Raiders

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 24-21 win over Bears

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 24-21 win over Bears

LONDON – The Raiders are 3-2 despite a brutal start to a schedule loaded with legitimate playoff contenders. Yeah, you read that right.

The Silver and Black have won two straight games away from home, a big win over Indianapolis last week followed up with a 24-21 victory over Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears.

The Raiders were awesome in the first half and weathered a disastrous third quarter with enough heart and drive to pull out a fourth-quarter comeback.

This team is mentally tough and plays hard together, often above their cumulative talent level.

They certainly did so on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, quieting Khalil Mack and an intimidating Bears defense.

There should be several high marks on this week’s report card, coming after an impressive, impressive win.

Rushing offense

The Bears entered Sunday as the third-ranked rushing defense. That didn’t change the Raiders' approach one bit. They wanted to run the football and did so effectively all night long. Kudos go to the offensive line, fullback Alec Ingold and running back Josh Jacobs, who fought through an elbow injury to produce a career day. Jacobs had 123 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, including the game-deciding score late in the fourth quarter.

DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard were also impactful running the ball, as the Raiders are establishing themselves as a quality running team. They had more runs than passes in this day thanks to steady production that kept the chains moving.

Grade: A-plus

Passing offense

The Raiders needed a mistake-free day from Derek Carr, one loaded with accurate short and intermediate passes. He provided exactly that, giving skill players room to run and make plays after the catch. He did that despite being without Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson.

The quarterback was the leader the Raiders needed, but tackles Kolton Miller and Trent Brown were the real stars of the day. They held Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd sackless in this one, leaving Carr with plenty of time to throw. Trevor Davis’ fumble near the goal line was a real negative. Those things can’t happen in tight games, even though the ball got hit with a perfect punch.

Grade: B

Rushing defense

David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen are a solid rushing tandem. They weren’t able to do much against a Raiders run defense that has been solid, save a Week 3 gashing from Dalvin Cook. The Bears averaged just 2.5 yards per carry in this game, putting a ton on backup quarterback Chase Daniel. Let’s not forget the Raiders did all that without Vontaze Burfict, who was suspended Monday for an illegal hit the previous week.

Linebacker Nicholas Morrow was solid playing next to Tahir Whitehead. Corey Liuget and P.J Hall were tough inside, complimenting Johnathan Hankins. The Bears' run game was a non-factor in this one, an underrated aspect of the game that played a huge role in a huge win.

Grade: A

Passing defense

Gareon Conley iced this game with an interception, and Morrow had one early that lead to an easy touchdown. That was huge, as was the defensive line’s ability to rattle Chase Daniel. The Bears backup quarterback made some mistakes that were key to the Raiders' victory.

Maxx Crosby and Benson Mayowa had sacks. Maurice Hurst had two in an energizing effort for an improving defensive line operating without rookie Clelin Ferrell. The group gave up some big plays to Allen Robinson during the Bears' third-quarter push, but made enough plays to let the offense surge from behind.

Grade: B-plus

Special teams

The Raiders gave up a huge punt return to Tarik Cohen that put the Bears back in the game, and A.J. Cole was just okay punting the ball. A fake punt worked out well, despite Erik Harris losing control of the ball after getting the first down. That play was vital to the Raiders' victory, but giving up that punt return to Cohen simply is unacceptable. Bears returner Cordarrelle Patterson had a 39-yard kickoff return, too.

Giving up those chunks will often get you beat.

Grade:C-minus

Overall

Coach Jon Gruden came up with a great game plan to get his offense going right from the start. That 17-point halftime lead was lost, yet important in the grand scheme. The Raiders clearly made the right choice to stay in London all week, and showed no ill effects of playing so far from home.

[RELATED: Brown or Brown? Carr praises Trent with AB gone]

The team weathered that third-quarter storm and emerged victorious. Last year’s team would’ve folded. This one has now won back-to-back games away from home and enter the bye week at 3-2. That's an excellent mark considering how hard their schedule has been.

Grade: A-plus-plus-plus

Raiders roster analysis: Defense still needs help after major upgrades

Raiders roster analysis: Defense still needs help after major upgrades

General manager Mike Mayock has been candid about the Raiders’ defensive deficiencies, especially in a press conference at the NFL scouting combine.

He wasn’t just complaining about the problem. Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden executed an aggressive plan to fix it. The Raiders added several established veteran free agents, especially through the middle of the defense, to improve a unit that hasn’t been good enough in recent years.

The Silver and Black even came out ahead following a crazy Thursday where the Eli Apple deal dissolved and versatile defensive back Damarious Randall came aboard.

The Raiders are much more talented heading into the 2020 campaign, though an upgrade or two could complete what has been a solid offseason to this point.

Let’s take a look at the current state of the Raiders defense, an analysis that pairs well with Friday’s edition of the Raiders Insider podcast. You can find that below, on our NBC Sports Bay Area/California YouTube channel or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, check out our Josh Schrock’s ranking of the top 20 Raiders defensive players.

Here’s our positional breakdown, where they’re set and where the Raiders need some help.

Defensive end

Starters: Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell
Top reserves: Carl Nassib, Arden Key
State of the position: Crosby was a revelation last year, finishing second in defensive rookie of the year voting. He hit double-digit sacks and proved a far better run defender than people thought. Ferrell had some setbacks in his rookie season – he lost 15 pounds with the flu before midseason – and performed below expectations associated with his draft slot. He has vowed to be better in 2020 and has the work ethic required to make great leaps. Nassib’s a versatile weapon an upgrade over 2019 situational pass rusher Benson Mayowa, though he doesn’t come cheap. Nassib also is a solid run defender who can also operate as a stand-up rusher. Key has talent and bend but hasn’t performed well in games to this point.
Help wanted?: Another edge rusher couldn’t hurt, even if it’s just a situational player later in the NFL draft, but the group will be fine even without another impact player.

Defensive tackle

Starters: Johnathan Hankins, Maliek Collins
Top reserves: Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall, Daniel Ross
State of the position: Collins makes the interior much, much better. He has the interior pass-rush ability lacking for the Silver and Black in recent seasons, which is vital to the success of Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme. Collins would’ve led the Raiders in quarterback pressures in 2019 and has excelled battling through double teams. He’ll help those around him, making the entire line better. Hankins is a solid run defender and Hurst will have a significant role in the rotation, especially in the sub-packages. Hall will be pushed by others in the group.
Help wanted?: Collins takes the edge off this need, but the Raiders could use one more piece to this puzzle. The former Dallas Cowboy is working on a one-year deal and Hankins has a season left on his deal, so adding another player would help the 2020 group and provide some help in future seasons.

Linebacker

Starters: MLB Nick Kwiatkoski, WLB Cory Littleton, SLB Marquel Lee
Top reserves: Nick Morrow, Kyle Wilber
State of the position: Adding Kwiatkoski and Littleton to the group makes linebacker a team strength. They should pair as three-down linebackers. Lee could man the strong side, but he comes off frequently for a defensive back. Morrow has experience at both interior spots and is a quality backup who could start at any linebacker position if required.
Help wanted?: The Raiders are set here in the short and long term, something unusual for a Raiders franchise that has struggled to find proper fits at the position.

Cornerback

Starters: Trayvon Mullen, Isaiah Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner
Top reserves: Nevin Lawson, Keisean Nixon
State of the position: Mullen’s a long-term solution at one cornerback spot. Joyner’s solid in the slot, where the Raiders prefer him to play. Johnson’s still raw after losing much of his rookie year to a concussion and facial fracture suffered in the preseason. Lawson has tons of starting experience and Nixon is a valuable backup. All that said, the Raiders were looking for a top cornerback to start opposite Mullen and still don’t have that player. Eli Apple would’ve been the frontrunner to play outside, but his deal fell apart this week and he’s now back on the open market.
Help wanted?: The Raiders need a top cornerback in the draft. Like, really bad. They could and probably should use the No. 12 or 19 selection on a plug-and-play cornerback and complete the position group. They could use Randall there if nobody else seizes the job, but free safety seems like a better fit for him.

[RELATED: NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should select one of these five defensive backs]

Safeties

Starters: Johnathan Abram, Damarious Randall
Top reserves: Jeff Heath, Erik Harris
State of the position: If Randall ends up playing safety as expected, this group suddenly is stout. Abram has a lot to prove but has great potential as a physical tone-setter. Randall could free him to be aggressive with his ability at free safety, though he can move around and do a lot of things well. Heath and Harris have extensive starting experience and are solid reserves. They could fill in well in case of injury or if Randall’s needed at cornerback, where he spent the first three years of his NFL career.
Help wanted?: The Raiders could’ve used another safety before Randall arrived, Now that he’s committed to the Silver and Black, the position’s a great shape.

NFL Draft 2020: EA Sports to create 'virtual moment' with Roger Goodell, picks

NFL Draft 2020: EA Sports to create 'virtual moment' with Roger Goodell, picks

The 2020 NFL Draft will be unlike anything seen in recent memory. But EA Sports is going to do its part to add a shade of semi-normalcy.

Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the annual event, which was slated to be held in Las Vegas, instead will be held remotely. This, of course, means top prospects like Joe Burrow, Chase Young, Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa won't be able to have their handshake moment with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Not so fast.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport noted Friday that EA Sports will create a digital meeting between each first-round pick and Goodell that will be shown as part of the broadcast.

EA Sports has reached out to those assumed to be picked in the first round and asked how they would interact with Goodell if the draft were being held in person. There have been several memorable draft moments between prospects and Goodell, including Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Christian Wilkins almost taking out the commish with a shoulder bump last year.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Each first-round pick also will get to select a high school to receive a $2,500 grant toward their football program.

It won't be a normal draft, but the virtual walk-ups will at least add something to what will be a unique broadcast.

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