The 2019 season got off to a great start for the Raiders as the defeated their division rival Denver Broncos in the season opener on Monday Night Football. It was a big offseason for the Raiders, they brought it several new faces in both free agency and through the draft.
Several of those new additions made big contributions in the game including Tyrell Williams, Trent Brown, Vontaze Burfict, and all three rookies selected in round one of the draft.
The Raiders drove right down the field on their opening possession with a 10 play, 72 yard drive that resulted in a Tyrell Williams eight yard touchdown. After taking a 14-0 lead into the intermission the Broncos came out motivated to flip the script in the third quarter.
The defense bent but didn’t break holding the Broncos to multiple field goals to cut the lead to 14-6. The Raiders finished the game with a strong fourth quarter, something the team struggled to do in 2018, to secure the 24-16 win.
Let’s take a look at the week one Raiders report card.
Aerial Attack: A
Going into the game there was plenty of speculation on how Derek Carr and his group of receivers would respond to no longer having Antonio Brown. Those questions were quickly answered after the Raiders opening drive.
Derek Carr completed five passes to three different receivers, including an eight yard touchdown to Tyrell Williams. Carr was locked in all night completing 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown. That’s good enough for a QB rating of 94.1.
Darren Waller has been hyped all offseason by head coach Jon Gruden and in his first game as the starting tight end he did not disappoint. Waller led the team in targets (8) and receptions (7). He looked the part of a breakout player for the Raiders.
Six other players caught passes from Carr including Tyrell Williams (105 yds/TD), Ryan Grant, Foster Moreau, Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, and Dwayne Harris.
Ground Game: C+
By the numbers the running game wasn’t spectacular but Josh Jacobs proved he is capable of being the bell cow for the Raiders.
Jacobs toted the rock 23 times for 85 yards, earning all of those yards the hard way. Jacobs was used early and often to pound the interior of the Broncos defense. He will need to improve on his 3.5 yards per carry going forward but was effective enough, especially on goal line carries.
Converting on both of his goal line carries, Jacobs picked up his first and second career touchdowns.
Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington were not involved in the game plan carrying the ball for a combined three times for 11 yards.
Offensive Line: A-
Last season the offensive line was heavily scrutinized for allowing Derek Carr to be sacked 56 times. The Raiders addressed that by going out and signing free agent right tackle, Trent Brown to a record setting contract.
Despite being without starting guards Ritchie Incognito (suspension) and Gabe Jackson (injury) the Raiders offensive line did not miss a beat from a pass protection standpoint. Second year left tackle, Kolton Miller and Brown kept the Broncos pass rushing tandem of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller to zero sacks and zero hits on Carr.
In fact, Carr was barely touched on the night and was able to stand tall and find receivers from the pocket. Starting in place of Incognito and Jackson were Jordan Devey and Denzelle Good.
In the run game the line struggled a bit more. Jon Gruden opted to go power in goal line situations bringing in a sixth lineman (Brandon Parker) and fullback Alec Ingold leading the way. The plays resulted in touchdowns.
Defensive Line: B+
The new look defensive line saw contributions from new faces Benson Mayowa (2 sacks), rookie Clelin Ferrell (sack, TFL, PD, 2 QB hits), and Josh Mauro (4 tackles, TFL, PD). With three sacks on the night the defense is well on it’s way to breaking the 13 sack mark from last year.
The interior part of the line held up well against run holding the Broncos to 95 yards on 23 carries. Rookie Maxx Crosby chipped in with six tackles.
Another new addition and unquestioned leader on defense, Vontaze Burfict was all over the field making plays. Burfict is the shot caller for Paul Guenther and is responsible for making all the proper calls and getting people in correct positions.
Burfict plays with a high motor that is contagious, he and fellow linebacker Tahir Whitehead led the backers with six tackles a piece.
One of the areas where Raiders linebackers have struggled in the past is defending tight ends. Broncos rookie tight end, Noah Fant was a non factor catching two balls for 29 yards.
Gareon Conley suffered what appeared to be a neck injury and was taking off on a stretcher. Gruden mentioned after the game that word on Conley is that he will be ok, whether or not he will miss time is unknown.
Rookie Trayvon Mullen was picked on a bit as Conley’s replacement giving up the lone touchdown of the game to Emmanuel Sanders.
The secondary held up well and did not allow explosive plays, another issue that plagued the secondary in 2018. Joe Flacco averaged 8.6 yards per completion.
Special Teams: A-
The return game didn’t have a ton of opportunities but Dwayne Harris made the most of his chances picking up 101 yards on two kickoff returns, highlighted by a 72 yarder in the fourth quarter that set up Daniel Carlsons only field goal attempt of the game.
Undrafted free agent punter AJ Cole first punt attempted three punts, once pinning the Broncos inside the 20 yard line. Carlson converted all three of his extra point attempts.