Raiders

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense after loss to Ravens

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense after loss to Ravens

BALTIMORE -- There wasn’t much drama in Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Ravens. The Raiders didn’t have Derek Carr and Jon Gruden screaming at each other on the sideline. There weren’t any controversial calls or records set.

This was just a run-of-the-mill beating by a better team.

Ho-hum.

The Ravens played old-school, big-boy football and ran the Raiders down on victory lane. The Silver and Black weren’t bad, but they couldn’t compete due to a glaring talent disparity even against a near-.500 Ravens team.

The effort was there. The execution, however, was not.

Let’s grade each phase of the Raiders' game in this week’s report card.

Rushing Offense

Doug Martin ran well at the outset, but the ground game was largely phased out after the Raiders got behind. He had 51 yards on 11 carries, but other rushers couldn’t gain much steam in limited work.

Gruden just couldn’t commit to the run game like he did last week in Arizona after falling behind multiple scores.

Grade: C

Passing Offense

The air attack was out of sync most of the day, and it wasn’t all Carr’s fault. His pass protection was poor, especially down the stretch, and allowed three sacks in a row. Receivers dropped several passes and didn’t have much speed in the pattern to keep the Ravens' secondary honest.

Carr wasn’t as accurate as usual in this one, especially when the Raiders needed to mount a comeback.

Grade: D

[RELATED: Carr finishing Raiders' loss important to him despite injuries]

Rushing Defense

This was as bad as it gets. The Raiders allowed a season-high 242 yards on 43 carries, unable to stop or even slow running back Gus Edwards or quarterback Lamar Jackson in the second half.

After the game, Gruden said if you can’t stop the interior run, "you have no chance to stop anything else." He’s right. That was the genesis of a downright awful day at the office for players who knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop the Ravens' ground game.

Grade: F

[RELATED: Raiders victimized by poor run defense again in loss to Ravens]

Pass Defense

Jackson had a 58.4 passer rating, with just 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Raiders' secondary had two picks for the second consecutive week, including one by Marcus Gilchrist in the end zone. Reggie Nelson had one in Ravens' territory.

Oakland's defensive backs are playing better in recent weeks, though they're still far from perfect. They must continue cutting down on major mistakes. Not allowing big plays to lumbering tight ends like Mark Andrews would be a good start.

Grade: B-minus

[RELATED: Crabtree vows no bad blood between him and Raiders]

Special Teams

The punt game is awful. No other word for it. Johnny Townsend had several underwhelming efforts and averaged just 31.5 yards per punt.

The punt coverage team allowed a 70-yard return for a touchdown that had Gruden fuming. Despite bringing in free agents specifically to help on special teams, that unit is not good enough.

Kicker Daniel Carlson was a bright spot, hitting his sixth consecutive field goal, this one from 42 yards out.

Grade: F

Overall

The Raiders were outmanned. Plain and simple. They struggled to stop the run game, and everything fell apart after that, ensuring their 13th losing season in the past 16 years, with the Kansas City Chiefs up next. Finding the next win could take some time.

Grade: D

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

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USATSI

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

With training camps getting started, hope once again springs eternal in the NFL.

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are primed to defend their crown, but a pack of worthy challengers is frothing at the mouth for the chance to take down the king.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sits atop the NFL's other throne as The Shield's reigning league MVP. The dynamic signal-caller once again is viewed as the favorite to take home the hardware, and while the like of Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers are viewed as the most likely to take the crown from Mahomes, the AFC has a few other young passers who are lying in wait.

When looking at possible MVP sleepers in the AFC, I made sure to look only at players that had odds at 80-to-1 or higher, as listed by Westgate Las Vegas. With the framework set, here are four potential MVP sleepers who reside in the AFC.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

The Case For: Carr has the arm talent and the leadership qualities to be an MVP. We saw that in 2016 when he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before fracturing his fibula in Week 16. With a wealth of offensive talent around -- including Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, -- and a full year of Jon Gruden's system under his belt, it wouldn't be hard to see Carr returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2019. If he puts up big numbers while helping the Raiders navigate a tough early-season schedule, he should be in the mix.

The Case Against: There was little about the Raiders' offense in 2018 that would tell you a turn around is coming. The offensive line struggled and the running game was relatively non-existent. This is a make or break year for the Carr-Gruden relationship and there's a chance it just won't work.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

The Case For: Despite a shaky offensive line, Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores. If the Clemson product can get some protection, he could put up big numbers and lead the Texans to another AFC West title. The recipe for an MVP campaign is there for Watson.

The Case Against: The offensive line is atrocious. Watson might spend more time running for his life than looking downfield for the streaking DeAndre Hopkins. If the Texans can't keep Watson off his back, there will be no MVP delusions in Houston.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

The Case For: When he's been healthy, Mariota has put up good numbers. That was with an offense designed for the 1940s with one offensive weapon. Mariota enters a make-or-break year for him with the Titans with two new wide receivers in rookie A.J. Brown and former Buccaneers Adam Humphries. If new offensive coordinator Arthur Humphries can tailor the offense to Mariota's strengths, the possibility for a breakout season is there.

The Case Against: Look, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If Mariota can't stay on the field, then his chance at winning the MVP and the Titans' playoff hopes go in the trash can.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

The Case For: Jackson rushed for 556 yards in the seven games he started last season. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it amounts to 1,271 yards. That would be more than the 1,039 yards Michael Vick rushed for in 2006. If Jackson has improved his passing and leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he could very well be an MVP sleeper.

The Case Against: As the Los Angeles Chargers showed in the AFC Wild Card Game, it's easy to stop Jackson if he's only able to move the chains with his legs. If the Lousiville product hasn't made big strides with his accuracy and pocket prescence then he won't be in the MVP conversation.

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

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AP

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

Just win, baby.

Twice in his career, Jon Gruden has been given that directive as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He was considerably more successful the first time around.

Gruden never finished below .500 in his first go-around with the Raiders, but in making his return to the franchise last year, he led Oakland to a 4-12 record -- tied for the worst record in the AFC.

Right after Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million contract to move out of the Monday Night Football booth and back to the sidelines, many questioned whether his time away from coaching would put him behind the eight-ball. Given how the Raiders performed last season, it didn't exactly silence that noise.

And yet, at least one analyst believes Gruden is still an above-average coach. NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked the 32 NFL head coaches Monday, and Gruden came in at No. 15.

Here's what Harrison had to say about Chucky:

"As [Gruden] shipped out star players and cut ties with front office execs he didn't want in Oakland last year, the Raiders managed just four wins. That's why '19 should be the tell on what kind of coach he is going forward. New GM Mike Mayock helped Gruden begin to rebuild the roster after stockpiling picks, providing an infusion of talent that should at least make this team more competitive. Given the strength of the division-rival Chargers and Chiefs, simply leading Oakland to the playoffs should be a ringing endorsement for the coach."

[RELATED: Raiders given 20th best outlook in future power rankings]

Indeed, if they make the playoffs this coming season, that's an undeniable success for Gruden and the Raiders in their final season in Oakland -- one that would be worthy of Gruden ascending on next year's coaching rankings. But, as Harrison suggests, it's not going to be easy.