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Raiders at Panthers Week 1 recap: Waller made big plays, Jacobs made big runs - but defense was ugly

Takeaways from a wild 34-30 Raiders’ win at Carolina

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers
Raiders win
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Was it perfect? No, but so what? The Las Vegas Raiders are flying home from a strange Week 1 road trip to Carolina with a 34-30 victory over the Panthers — and that’s all that matters.

Yes, it was more difficult than it should have been. And yes, it was way too close for comfort, but your Raiders are 1-0. That’s all that matters.

Let’s look at what we learned Sunday:

Las Vegas Raiders v Carolina Panthers
Darren Waller
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller are monsters — and that helps Derek Carr:
The Raiders won Sunday the way they won last year — tight end Darren Waller made big plays, Josh Jacobs made big runs and quarterback Derek Carr was efficient. That’s how this offense is going to work. The Raiders scored 34 points and made it look easy. If Waller and Jacobs can stay healthy, this offense is going to be great, especially with Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards getting more and more acclimated as the season progresses.

The defense needs work:
It was ugly. Yes, Clelin Ferrell made a huge stop to seal the game on fourth down and 1. But the Raiders are lucky that Carolina coach Matt Rhule made a dumb call on the play. Overall, the defense was not up to par. But don’t fret. It’s a new group and it will take some time to click. I wouldn’t worry quite yet.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Where’s the pass-rush?
The biggest disappointment defensively was the lack of pass-rush. Maxx Crosby and Ferrell were quiet most of the game. Backup Carl Nassib and Arden Key played some and didn’t get a lot done, either. A lot is expected from this group. It has to get better QUICKLY with Drew Brees on deck next.

Henry Ruggs III is going to be a big part of the offense:
The Raiders went to the first-round pick from Alabama early and hit on a 45-yard pass play from Carr to inside the Carolina one-yard line that set up a Jacobs score on the second drive of the game. Ruggs even ran the ball twice. He tweaked his ankle in the second quarter and didn’t do much after that. But is is clear Gruden was just waiting to unleash Ruggs right away.

Las Vegas Raiders v Carolina Panthers
Jon Gruden
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Team was prepared:
Kudos to Gruden and his staff. Despite having no offseason and no preseason, the Raiders played a clean game. It was very smooth for a Week 1 game, even if it were in a normal year. Gruden had this team ready to go. It will only get better.