he rarely has been truly healthy and when he is, he is good. How the Raiders took DHB over him is beyond me but Al Davis and his love for 40 times was too much to overcome. Amari Cooper is a future star and he has made the draft Kevin White fan club membership plummet. I still don’t get Seth Roberts playing over Andre Holmes. Roberts caught 2 nice catches but he also had two bad drops; again.

GRADE: A-

Another great game by these players. Cooper and Crabtree are old school WR ala Paul Warfield and Fred Biletnikoff. They work hard, keep their mouths shut and just play. I love these guys.

Defensive Line:

The Raiders DL had 2 sacks, and the LB’s had 3. The blitz played a big part of the Raiders defense this week so a lot of the Raiders pressure was not with their DL.  The Raiders rushed 5 players 80% of the time on passing downs in the first half.

Aldon Smith finally made an impact and it really showed. He was a little laid back at times against the run but in general he’s coming along fine. Khalil Mack had a solid game getting his first 2 sacks of the year. In the second half the Raiders didn’t blitz as much; especially in the 4th; and Josh McCown got more time and threw for 341 yards during a furious come back.

Dan Williams is playing as good as anyone against the run in the NFL and Justin Tuck is also playing well. In time this could be a really good group. The blitz played a big part of the Raiders defense this week.

Grade: B+

Part of the pressure on the QB was due to the high amount of blitzes the Raiders did in the first half.   When the Raiders stopped blitzing, McCown had more time. McCown was so late on so many throws that it was painful to watch, but it must have been fun to rush against. A good game but not a great one.

Linebackers:

The linebackers played their best game of the year. They blitzed on most of the plays in the first half, and the Raiders rushed 5 players on almost every pass play. The LB’s ended up with 3 sacks. Curtis Lofton is the leader of this group and again played well. Malcolm Smith improved his run defense which is an issue with him.

Grade B+

The Raiders LB’s were solid and they controlled the Browns RB’s all day.

Defensive Backs:

A good pass rush sure helps these guys out. In the first half the Raiders pass rush, and the inability for Josh McCown to throw the ball on time was glaring. In the second half when the Raiders limited their blitzing, the DB’s struggled giving up 237 yards in the second half alone.

Carrie made 2 really good plays while moving to safety, stopping long passes where the CB’s were beaten.   On 4 separate occasions McCown was way late on long passes that the CB’s were obviously beaten on. Charles Woodsen made a great interception; on another late pass; but he struggled guarding the tight ends and that is still a huge issue. A better game but still lots to worry about.

Grade C  

Giving up 341 yards and 237 yards in one half against the Browns isn’t good passing defense. As I’ve said before the Raiders have to protect these guys by using a pass rush and they did that in the first half, but in the second half they became a little more conservative with a lead.  The results were the Browns big comeback. The Raiders are now 29th in passing defense in regards to yards per game. The Browns are not the Patriots.

Coaching:

Game 1 is a memory as the play calling is now exactly what Derek Carr needs; 3 and 5 step drops and quick passes. The Raiders came out aggressive in the first half and blitzed often with the LB’s ending up with 3 sacks. The first half was the best defensive half they’ve played this year.   In the second half; especially the 4th quarter; the Raiders stopped blitzing and the Browns went wild passing for 237. I would have liked to see continued aggressive blitzed throughout the game.

Grade B+

Solid game by the coaching staff. Great play calling and the blitzes in the first half set a tone for the game. I would like that to continue throughout the game but it’s a start.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski and Marquette King were as solid as always. One of the key plays of the game was when the Browns roughed the kicker on a punt which lead to a first down and an eventual score. Taiwan Jones continues to be good on kickoff returns and the Raiders picked up a key fumble on a muffed punt in the fourth quarter that killed the Browns.

Grade A-

A solid group who had a predictable solid game.

Next Opponent:   @ Chicago Bears (0-3); last game, loss @ Seattle Seahawks 26-0)

Outlook:

This was a big road win for the Raiders to get rid of some bad trends over the years. The Browns are a bad team but a win on the road is always a big deal in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears are the worst team in football right now and the Raiders should handle them fairly easily. Jay Cutler is unofficially out for the game, and with Jimmy Clausen at QB, the Bears have little to no chance to win. They have had a brutal schedule to start the season but they are a rebuilding team with few weapons on offense and a terrible pass defense.

The Raiders can’t look ahead to Denver and must continue to use the blitz against Chicago. Look for the DB’s to have a much better game against a bad opponent.

They say you really don’t know how good a team is until you play a good team on the Road but the Raiders don’t play a good team on the road until week 9 when they travel to Pittsburgh and a possible return by Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger was possibly on to an MVP season so missing his return would be a great thing. With the Ravens not being that good, the Raiders out of division schedule isn’t as daunting as first thought.   Look for the Raiders to go 3-1 into their home game with the Broncos which will be the most anticipated game in a long time.

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