OAKLAND -- The Raiders’ second Jon Gruden era didn’t start well.
The Silver and Black were beaten 33-13 by a superior Los Angeles Rams team on Monday night at the Coliseum, as the Raiders struggled in several areas. They turned the ball over too often, they were penalized too much, and they couldn’t generate a consistent pass rush.
Here’s a look at the first Raiders report card of the 2018 season.
Marshawn Lynch started this game off right, with a pile-dragging 10-yard touchdown run on the opening series. It showcased great power and suggested the Raiders might be able to run steadily against a stout Rams defense.
Lynch, however, didn’t have many chances to do so. He ran just 11 times for 41 yards as the Raiders spread carries to Jalen Richard (five for 24 yards) and Doug Martin (four for 20 yards). Their 4.1 yards-per-carry average wasn’t bad, but the Raiders didn’t control possession with steady movement on the ground.
Derek Carr threw for 303 yards, but … he also threw three interceptions. Tight end Jared Cook went off for a career-high180 receiving yards but … receivers Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson were MIA. Carr settled for throws to running backs while working Cook up the middle of the field, but their dynamic players lay fallow as the Rams worked to take them away.
The Raiders must find ways to get their best weapons involved, especially Cooper. A true No. 1 receiver can’t leave a game with just three targets. Unacceptable.
The Silver and Black bottled up Todd Gurley in the first half, as the highly paid Rams rusher had just 19 yards on four carries over two quarters. He finished with triple digits -- 108 yards on 20 carries.
Gurley dominated the second half and started gaining yards in bunches against a Raiders defensive front that couldn’t hold up over the long haul.
In sum, the Raiders allowed 140 yards on 26 rushes. That’s a 5.4-yard clip. Yeesh.
The opposition was pretty good, but the Raiders need to be better.
Bruce Irvin had a huge third-down strip-sack that pushed the Rams back and led to a missed field-goal attempt. That play was a rarity, though.
The Raiders' defensive line couldn’t generate pressure, leaving Rams quarterback Jared Goff with time to work the ball downfield. The secondary wasn’t poor, but it could only hold on so long. The Raiders had problems with Rams receiver speed and were flagged twice for long pass-interference penalties. The Raiders had five passes defensed, and generally covered better than they did last season.
A lacking pass rush -- yep, they miss Khalil Mack -- could be a problem this season. It certainly was against the Rams.
Lee Smith had to step up in a pinch as the emergency long snapper after Andrew DePaola suffered a knee injury that might’ve ended his season. Smith skied a punt snap, but Johnny Townsend saved it and got the ball off in time.
Mike Nugent converted two field-goal attempts, and Townsend proved steady. Kickoff coverage was strong as well. Coordinator Rich Bisaccia’s units had a good night, considering a specialist went down early.
It’s clear that Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther are good play callers and play designers. We saw more innovation than was typical of the Raiders under Jack Del Rio’s staff. They had a good game plan, but the execution was lacking at times and, against the Rams, there’s a clear talent disparity.
The Raiders must improve in a hurry to find a way to beat the Broncos next week or the Dolphins after that.