While the Raiders defensive performance was rather surprising with some young players proving they belong, the Raiders three biggest offseason additions did exactly what the teams expected them to do.
Outside of the return of Charles Woodson, there may not have ever been a more celebrated acquisition in the Reggie McKenzie era than Marshawn Lynch. The Oakland native is more than a prop to sell tickets and if his performance Sunday is any indication, some of those tickets will be for playoff games.
It is not just the fan base that Lynch has gotten amped up. His ability to make plays like this in which he runs over Titans’ Pro Bowl defensive tackle that have an impact on his teammates.
“It probably gets the offensive linemen excited more than anything.” Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio said the play. “For me, I’d like to see that guy be blocked in the first place. (laughing) I’m glad Marshawn was able to lower his pads and make it a positive run for us. He brings a certain mentality. He brings a certain toughness.”
Lynch ran for 76 yards on 18 attempts (4.2 yards per carry). His stat line does not show how great he was in this game. Countless times he should have been stopped in the backfield only to make the would-be tackler miss. No single Titan defender could tackle him one-on-one and first contact never got him down.
Like on this 4th and 1 play late in the first quarter.
Tennessee brings a Cover-0 on the play, getting a free rusher for their play side safety. In years past this would have ended with about a 3-yard loss and a turnover on downs. Lynch is able to jump cut the safety and power through the linebacker for the first down.
All of the talk about Lynch being washed up and his signing as nothing more than a publicity stunt ended yesterday. NFL defenses were put on notice, if you want to stop Marshawn Lynch you had better bring back up, and even that may not be enough.
Cook signing as a free agent this past offseason may have gone unnoticed by casual fan as he only gained 377 yards with one touchdown in ten games with the Packers last season. But he is a true receiving threat at the tight end position whose addition can transform the Raiders already very good offense almost unstoppable.
Adding a player with the physical ability to attack the middle of the field will prevent the secondary from being able to focus on the Raiders outside receivers, giving Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree space to work outside of the numbers. Meanwhile Cook demands attention inside.
Derek Carr and the offense now has a legit threat to utilize against linebackers in man coverages. Tight ends are often referred to as a security blanket for quarterbacks, this is the first time Carr has had one that can win his match up on a consistent basis.
Here the Raiders get Cook isolated outside against a linebacker in man coverage.
Adding to this mismatch is the single high safety has to respect the threat of Crabtree in the seam. If he were to shade over to help cover Cook it could lead to a wide open vertical route through the heart of the Titans defense.
Cordarrelle Patterson was a first round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in large part because he is explosive with the ball in his hands. He hasn’t developed into the threat at wide receiver they were looking for and didn’t re-sign him after his rookie contract.
Fortunately for the Raiders, they are already loaded with weapons at the wide receiver position and will be fine if Patterson can simply provide a spark on kick returns. The Raiders got a sample of what he can provide in that department Sunday.
Following a field goal by the Titans that narrowed the Raiders lead to 7 points Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff out to the Titans 40 yard line. This great starting field position would lead to a Raiders field goal and essentially icing the game.
The timing of this big return couldn’t have been better, putting the Raiders near midfield with a 7-point lead in the last 5 minutes.
“I saw about 14-15 yards after contact.” Del Rio said of Patterson’s kick return. “He’s a strong runner. He brought it out, I think the blocking was ok, we’ll improve as we go but he is certainly somebody that runs with a lot of force. A lot of speed, a lot of force. We’re excited about him having those opportunities as we go throughout the year.”
With the limited cap space the Raiders will have following re-signings of players like Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack they will have to hit on the guys they do sign. If this performance by the three biggest acquisitions of this past offseason are an indicator they will be just fine.