OAKLAND -- The Raiders' second Jon Gruden era didn't start well. The Silver and Black got beat 33-13 by a superior Los Angeles Rams team on Monday night, where the Raiders struggled in several areas. They turned the ball over too often, they were penalized too much and couldn't generate a consistent pass rush.
Here's a look at the first Raiders report card of the 2018 season.
Marshawn Lynch started this game off right, with a pile-dragging 10-yard touchdown run on the game's opening series. It showcased great power, and suggested the Raiders might be able to run steadily against a stout Rams defense. Lynch, however, didn't get many chances to do so. He ran just 11 times for 41 yards as the Raiders spread carries out to Jalen Richard and Doug Martin. Their 4.1 yards per carry average isn't bad, but the Raiders didn't control possession with steady movement on the ground.
Derek Carr threw for 300 yards, but…he also threw three interceptions. Jared Cook went off for a career-high180 receiving yards but…Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson were MIA. Carr settled for throws to running backs while working Cook up the middle of the field, but their dynamic players lay fallow as the Rams worked to take them away. The Raiders have to find ways to get their best weapons involved, especially Cooper. A true No. 1 receiver can't leave a game with just three targets. Unacceptable.
The Silver and Black bottled up running back Todd Gurley in the first half. The highly paid rusher had just 19 yards on four carries over two quarters. He finished with triple digits. Gurley dominated the second half and started gaining yards in bunches against a Raiders defensive front that couldn't hold up over the long haul. In sum, the Raiders allowed 140 yards on 26 rushes. That's a 5.4-yard clip.Yeesh. The opposition was pretty good, but the Raiders need to be better.
Bruce Irvin had a huge strip sack on third-down that pushed the Rams back and led to a missed field goal. That play was a rarity against the Rams. The defensive line couldn't generate pressure, leaving Rams quarterback Jared Goff with time to work the ball downfield. The secondary wasn't poor, but could only hold on so long. They had problems with Rams receiver speed, and were flagged twice for long pass-interference penalties. The Raiders had five passes defensed, and generally covered better than they did last season. A lacking pass rush – yep, they miss Khalil Mack – could be a problem this season. It certainly was against the Rams.
Lee Smith had to step up in a pinch, as the emergency long snapper after Andrew DePaola suffered a knee injury that might've ended his season. Smith skied a punt snap, but Johnny Townsend saved it and got the ball off in time. Mike Nugent converted two attempts and Townsend proved steady. Kickoff coverage was strong as well. Rich Bisaccia's units had a good night considering a specialist went down early.
It's clear that Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther are good play callers and play designers. We saw more innovation Monday night than was typical of the Raiders under Jack Del Rio's staff. They had a good game plan, but the execution was lacking at times and, against the Rams, anyway, there's a clear talent disparity. The Raiders must improve in a hurry to find a way to beat host Denver next week or Miami after that.