It looked like the perfect environment for a season debut. The Coliseum was packed, the Black Hole was rocking and die-hard raider fan Ice Cube made a special performance for the Raider Nation that made the crowd even more hyped up for the game. Not to mention the Raiders were hosting the San Diego Chargers, in a contest always heated by rivalry and importancy to the AFC West division. But unfortunately, despite a solid start, the Raiders weren’t able to come up with a win. So let’s take a closer look into the offense performance:
Despite the good stat numbers (297 yards, 69% completion, 1 TD and 0 ints), Palmer’s performance was lackluster. The good thing is that he protected the ball and didn’t commit any turnovers, although we must remember that he was almost picked off in the endzone in a short pass on the run, that eventually could’ve cost a field goal. Also in his favor was the fact that there wasn’t many deep open opportunities, as the Chargers defense elected to focus their scheme on neutralizing the Raiders speed on deep routes. And that’s exactly what they did. So Palmer had to settle for short to medium passes all night long, which would often lead to 4th down situations due to completions behind the first down line. He also missed a few throws he is capable of making. Overall, Palmer was a victim of the conservative playcalling and played the opposing defense’s game. When the running game, the Raiders offense number 1 weapon, doesn’t work, which was the case on Monday Night, it’s expected that Palmer will step up to find a way of moving the chains through the air. That happened against San Diego, but not often enough to put the Raiders in scoring situations. I don’t think that Palmer’s performance was crucial to the Raiders loss as much as the team’s conservative playcalling. But it’s also hard to say that Palmer played impressively or contributed the way he can. A victim of OC Greg Knapp’s decisions or not, Palmer didn’t make enough plays to deserve a better grade.
QB Grade: C
The running game was almost all about Darren McFadden, as he carried the ball 15 times for 32 yards. Mike Goodson only had 2 carries for 13 yards (a 11-yard long run in a 2nd&35 situation) and Taiwan Jones didn’t get any carries after fumbling the ball in a reverse play. Although McFadden had an awful yards per carry average (2.1), he didn’t get a lot of help from the OL. Although his gap-shooting was not as good as it can be, the lack of holes created cost him some good yards and made the Raiders running game uneffective. But “DMC” found a way to contribute as a pass-catcher, hauling 13 balls for 86 yards, leading the receivers in both categories and also being 1 reception shy of tying the franchise record (by Tim Brown). With the Chargers defense covering well the deep routes, McFadden got a lot of targets out of Carson Palmer coming out of the backfield and made some plays happen. He was clearly the best offensive player, which was already expected. But he was also heavily used, and this overload can be harmful in the long run, specially with McFadden’s injury history. The Raiders would like to involve other players more often in their playcalling, and they have the talent to do so.
RB Grade: B
The receivers made a good job in short to medium routes but failed to create space deep in the field. They also could’ve made some plays for Carson Palmer, as the QB would like them to make those difficult catches when the pass is not on the money. With injuries to Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, the Raiders only suited up 4 WRs to the game, and 3 of them were able to record catches (Darrius Heyward-Bey, with 3; Rod Streater, with 4; and Derek Hagan, with 4). Hagan deserves some major props after stepping up to the task considering that he signed only a few days before the game, on thursday. Moore will likely return in week 2, but Ford might be out for the year, so Hagan must keep it up. Despite being a rookie, Streater was the WR that got the most snaps on Monday and although he looked solid at times, specially when he recorded 2 straight catches for a TD and a 2-point conversion late in the game, he also had some mistakes like failing to make a few plays and the fumble that killed the Raiders first drive of the game, a pretty solid one. But that’s all understandable and the mistakes will naturally be part of his transition to the NFL, specially considering the huge gap of competition he’s facing, being an undrafted WR out of Temple who recorded less than 20 catches in his senior year, since his former offense relied heavily on the running game. Overall, the lack of playmaking ability and specially the lack of separation on deep routes hurt this unit performance as a whole, which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t good either.
WR Grade: C
Brandon Myers got almost all the snaps of this unit: 70, opposed to only 7 by Richard Gordon and 3 by David Ausberry. He recorded 5 catches for 65 yards, and also displayed good ability of moving the chains, but almost all of those receptions came in late in the fourth quarter. Myers’ security in the passing game left the idea that he should be used more often by the Raiders offense as a pass-catcher in the upcoming games, and not only as a blocker. Ausberry used one of his 3 snaps to record a nice 12 yard reception, and he also had a good tackle playing in special teams. The TEs, basically reduced to Myers, didn’t have a lot of shining moments, but we also must consider the number of opportunities the had to shine, which wasn’t a lot, and also the expectations around this unit.
TE Grade: B
The OL did a pretty good job in pass protection until the fourth quarter, giving Carson Palmer plenty of time to throw. But late in the game they started to lack consistency and weren’t able to let Palmer use the pocket comfortably. He ended up getting a lot of pass rush, but oddly enough that’s when he was able to find the endzone. But if it wasn’t for 2 key penalties committed by the Chargers, that score would’ve never happened with that kind of pass protection. This unit must focus on their first 3 quarters where they did a good job against San Diego’s pass rushers. The running game was not good for the OL. They weren’t able to create holes with frequency for Darren McFadden and that hurt the offense a lot, considering that’s the Raiders best chance of moving the chains right now. They have been a solid unit opening holes upfront in the past so it’s conceivable that they will bounce back from Monday Night’s performance. On a very positive note, the OL didn’t commit any penalties.
OL Grade: C
Not a great start for Greg Knapp’s second stint with the Raiders. The Chargers defense came with the mentality of covering the deep routes and negating the Raiders speed downfield and they kept doing that all night long. Knapp wasn’t able to adjust to that. He relied too much on the short to medium passes and that ended up not being enough to the Raiders offense, who couldn’t move the chains with consistency. The defense, getting bad field position for most part of the game, did an incredible effort by forcing San Diego to settle for field goals for the majority of time, but Knapp’s offense couldn’t capitalize on that. His lack of creativity and aggressiveness cost the Raiders valuable first downs and led to punt situations, which ended up creating some embarrassing moments after LS Jon Condo had to leave the game with a concussion. Knapp also didn’t do a good job balancing the playing time of his players, overusing men like Streater, Myers and McFadden. For the next games, Knapp must adjust his playcalling to the game situation and take a few more risks, instead of just taking what the defense is giving him, specially when the Raiders are behind in the scoreboard and clearly no longer with game momentum.
Coaches Grade: F
It was a disappoiting performance for the Raiders offense, which came with high expectations for the season considering what they did in 2011. But after Monday Night, it’s clear that the Silver & Black Attack is under a new philosophy, focused on protecting the ball and putting security over aggressiveness. But when the running game, our bread-and-butter, is not working, that mindset proved to be not enough to win games. The Raiders lacked the desirable in-game adjustment and the offense unfortunately wasn’t able to come close to matching the defensive performance.
Overall Offensive Grade: D
The Raiders will now face the Dolphins in Miami on September 16th at 10 A.M. (PDT).