Often times we see an NFL team’s identity right away in week one of the regular season. If that holds true this season, the Raiders could be a more physical team this year.
Last season the Raiders showed they had an explosive offense but not much of a defense. As a result, they got to 12-4 by winning a lot of shootouts. And we saw that right away in Week 1 when they beat the New Orleans Saints 35-34 overtime with quarterback Derek Carr leading the first of seven fourth-quarter comebacks.
This year, the Raiders still have Carr and an offense that can strike any time. And in the first half of Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, they looked like the same type of team. They allowed the Titans to convert their first seven third downs and score 10 points. But Carr and the offense had the Raiders ahead 13-10 at halftime.
In the second half, the Raiders got stops and took a more comfortable lead. And they continued to get stops while the offense ran out the clock behind running back Marshawn Lynch who had 76 yards on 18 bone-jarring carries in his Raiders debut.
He did the majority of his work in the second half, when the Titans knew he was coming. Lynch broke tackle after tackle to show that he is still Beast Mode. He even ran over 300-pound defensive lineman Jurrell Casey for good measure.
At No. 3 in rushing and No. 2 against the run last year, the Titans are known as a physical team. But on opening day of 2017, they ran into a more physical team.
The Raiders rushed for a total of 109 yards to 95 for the Titans, who were helped by QB Marcus Mariota’s 26 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. is back healthy to re-join nose tackle Justin Ellis. Inside linebacker Marquel Lee was added in the draft along with defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes to help the front-seven as well. And of course Khalil Mack, who had a strip-sack wiped away by a penalty, is still a big part of things.
The questionable coverage even showed improvement. And strong safety Karl Joseph is flying around and making plays. They are still having trouble with opposing tight ends, but let’s not forget that first-round cornerback Gareon Conley figures to be back soon from his shin injury and 2nd-round safety Obi Melifonwu is expected back after week 8.
That strong defensive effort which held the Titans to just 16 points, along with the play of Lynch offer signs the Raiders could have a more physical, defensive identity this year.