Basing judgment of the Raiders defense — or really any part of the Raiders team — against the Jets in week two wouldn’t really offer an accurate gauge. But whatever they do in week two will be judged based on what they already did in the first week. In week one, however, the Raiders got a real test in Tennessee from a very good Titans team.
As many of you know, I had the Raiders losing their season opener. I thought the Titans had progressed to the point where in their third straight season facing the Raiders, they would finally break thru and get the win. They were due, so to speak.
Much of that had to do with the play of one Marcus Mariota, who is at the point in his career Derek Carr was heading into last season. He also has a good looking new receiving corps which includes fifth overall pick Corey Davis and Eric Decker joining Rishard Matthews.
The other factor was their running game with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry behind a very solid offensive line.
The Titans’ strengths and weaknesses are similar to the Raiders, which also means the Titans’ strengths strike right at the Raiders’ weaknesses — the secondary, the run defense, and defending the tight end in coverage.
Two of those three areas the Raiders were outstanding, with defending the tight end as the one remaining issue.
As far as the pass defense, the Raiders cornerbacks were shockingly good considering what we saw from them last season and this preseason. Specifically the play of Sean Smith, who basically didn’t give up a single catch he didn’t allow by intention (ie keeping the receiver in front of him for a short catch and making the stop.)
The Raiders interior defensive line was also a revelation. They were among the worst in the league last season when considering both stopping the run and rushing the passer. In this game, they not only held the Titans’ running backs to just 69 yards rushing, but managed to crash the pocket on Mariota a good amount as well. Most notably, rookie Eddie Vanderdoes.
After giving up an opening drive touchdown, they held the Titans out of the end zone the rest of the day, coming out with the 26-16 victory.
I can’t think of a more promising way to kick off the 2017 season than to see two of the Raiders most glaring weak areas step up. They needed to show these things in Tennessee, because it’s highly unlikely they’ll receive any such test this week against the Jets.