As we sit at the quarter mark of the 2017 season, the Raiders sit at 2-2. While that record is not ideal, .500 isn’t winless. With that said, there are areas to celebrate and areas to dissect. Moreover, for the team to reach its ultimate goal, serious improvement needs to occur. In a division boating the Chiefs and Broncos, Oakland cannot slip up nor have many more flat performances. Sooner or later, the overwhelming talent of this team needs to pull together. First and foremost, the offense must regain the magic from the first two games.
During the first two games, Derek played masterfully, shredding defenses and lighting up the scoreboard. Over the last two weeks, those numbers significantly dropped. Although his touchdown to interception ratio remains sharp (7:2), Carr failed to eclipse 150 yards passing in the last two games. In addition, the last two opponents subjected Carr to the type of pressure he’s not seen in a while.
In Denver, Carr sustained a back injury on a sack. Enter EJ Manuel. The collective hearts of RaiderNation plunged, Manuel played well in relief. He led the Raiders down the field into scoring position. His pass to Jared Cook was a sure touchdown, if not for the drop. Manuel looked comfortable. With Carr, expecting to return inn two to six weeks, having a capable backup is a necessity.
Running Back: C-
Early in his Raiders tenure, Marshawn Lynch looked spry, with enough power and bounce to pound defenses. Lately, that spring faded and Lynch looked a bit slower and stiffer. Whether this is age or offensive line communication remains to be seen. On the other hand, Jalen Richard continues to impress on screens and draws. His 6.1 yards per carry screams for more touches. DeAndre Washington appears to lack that second gear, posting a 2.1 yards per rush. In two games, Jamize Olawale contributed three touches. A player of his diverse skill set needs to see more action.
Wide Receivers: C
Before an injury held him out of Sunday’s game, Michael Crabtree’s three touchdowns and thirteen catches paced a potent receiving corps. With Crabtree out, the hope of Amari Cooper taking over the game fizzled. Blessed with all the physical gifts, Cooper continues to fight drops and disappearing. With some wrongly labeling him a bust, Cooper needs to find what works and go with it. Furthermore, he is the Raiders future. Now is the time to slowly take the reins of the number one wide out. Cordarrelle Patterson surprised many with his ability to run between the tackles. However, his 9.8 yards per reception is startling. Aside from a touchdown, Seth Roberts’ role seems smaller.
Tight End: C
Lee Smith continues to punish defenders with an angry blocking style. Jared Cook leads the team with sixteen catches, but seems out of sync with Carr. Cook remains a potent weapon down the seam. Hopefully, he’ll connect with Carr more frequently.
Offensive Line: C-
Considering the hype and lofty salaries, that grade should shock many. Like most of the team, the first two games, the line opened holes and kept Carr clean in the pocket. Recently, the holes vanished and defenders are getting home more often. Donald Penn struggled with speed. The veteran struggled versus Washington and Denver. On the other hand, Osemele and Hudson continue to dominate at the point of attack. Meanwhile, Gabe Jackson’s lack of push in run blocking comes as a shock. With that said, the right tackle spot remains a source of worry and nervousness. Marshall Newhouse looks slow off the snap and opposing ends routinely beat him to the corner. When will the change occur there? Four game in and we’ve seen what Newhouse brings.
All in all, 2-2 is not an awful start. Be that as it may, this team has the talent to notch a 3-1 record after these games. The offense drives this team. Right now, the offense sputters and no one is sure why. People want to blame Todd Downing. Downing calls the plays, but the players are not executing. Immediately, Oakland must cure these issues, if they hope to make a run.
2018 NFL Draft: Digging into this year’s wide receiver class