It wouldn’t be a Las Vegas Raiders game if there wasn’t at least a little drama involved, right?
The Raiders improved to 3-0 with an overtime victory against the Miami Dolphins, but the team suffered a few self-inflicted wounds that made the game a lot closer than it needed to be. That led to a few disappointing individual performances from some players but also allowed a few others to shine in the face of adversity.
WINNER: Peyton Barber
I’m not going to take full credit for Peyton Barbers’ big performance, but I at least deserve partial credit.
After Barber fumbled near the goal line toward the end of the first quarter - Ingold recovered it - I sent out what I’ll now call a motivational tweet asking for him to be replaced by Trey Ragas. The former would go on to rattle off 111 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and three catches for 31 yards, making me look like a giant idiot in the process. However, that’s not foreign territory for me, and sacrifice I’m willing to make moving forward.
In all seriousness, it was a career day for Barber. He set a career-high for rushing yards in a game and Sunday was only the third time he’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark in six seasons. Also, this was the second-most receiving yards he’s ever had in a single game and the most since 2017. Not bad for a guy who was cut by Washington and on their practice squad just a month ago.
What might be most impressive about the veteran running back’s big day is that he did it despite poor offensive line play.
As a team, the Raiders registered a 45.5 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, and 60.0 is considered average on that scale. Among the 13 players who recorded at least nine snaps as a run blocker, only two had above average grades, guard Jermaine Eluemunor (63.7) and wide receiver Zay Jones (82.0). To say Barber was able to make something out of nothing would be an egregious understatement.
LOSER: Andre James
Speaking of the offensive line’s struggles, it was another rough one for Andre James against the Dolphins. Right now, it just seems like everything is hard for him, from start to finish.
James’ snaps and his technique have been brought up on the broadcast during the last couple of games, and he had another bad one in the first quarter that killed Las Vegas’ drive. The offense was moving and on Miami’s 40 until the errant snap forced Derek Carr to throw the ball away, leading to an intentional grounding call that cost the team 18 yards. They would go on to punt two plays later.
Unfortunately, the three-year pro wasn’t much better even when successfully getting the ball to the quarterback. He was one of the linemen mentioned above who struggled to create rushing lanes, earning a 47.7 grade, which currently ranks 30th among 33 centers for the week. The Raiders had nine carries for just 22 yards and no first downs when rushing behind the center.
James wasn’t much better in pass protection. While he only allowed one pressure, he earned a 19.8 pass-blocking grade, which the errant snap has a lot to do with, but a grade that low also means he was losing frequently and quickly, even if it didn’t necessarily lead to pressure on the quarterback.
While there’s still plenty of time for James to turn it around, Jon Gruden’s patience has to be wearing thin. The coach has been hell-bent on making the playoffs all offseason, making personnel decisions in favor of proven veterans over younger projects and Nick Martin is lurking in the shadows. If James doesn’t turn things around quickly, we could see Gruden make a change sooner rather than later.
WINNER: Denzel Perryman
Since we’re on the topic of Gruden adding veteran players to the roster, Denzel Perryman is proving to be an excellent addition and trade for the Silver and Black.
Yesterday, he was all over the field and led the team in tackles with 14 total and a few came in some big moments. The one that stood out to me the most was at the end of the fourth quarter when he and rookie Tyree Gillespie teamed up to stuff Jacoby Brissett on a scramble near the goal line, forcing a fourth and goal situation. Granted, I’m sure Perryman would like a do-over on the next play, though...
As a whole, the linebacker put together a fantastic performance. His six defensive stops not only led the team but is currently good enough for a three-way tie with Kenny Young and Bobby Wagner among all backers in Week Three.
While Perryman did allow all seven targets thrown his way to be completed, those completions only went for 47 total yards, the longest of which was 10 yards. His average of 6.7 yards per catch surrendered ranks in the top 20 of linebackers that were targeted at least once yesterday.
The former Charger has been well worth the sixth-round pick the Raiders gave the Panthers for him, and he gets a little chance at redemption against his former employer next Monday.
LOSER: Foster Moreau
For all of the offseason hype surrounding him - which I acknowledge I played a part in - it’s been a rather quiet year for Foster Moreau. He only has three catches for 42 yards and one touchdown so far, and yesterday was his worst game yet.
In fact, it was the worst game of Moreau’s career according to PFF’s grading system. Heading into Sunday, he never graded out lower than 43.3 for a single game, but a 38.8 mark set a new personal low and was the fourth-worst among all tight ends.
Moreau was targeted twice against the Dolphins and had one catch for eight yards, but his other target went for an 80 plus yard pick-six. He was running a drag route and curled it up short while Carr clearly expected him to continue running. While who’s at fault there is somewhat ambiguous, it’s not exactly a good sign that those two aren’t on the same page.
The tight end wasn’t much more effective in the ground game, either. He earned a 43.6 run-blocking grade and got blown up at the point of attack on fourth and one in Las Vegas’ territory, giving up a huge tackle for loss. Miami would score a few plays later, so Moreau was part of the reason why the Silver and Black trailed 14-0 to start the game.
Hopefully, this game stays as an anomaly for the three-year veteran.
WINNER: Cory Littleton
For the majority of last week, I harped on Cory Littleton and talked about how he needs to make more plays on the ball in coverage and become a more consistent/sure tackler. Much like with Barber, I’ll take credit for motivating and inspiring Littleton to put together an outstanding performance.
In coverage, he was targeted an astounding 12 times but only allowed eight catches for 48 yards. His 6.0 yards allowed per reception and 74.3 passer rating when targeted both rank in the top-15 of linebackers that were targeted at least once this week. Also, he recorded his first pass breakup not only of the year but as a Raider after putting up a goose egg all of last season.
Surprisingly, what might be the most impressive part of Littleton’s day was his play against the run. He recorded the third-highest run-defense grade (83.4) at his position and tied for fourth with four run stops. There was a three-way tie for first and he was just one stop away making that a foursome and his run-stop percentage - the percentage of a player’s run defense snaps where he was responsible for a stop - ranks second at 21.1 percent.
After missing three tackles against Pittsburgh, Littleton played a clean game with zero versus Miami and it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities as he finished second behind Perryman with 10 total tackles.
An all-around great outing for the six-year pro.
LOSER: Alex Leatherwood
I feel like a broken record at this point but every week it’s true, Alex Leatherwood struggled in pass protection.
Against the Dolphins, he allowed six pressures which is the most he’s allowed in a single game during his young career. That’s tied for the fourth-most among offensive tackles in Week Three, and his 32.4 pass-blocking grade is currently the fifth-worst among tackles with at least 16 snaps in pass protection. Sadly, the latter is actually an improvement from his 14.3 grade versus the Steelers.
Leatherwood has surrendered 13 total pressures on the year, which is tied for the fourth-most at the position, his pass-blocking efficiency rating of 93.5 is the sixth-worst and a 25.4 grade in pass protection ranks 76th out of 77 qualifying tackles. In other words, it hasn’t been a great start for the first-rounder.
There is a silver lining from yesterday, though. Leatherwood didn’t allow a sack for the first time, however, that’s somewhat negated by the fact he gave up the most quarterback hits with four.
Much like with James, the Raiders need their right tackle to step up and figure it out because they can’t continue to allow Carr to get hit this much and face this much pressure.
WINNER: Bryan Edwards
Since I’m in a cheerful mood with the 3-0 start, I figured I’d add in an extra winner this week and not leave you guys with such a sour taste in your mouth.
After the Ravens game, I put Bryan Edwards as a loser and stated that he needs to produce before the final moments of the game. However, I guess the guy just has a flair for the dramatic and is a severe procrastinator as he came up clutch, again.
The Associated Press’ Josh Dubow shared a stat after yesterday’s game that just blew my mind. Edwards has six catches for 101 yards in regulation and four for 109 in overtime this season. For reference, that's about 180 minutes of game time versus 20, and a significant amount of his 101 yards in regulation came with about two minutes left against Baltimore.
Dubow also shared that Edwards’ overtime yardage is the most of any player in a season since at least 1991...and we’re only three games into the season!
Now, I would still appreciate it if he and the rest of the team could play better at the beginning of games and put us all at ease, but that’s just not the Raider way. At the end of the day, wins are wins, and as long as the wideout keeps coming up clutch, it doesn’t matter when receptions occur.