Raiders

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 26-24 win vs. Chargers

grudencelebratingblackholeusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 26-24 win vs. Chargers

OAKLAND – The Raiders won their second tense close contest in five days, showing great poise under pressure while surging into the thick of the playoff chase with a 26-24 win over the Chargers on Thursday night.

The Raiders are typically reliant on a steady ground game to control games, but their beleaguered defense came through in a big way with quarterback pressure and key takeaways.

Winning a different way showed impressive in-game resilience, a quality vital to a team trying to secure a playoff spot.

Nobody wants to talk about the postseason right now and rightfully so, focusing instead on another job well done. The Raiders found a way to win a pressure-packed affair against a division rival. That’s what mattered most on Thursday night as the Silver and Black won their second straight game and moved to 5-4 as we move into the season’s second half.

Here’s how the team graded out in our Week 10 Raiders report card:

Rushing offense

The Raiders posted their lowest rushing total of the year on Thursday night, with 78 yards on 21 carries. That number was inflated by a game-winning 18-yard touchdown run by Josh Jacobs, who was averaging just 3.0 yards per carry before that. Jacobs and the typically reliable rushing operation fell on some hard times against a tough Chargers defensive front intent to make Derek Carr beat them through the air.

It wasn’t a great effort, with some odd play calls – DeAndre Washington’s shotgun run on 3rd-and-short was baffling – but the ground game came through when it mattered most.

Rodney Hudson and Alex Ingold sealed off the one side, Richie Incognito locked down the left and Jacobs ran to the end zone untouched to set victory in motion. Still, it wasn’t a great day overall for what’s typically a team strength.

Grade: C-minus

Passing offense

The Chargers pass rush is hard to handle, and Raiders had some setbacks in protection. Carr was sacked three times but did well to evade other pressure and make plays on the run. Carr’s numbers were OK for tough sledding, completing 21 of 31 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown to Ingold.

The most important stat: Zero interceptions for a third straight game. Taking care of the football is vital in close games, and Carr has done an excellent job of that.

Grade: C-plus

Rushing defense

The Raiders run defense is typically solid, but Melvin Gordon gave them fits. The feature back had 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, frequently spinning out of tackles near the line of scrimmage. It seemed like the Chargers could’ve been successful running every time, but kept the offense balanced despite that.

Scat back Austin Ekeler was just OK on the ground, with six carries for 19 yards. The Raiders only had a seven-man rotation up front and are always thin at linebacker, but they’d say they should’ve done better, even against a talented back like Gordon.

Grade: C-minus

Pass defense

We all know Erik Harris gets a game ball. He had two interceptions and another negated by penalty that had no impact on the play. Karl Joseph had a pick to seal it, and another lost to a flag. This wasn’t all about the secondary, however.

The Raiders pass rush was ferocious behind rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby and veteran situational pass rusher Benson Mayowa. The Raiders sacked Philip Rivers five times, hit him five more times and forced him into game-changing mistakes. The pass defense normally gets poor marks. Not so on Thursday night. That group was awesome in both rush and coverage.

Case in point: The Chargers threw the ball eight times with a minute left, needing just a field goal to win it. They completed zero passes and gained zero yards. The Raiders certainly hope Joseph and Lamarcus Joyner recover quickly from injuries suffered in this game.

Grade: A-plus

Special teams

Daniel Carlson missed an extra point after the Raiders went ahead with a minute left. The mistake meant the Chargers could’ve won it with a field goal. That huge mistake could’ve cost the Raiders the game. He’s lucky it didn’t.

Grade: F

[RELATED: Carr delivers in Raiders' win over Chargers]

Overall

These Raiders are tough. They faced adversity from a quality opponent and never folded. They gave up a late lead, snatched it right back with Derek Carr’s 18th fourth-quarter comeback and the defense made it stand. They won outside their comfort zone, which might be the most impressive part of this whole affair.

That’s a credit to veteran leadership and excellent coaching. Jon Gruden and Paul Guenther did excellent work creating a game plan and adjusting to what didn’t work. That kept these Raiders right in the playoff hunt.

Grade: A

Raiders' Erik Harris explains why 'dream came true' in win vs. Chargers

Raiders' Erik Harris explains why 'dream came true' in win vs. Chargers

ALAMEDA -- Raiders safety Erik Harris intercepted Philip Rivers on Thursday night and immediately took off down the right sideline. He stiff-armed a Chargers offensive lineman and outran everyone else on his way to the end zone.

He looked into the raucous Oakland Coliseum crowd while crossing the field, searching for his family. Harris found his wife and four children and pointed right to them.

This one, Harris said without speaking, is for you.

The Harris family didn’t make it to many games last year, Erik’s first season making significant defensive contribution. His youngest son Ellis was too young to travel from their Louisiana home, but the family has made it to four thus far this season.

Thursday night was a good one to attend. Harris had two interceptions, with a third negated by penalty, including the pick-six in a 27-24 victory over the Chargers.

“Last time I had a pick-six when they were in the crowd, [his twins Isaiah and Elijah] were 2 or 3 years old [– his daughter Esme is a bit younger --] but this time the older ones knew what was going on,” Harris said. “I ran over to them and started pointing to them. They told me after they saw me doing that, which made it an emotional, heartfelt moment.”

The whole night was something out of a script. Harris persevered through difficult childhood circumstances while embarking upon an incredible football journey from a NCAA Division II college to the CFL and then the NFL, with side jobs as UPS and a potato chip factory in between, was featured on the “Thursday Night Football” pregame show.

Then Harris balls out. Then the Raiders win, and Harris gets invited up to the NFL Network set, an honor bestowed on the game’s most impactful player. He was able to bring his wife Theresa and their four kids on stage at the end to share this big moment with his family.

“I was telling my wife this morning that Thursday didn’t even feel real,” Harris said. “They shared my story, then I played well and then everybody was able to join me on the set. It was almost like it was staged. It felt like that honestly. It was pretty cool.”

[RELATED: Swearinger ready to help Raiders' secondary, win title]

Harris has had big NFL moments before, but this was something altogether different. He was able to share his backstory with a massive audience and then show on the field what can happen when you won’t quit.

“That was one of best things to come out of the whole night,” Harris said. “My goal was always to make the NFL, but on Thursday night my real dream came true. It provided a platform for my story, my testimony to be heard around the country and the world, really, and inspire people to never give up.”

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in rare position to think playoffs, top-10 pick

ceedeeus.jpg
USATSI

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in rare position to think playoffs, top-10 pick

We're passed the halfway point of the NFL season, and the Raiders are in a unique position.

Yes, it's OK to start thinking about Jon Gruden leading the Silver and Black back to the playoffs. This Raiders team has been tough, gritty and resilient, fighting through a host of injuries, a five-game road trip against playoff-caliber competition, Vontaze Burfict's season-long suspension and Antonio Brown's meltdown to sit at 5-4, just on the outside of the playoff picture with a very favorable upcoming schedule.

But thanks to the much-criticized Khalil Mack trade -- which is looking better by the day (hi, Josh Jacobs) -- the Raiders also must start scouting college football's best players. The Bears, one year after going 12-4 and winning the NFC North, have been borderline abysmal as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky continues to show zero signs that he's a franchise quarterback.

With seven games left, the Bears sit at 4-5 and currently would have the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But because the Bears were brilliant last year, led by Mack and that vaunted defense, they were given a first-place schedule, so Trubisky and the Bears will finish the season with the Rams, Giants, Lions, Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs and Vikings.

Ouch.

The way the Bears are playing, at least four of those games are losses, and there's no telling which Chicago team will show up against the Giants or possibly the Jeff Driskel-led Lions on Thanksgiving. Even a positive view likely sees the Bears' finish at 6-10 or 5-11, and that could be enough to see them fall (or rise depending on the hat you're wearing) into the top 10 of the NFL draft.

A playoff berth and a top-10 pick in the same season? That's some kind of witchcraft only Gruden could have cooked up in his wildest nightmares.

The Raiders are just a half-game back of the Chiefs for first place in the AFC West, with a Dec. 1 meeting at Arrowhead Stadium still to come. They're just outside of the wild-card picture because of a tiebreaker loss to the Steelers based on conference record.

Still, the playoffs are a real possibility for the Silver and Black. While Gruden patches up the secondary after injuries to safety Karl Joseph and slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, general manager Mike Mayock is hard at work scouting what could be a top-10 pick from the Bears.

The 2020 NFL Draft class might not be as loaded as some in years past, but it does have just what the Raiders will be looking for: wide receivers, pass rushers and defensive backs.

So, let's pretend the Raiders hit the lottery and go to the playoffs for the second time since 2002, and the Bears plummet to finish 5-11. Here are six prospects the playoff-bound Raiders will be looking at with that top-10 pick.

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Speed. Speed. More speed.

One of Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's favorite targets, Ruggs is a burner who's projected to be the fastest player in this year's draft class. He's the perfect fit for the modern NFL. He's improved as a route runner during his time in Tuscaloosa, and would be great for a Raiders team that's thin at receiver after the AB debacle.

His teammate, Jerry Jeudy, is the top receiver in the class and likely will go in the top five, but Ruggs is no consolation prize.


CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Did I mention the Raiders have a need at receiver?

Lamb isn't as fast as Ruggs, but the 6-foot-2, 191-pound receiver has been dominant as Jalen Hurts' No. 1 target this season. He's a polished route-runner who has a knack for getting open and is almost impossible to tackle. Just ask Texas, which Lamb torched, pulling down 10 balls for 171 yards and three scores.

Lamb is a little taller than Ruggs, but either would be a great weapon to give Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.


Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson

Have you heard Gruden kind of likes guys from Clemson?

After the Silver and Black drafted three guys from Dabo Swinney's culture factory last season, don't be surprised if they go back to Death Valley should Simmons be on the board.

That's a big if, but the converted safety is just what the Raiders are looking for in a linebacker. He has the athleticism to cover tight ends but also can run sideline to sideline to track down backs. He has the versatility to play some safety if called upon to do so.

I'd expect he'll hear his name called somewhere in the No. 6-to-No. 8 range, but if he falls a bit, this would be a huge get for Mayock and Gruden.


Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

At 6-5, 318 pounds, Brown has the size that NFL teams covet in a disruptive defensive tackle. He's still raw, but he has the tools to be a dominant game wrecker.

The Raiders were interested in Quinnen Williams in last year's draft, but he went off the board at No. 3. Will they go back to the D-line well here?


Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The Raiders drafted Johnathan Abram in the first round last April, but he only made it one game before going down with a shoulder injury. Karl Joseph was having a productive season at the other safety spot before going on injured reserve after his game-sealing interception against the Chargers.

Joseph will be a free agent this offseason and would love to return to the Raiders. But if it doesn't work out, Delpit is the type of player Gruden would love to put alongside Abram in the defensive backfield.

The LSU star can line up just about anywhere and make plays. He's a versatile ballhawk who would give the Raiders one of the best safety combinations in the league.

As seen in the win over Alabama, Delpit has to improve his tackling, but it's not a big enough knock to warrant passing on him.


Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

So, you need a pass rush? Clelin Ferrell has come on of late, and Maxx Crosby has been a pleasant surprise, but the Raiders still lack the ability to consistently get after the pass rusher. They'd love to land Ohio State's Chase Young, but he'll be off the board by the No. 2 pick.

Gross-Matos is a lengthy defensive end with a massive wingspan and a big motor. He's relentless on every play, and we know Gruden loves that. He's only 21, so he has a ton of room to grow both physically and as a defensive end.

The Nittany Lion star could go inside the top 10 or fall to the late first round, so the Raiders could have a few cracks at him.

[RELATED: Where Raiders sit in NFL power rankings after Week 10]

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

If you can't immediately fix the pass rush, you can address the coverage. The Raiders did that by drafting Trayvon Mullen in the second round in April, and the rookie has been solid since earning the starting job after Gareon Conley was traded.

Adding Fulton would give the Raiders two young, athletic cover corners on whom to build their defense. Heading to Las Vegas with the #NoFlyZone.