Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in win over Broncos

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in win over Broncos

OAKLAND -- The Raiders started the 2019 NFL season off right, with a 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday night at the Coliseum.

The Raiders didn’t let distractions from Antonio Brown’s departure impact execution, jumping out to an early lead they never let slip.

The defense started hot but floundered some at the end. The offense ran smooth all night behind quarterback Derek Carr. Coaching on both sides of the ball was strong as the Raiders locked down a victory.

Here’s the Raiders' report card following a big win over an AFC West rival:

Rushing offense

The Raiders averaged 3.5 yards per carry. The offensive coaching staff will say that number has to increase, and it does. Rookie Josh Jacobs put forth a solid first effort, showing breakaway speed in the open field and wiggle in traffic to work out extra yards. And he and fullback Alec Ingold were nails near the goal line on two touchdown runs.

Steadier production will be required in the future, but it was a good start with a new feature back and two reserve guards inserted into the starting lineup.

Grade: B

Passing offense

Carr was in complete control. He checked into smart plays at the line and threw lasers all over the field while completing 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. He was kept completely clean and comfortable in the pocket, thanks to excellent play from tackles Kolton Miller and Trent Brown.

Tyrell Williams played like a No. 1 receiver. Tight end Darren Waller proved a tough cover, and Jacobs was dangerous in one opportunity out of the backfield.

The Raiders pushed the ball downfield to the tune of 10.0 yards per attempt. That’s, you know, pretty good.

Grade: A

Rushing defense

The Raiders' run D started strong but ran out of gas toward the end. The front allowed 15 yards on seven first-half carries, and 80 yards on 16 attempts in the second half. They were playing down a defensive tackle, and wore down some, but a 26-yard run messed up the numbers.

This was a yeoman’s effort from the Raiders' defense, which emphasized stopping the run this offseason to keep teams off schedule and produce better pass-rushing opportunities. Josh Mauro and Johnathan Hankins were particularly good against the run on this night.

Grade: B

Pass defense

The Broncos picked on rookie cornerback Travyon Mullen after Gareon Conley left with a neck injury, especially on a late touchdown drive that made it a one-possession game. The Raiders sacked slow-moving Denver quarterback Joe Flacco three times -- Benson Mayowa had two; Clelin Ferrell had one -- and was hit four times in total. That’s a step up for a defensive front that had just 13 sacks last season.

Lamarcus Joyner was particularly strong in coverage, and rookie safety Johnathan Abram made some plays but missed at least one going for the knockout blow. The Raiders will face tougher air attacks, but they handled this one just fine.

Grade: B

Special teams

Some fans wonder why we considered Dwayne Harris a roster lock all summer. He showed them why with a 72-yard kickoff return in the second half to set up a field-goal drive that neutralized the three points Denver earned the previous series.

Daniel Carlson had five touchbacks in as many kickoffs and made his only field-goal attempt. Rookie punter A.J. Cole wasn’t perfect but had just three attempts with a 30-yard net.

Grade: A-minus

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Jon Gruden had his team well prepared for the Broncos, with a game plan that scored early points and set the tone for victory. The team’s leadership core kept Brown distractions from making a negative impact, which kept focus on the game itself.

Carr was awesome, pass protection was great, and the defense made some timely stops. That’s a recipe for victory.

The Broncos aren't a good team, but soundly beating them provides the Raiders with the confidence required to compete against tougher squads coming up on the schedule.

Grade: A

How Patrick Mahomes injury could change outlook for Raiders, AFC West


How Patrick Mahomes injury could change outlook for Raiders, AFC West

The AFC West might have just become even more wide open.

It already was heading in that direction after Kansas City lost each of their last two games, but the Chiefs might have suffered an even worse loss Thursday night when quarterback Patrick Mahomes left their game against the Broncos with an apparent leg injury.

Mahomes was in obvious pain after emerging from a pile following a fourth-down sneak. He was able to walk to the locker room, but was ruled out for the rest of the game shortly thereafter.

If Mahomes' injury is as serious as it appears, it would have a drastic effect on the AFC West race. The Raiders (3-2) have put themselves back in contention after winning their last two games over the Colts and Bears. While Kansas City's Matt Moore is a competent backup quarterback, he's nowhere near the same kind of player as the 2018 NFL MVP.

A Chiefs loss to the Broncos combined with a Raiders win over the Packers would leave Oakland all alone in first place in the division. Safe to say, nobody expected that to be a possibility in Week 7.

[RELATED: Green Bay HS legend Ingold ready for homecoming vs. Pack]

The Chiefs, Raiders and the rest of the NFL wait with bated breath for more information about Mahomes' injury.

Raiders' Darren Waller able to reflect on past with contract extension

Raiders' Darren Waller able to reflect on past with contract extension

ALAMEDA -- Darren Waller had one great Wednesday. The breakout tight end practiced with an Oakland team reliant on him to consistently produce in the run and pass game, and then signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Raiders through the 2023 season.

He got a fat raise and financial stability for life, a surefire sign the Raiders believe he can be a top-tier tight end for years to come.

His celebration, however, was subdued.

“I’m not really into spending money on a lot of things,” Waller said Thursday. "I did go to Walgreen’s and buy some Perrier. That’s what I like. That’s my go-to beverage right now.”

Don’t take it to mean the moment wasn’t meaningful. It was a powerful one for someone who nearly threw his career away over substances of abuse, which got him suspended by the NFL twice while in Baltimore. The second ban without pay lasted a full year and forced him to work at a grocery store to make ends meet.

Now he’s recognized as one of the NFL’s best tight ends, in the midst of a breakout season. He was set for restricted free agency next year, where the Raiders essentially controlled his rights. The Silver and Black chose to pay him anyway and commit to him long-term.

That, considering all Waller has been through, meant more than money.

“I feel like it shows I can contribute to a team and be reliable, someone who can be counted on,” Waller said. “That wasn’t the case before. I just try to be a good teammate and be part of this family. That’s what it’s all about for me.”

The Raiders have helped him integrate into the recovery community after signing him off Baltimore’s practice squad later last season. He signed his first Raiders contract in 2018, in the exact same room he signed a major extension less than a year later. It was a powerful moment that made him reflect on just how far he has come, now more than two years clean and sober.

“There was a big wave of that yesterday,” Waller said. “ I usually reflect a ton in my life because I’m so grateful for where I am. I was talking to my family and friends and my trainer, who helped me get back into shape, and it was pretty overwhelming for sure. But it’s in the best possible way.”

Waller’s all about stacking good days, an effort he’s getting better at. It’s paying real dividends in Oakland, where he has a powerful support system. It’s hard for him to think so far into the future, where his contract lasts four full years into the team’s Las Vegas relocation.

“It’s incredible for me,” Waller said. “It’s hard for me to think about what I’ll be like in 2024. I just try to let the days stack up, but it means a lot to me that they would do that. This whole thing is still surreal to me, because last year I was sitting in that same room coming over from Baltimore, and I just didn’t want to mess this up. Now to have something in place for a longer-term is incredible. I’m really looking forward to what’s next.”

[RELATED: Why Waller's extension is money well spent for Raiders]

Waller looks forward to being recognized among the tight ends he watches every week. He goes over every game Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz play. He likes watching Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen and Cameron Brate. He wants to be recognized in that class of tight ends and known as someone who performed at an elite level for a long time.

“I spend time on the off-day watching other guys in the league just looking at their game and what from that I can apply to mine,” Waller said. “I can compare myself to guys who have been doing it a long time. I’m kind of new to this, but I want to be in the conversation, and I think it’s realistic for me. I know there are a lot of people here who will help me accomplish that.”