Raiders

Three quick takeaways from Raiders' 33-13 loss to Rams

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Three quick takeaways from Raiders' 33-13 loss to Rams

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OAKLAND -- Jon Gruden’s return to the NFL was a big deal. That’s why the Raiders and the Rams opened the season on Monday Night Football, the very broadcast Gruden worked on during nine years away from coaching.

This had a big-game feel, one the Raiders wanted to win and curtail negative press after trading a certain All-Pro edge rusher to Chicago.

While Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther pulled out all the stops to get things going, one thing was crystal clear in a 33-13 loss: There’s a huge talent disparity between the Rams and the Raiders.

The Rams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but this game shows the Raiders aren’t at that level. Or anywhere close. That’s especially true after a certain All-Pro edge rusher was shipped to Chicago.

The Silver and Black scrapped and clawed throughout the game, but the offense couldn’t sustain late drives, Derek Carr fell apart late, and the Jared Goff-Todd Gurley combo wore down the Raiders' defense.  

Here are three quick takeaways from the season opener where the Raiders just couldn’t compete over four quarters.

Raiders can’t generate pass rush

Bruce Irvin made a huge play early in this game, with a third-down strip-sack that pushed the Rams back and contributed to a missed field-goal attempt.

There was solid coverage on the play, which allowed Irvin to get home and make a big play.

That was a rare moment when the Raiders actually generated a pass rush. Goff was hit just two times, and the Cal product had time to carve the Raiders' secondary. Rookie Arden Key was excitable but not always effective, and P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst didn’t get much push inside on passing downs.

So, after three paragraphs, I’ll just come out and say it: The Raiders missed Khalil Mack. They struggled pressuring the quarterback one day after Mack dominated the Green Packers on national TV, which isn’t a great look for those looking to move past the Mack trade.

Draft picks received for Mack won’t come until next year and the year after, meaning this year’s Raiders lost Mack for nothing. He might not have won the game, considering the offensive struggles, but he certainly would’ve helped a Raiders defense that played decent in the back but couldn’t produce steadily to be impactful.

Raiders lose offensive momentum

Gruden planned to give Carr great freedom at the line of scrimmage, and the signal-caller’s scheme mastery allowed him to put the offense in positions to succeed.

The Raiders got to the line of scrimmage pretty quickly, giving Carr time to survey the scene and make proper adjustments. That worked incredibly well on the season’s opening drive, where the Raiders marched right downfield for a touchdown. He hit Jared Cook down the seam, found the right times to let Marshawn Lynch run and was smart with his targets.

That was a good first start for the Gruden-Carr offensive machine, but it didn’t last. The star-studded Rams defense slowed offensive momentum in the second half.

The Raiders struggled mightily in the third quarter and into the fourth, and they couldn’t generate the steady production attained in the first half.

Carr fell right off track, and couldn’t find any receiver not named Jared Cook or a running back. Amari Cooper was invisible. Jordy Nelson was, too.

There was tons of talk this winter about Gruden and Carr’s working relationship, but the duo has meshed well throughout the spring and summer. Carr was confident and authoritative running Gruden’s offense in practice, and he was again in the first half. The Raiders didn’t adjust well to the Rams in the second half, and couldn’t get anything going while Los Angeles added to its lead.

Carr finished 29-of-40 passing for 303 yards with three interceptions, a forgettable night that started well and went south from there.

Lynch can still go Beast Mode

Marshawn Lynch barely touched the ball this preseason. He had a 60-yard touchdown run called back by a holding call and never touched the ball again. He showed surprising breakaway speed on that run, and flashed great burst and acceleration in practice.

Early in this game, however, Lynch went full Beast Mode. The Raiders were 10 yards from paydirt when Lynch took a carry up the middle. He made it roughly five yards on his own, and slowed enough to be swarmed by the Rams defense.

The group couldn’t bring Lynch down. He pushed and pushed and got some help from Gabe Jackson kick-starting his momentum. Lynch rumbled right over the goal line for a touchdown.

Gruden used several running backs over the course of this game, so Lynch finished with 41 yards and a score on just 11 carries. That isn’t a heavy workload for the team’s main running back, but Lynch showed great power with some sneaky speed. That’s a good sign for a rusher the Raiders will count on in 2018.

Raiders need instant impact from Clelin Ferrell right away as rookie

Raiders need instant impact from Clelin Ferrell right away as rookie

The Raiders are trying to rebound from a disatrous 4-12 season, and need strong showings from many members of their NFL draft class. That's especially true on defense, where general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden loaded up on young talent.

Clelin Ferrell was the marquee selection, a defensive end taken fourth overall out of Clemson to fill a position of great need.

We'll take a look at the best-case scenario for Ferrell's rookie season, the worst possible outcome and what's realistic for a do-it-all scheme fit expected to play right away. We'll put different Raiders draft picks through the same paces each day, so check back Thursday morning for our Josh Jacobs breakdown.

Right now, let's dive into what the Raiders need from Ferrell:

Clelin Ferrell

Draft slot:No. 4 overall (First round)
Position: Defensive end
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 264 pounds
School: Clemson

Skill set

Let’s say it simply. Ferrell is a complete defensive end. He can set an edge and rush the passer. He’s technically sound, tough and tenacious, with strong leadership skill. He may not be as flashy as other top-5 edge rushers of this draft class or any other, but he was a highly productive college player who could well be a highly productive pro despite missing elite measurable athleticism.

Ferrell’s exactly what the Raiders need up front, as defensive coordinator Paul Guenther puts it, a stable three-down defender who will show up and work hard every day.

Training camp proving ground

Coaches were impressed with his tenacity and a real grinder’s work ethic. It’s hard to evaluate a new player just learning the system seeing him once a week during open OTA practices, especially when they weren’t in pads, so training camp will provide a clearer picture of where Ferrell is as a rookie.

It’s always difficult to expect an immediate impact from rookies, even those drafted so high, but Ferrell needs to be steady and flash in practice, especially when the L.A. Rams come to Napa on Aug. 7-8. Battles with Kolton Miller and Trent Brown will also be key in his development, when he cracks the first unit.

Going up against massive size (Brown) and solid athleticism from a big frame (Miller) in pads should help prepare him for the difficulties of facing NFL tackles each week.

Best-case scenario

It was hard to find analysts with bad things to say about Ferrell’s game. The element of surprise came from his draft position, something he wasn’t in charge of. The Raiders are so thin off the edge that they need Ferrell to step in and play three downs right away. They’re certainly hoping he’s not just occupying space, and can produce at his Clemson level.

He had 27 sacks in three seasons as a starter, and getting to nine as a first-year pro would be huge for the Raiders and his long-term future. Comparing Ferrell to Khalil Mack is ultimately unfair, but they’ll come his way nonetheless. Let’s not forget that Mack had just four sacks as a rookie, often generating pressure but rarely getting home.

Working nine sacks out of the season would be huge for the Raiders, and double digits with solid run play would send Ferrell jerseys flying off the shelves.

Worst-case scenario

The Raiders need a three-down end. They likely won’t have one on the other side, splitting run/pass duties between Josh Mauro and Arden Key, respectively. They need someone capable against the run and pass, a stable and productive force to pick this defensive line up off the mat after a disastrous 2018 season where the Raiders were outmanned regularly during a year with just 13 sacks (as a team!!) and gave up 140 rushing yards per game.

Let’s be honest: This defensive line is in huge trouble if Ferrell can’t make an immediate impact. That would spell disaster for the Raiders' defense if he doesn’t show well, and lower-round pick Maxx Crosby doesn’t make up for that by playing out of his mind.

Realistic expectations

Ferrell’s a rookie. Let’s not forget that when evaluating his season this winter. Again, he didn’t control his draft slot. He plays for the team that took him, and seven sacks and realtively steady run play is a respectable season.

[RELATED: Key dates for Raiders' 'Hard Knocks'-centric preseason]

Ferrell’s going to work hard every day. He doesn’t have a large injury history. He should be reliable. He should get into the backfield; whether he can get home is another matter. Mack didn’t do it much his first year.

Expect an adjustment period as he moves to the NFL, but his presence should be felt in all facets of this Raiders defense. He seems qualified to shut out noise and outside expectation from being the No. 4 overall pick. That should help him produce a solid, rookie year with hope for better down the line.

Key Raiders preseason dates, including HBO's 'Hard Knocks' episodes

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USATSI

Key Raiders preseason dates, including HBO's 'Hard Knocks' episodes

The Raiders have an interesting preseason ahead. They have three exhibition games on the road, including one in Canada. They’re headed to Napa for camp, which is possibly, though ultimately uncertain, the last time they will train in Wine Country, with their Las Vegas relocation scheduled for next year.

They have personalities to spare on this unit, which must bond to improve on last year’s 4-12 disappointment. They’ll do so under NFL Films’ watchful eye, with cameras everywhere filming this season’s HBO documentary series “Hard Knocks.”

[RELATED: Raiders mailbag: Defense still clearly behind offense]

Their training camp schedule hasn’t been made official, but Monday’s announcement of report dates gives the preseason some shape.

Here are key dates for the Raiders' summer plans:

As a note, Raiders training camp practices are only open to season-ticket holders and guests by invite only.

Tuesday, July 23: Rookies, first-year players, recently rehabilitating veterans and quarterbacks report for training camp in Napa.
Friday, July 26: Veterans report for training camp in Napa
Saturday, July 27: First full-squad training camp practice.
Monday, July 29: First padded practice in training camp
Tuesday, Aug. 6: “Hard Knocks” with the Raiders premieres at 10 p.m. on HBO
Wednesday, Aug. 7-8: Raiders host joint training camp practices with Los Angeles Rams in Napa
Saturday, Aug. 10: Exhibition opener vs. LA Rams at Oakland Coliseum
Tuesday, Aug. 13: Second episode of “Hard Knocks” airs at 10 p.m. on HBO
Thursday, Aug. 15: Exhibition No. 2 at Arizona Cardinals, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Tuesday, Aug. 20: Third episode of “Hard Knocks” airs at 10 p.m. on HBO
Thursday, Aug. 22: Exhibition No. 3 vs. Green Bay Packers at IG Field in Winnipeg, 5 p.m. (Bay: KTVU; Vegas KVVU)
Thursday, Aug. 27: Fourth episode of “Hard Knocks” airs at 10 p.m. on HBO
Thursday, Aug. 29: Exhibition No. 4: Aug. 29: Exhibition No. 4 at Seattle Seahawks, 7 p.m. (Bay: KTVU; Vegas KVVU)
Saturday, Aug. 31: Rosters must be decreased from 90 players to the 53-man limit by 1 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 1: Claiming period ends for waived roster cuts at 9 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 1: Teams may formally sign a 10-man practice squad
Tuesday Sept. 3: Final episode of “Hard Knocks” airs at 10 p.m. on HBO