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Lessons Learned: Raiders still in early part of season, no need to panic yet

Thorough defeat in Week 2 offers plenty of teach tape for Las Vegas

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Buffalo Bills
Head coach Josh McDaniels, center, and his Las Vegas Raiders have plenty to learn and improve upon after a 38-10 shellacking at the hands of the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

As a 12-year veteran who’s played in 118-career games, defensive tackle John Jenkins is keen on the long haul approach. And that doesn’t include early-season panic.

“Man, it’s only Game 2,” Jenkins said after the Las Vegas Raiders 38-10 walloping at the hands of the Buffalo Bills last Sunday. “We’re going to continue working on building this bond, coming together and just growing with each other. We’ve got good people, good teammates and we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. It just hurts because we’re competitors.”

The Silver & Black maybe chalk full of competitors, as the 6-foot-3, 335-pound defensive tackle noted, however, for much of the team’s Week 2 loss, “competitive” wasn’t an adjective that best described the Raiders. Not even the much ballyhooed stay on the Eastern time zone in West Virginia proved fruitful for the Las Vegas in a complete shellacking.

Which was a cause for concern as the Raiders in Buffalo looked nothing like the Week 1 version that went into Denver and edged the Broncos 17-16. It was such start contrast from one week to the next, that inklings of panic arose from Raider Nation.

Las Vegas Raiders v Buffalo Bills
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs was swarmed by the Buffalo Bills defense in Week 2. The incoming Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to corral Jacobs as effectively this Sunday night.
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

But as Jenkins noted, it was game No. 2 of a slate of 17 ahead of the Raiders (1-1 overall), and all eyes shift to the upcoming Week 3 Sunday night showdown with the incoming Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1). The home game against Pittsburgh is ample opportunity to see if the lessons have been learned. Las Vegas needs to show progress and competitiveness or the whispers of panic will only get louder.

First and foremost, for the Raiders, is avoiding getting owned at the line of scrimmage. To a person, Las Vegas lamented on the inability to win in the trenches — on both offense and defense — as the primary cause of the loss to the Bills.

“Loved their response,” Raiders offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi said during his Tuesday press conference when asked about how the players responded to the Week 2 loss. “They came in with an open mind yesterday and they knew that we didn’t coach well enough, they didn’t play well enough, and it was just not a well enough performance by anybody in the organization.

“They know that, we know that as a staff, and I think we’re all on the same page where we came in here yesterday and said you know what, ‘Let’s fix what we can fix. And let’s apply that this week to the game plan against Pittsburgh.’”

Admitting there is a problem is always the first step into solving it. So that’s a good step by Las Vegas. The is well-aware of the issues that plagued them in Buffalo and the inability to control the line of scrimmage — outside of the team’s first possession on offense and initial stand on defense — had a ripple effect on other aspects of the Raiders’ game. The offense was out of sync and lost integral balance and the defense couldn’t keep up with the rumbling Bills attack. So much so, the team didn’t provide any stout resistance and was carved up with relative ease. That has to change — quickly.

“A key thing for us moving forward is just to get off to a fast start and to get the quarterback off their rhythm. That starts with me first and foremost,” Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said during his mid-week media session. “So, that’s one thing that we have to do moving forward and when you’re dealing with these really good quarterbacks you got to find ways to do that, whether it’s disguise, scheme, whatever it may be, you just have to find a way to get him off rhythm and create some good situations for the defense.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Buffalo Bills
Another Las Vegas Raiders pass rusher outside of Maxx Crosby needs to step up and be a viable tag team partner for the elite defender.
Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Graham pressed on why does he think opponent’s complete a high percentage of their passes against his defense and the coordinator was matter of fact.

“A combination of good players and good players to throw the ball to. I got to do a better job,” Graham quipped.

The homestand against the Steelers affords the Raiders ample proving grounds. Show that there is indeed progress and the Week 2 performance was a hiccup and the Silver & Black are indeed competitive. Anything short of that is going to result in the alarm bells ringing — again.

“Some lessons are harder to learn than others, and we needed to learn them. The biggest thing is it’s a long season, there’s a lot of lessons,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said in his Wednesday presser. “You can learn them when you win, you can learn them when you lose, but the most important thing is that you learn them. And so, we’re going to find out if we’ve learned from some of those mistakes that we saw and tried to correct. I think the attitude has been phenomenal. The response has been great.”

Time will tell if the response from Raider Nation inside Allegiant Stadium Sunday night will be great, too.