Game Balls: Raiders vs Broncos

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The Oakland Raiders opened their regular season Monday night with a 24-16 win over their AFC West division rivals, the Denver Broncos. It was a big win for the Raiders for a few reasons. #1. This was the final season opener in Oakland as the Raiders will move to Las Vegas in 2020. #2. The Raiders have had a distraction (in Antonio Brown) for the past month and a half with it ending on Saturday when the team cut Brown. #3. Some of the Raiders offseason moves and draft picks that were highly criticized by reporters and “experts” had a chance to prove them wrong on the field.

After finishing 3-1 in the pre-season, some thought Jon Gruden‘s team wouldn’t fare as well in the regular season, especially with the Brown saga ending with the team deciding to part ways with him on Saturday morning. What transpired I won’t get into. It’s well documented and, much like Gruden, I’m as tired of talking about it as Raider Nation is of hearing about it. “What will the Raiders do now?” and “How will the Raiders adjust to not having Brown?” were questions we all heard. But the Raiders never truly had Brown considering he didn’t play a down in the preseason for them, so it wasn’t a huge loss for Gruden, Derek Carr, and the Raiders offense.

On Monday night, in front of a national audience, the Raiders showed how much they missed Brown. The Raiders dominated the Broncos for the entire game. Offensive tackles Kolton Miller and Trent Brown made sure Carr stayed upright, and rookie running back Josh Jacobs had holes to run through. The Raiders defense, the NFL’s worst last season, came out hitting anything and anyone that moved and kept the pressure on Broncos quarterback, Joe Flacco. Jonathan Abram, the Raiders rookie safety, and Clelin Ferrell each lived up to their 1st round billing, and Trayvon Mullen, who came in for an injured Gareon Conley, played extremely well.

It’s time to give out some Raiders game balls:

photo courtesy of si.com

1. Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock: Much can be said about the AB situation, how it was handled, whether they should have even traded for him, and whether they enabled him. But I think they did the right things from the time they acquired him until they decided to release him. While they supported Brown, they also held him accountable–something that wasn’t the case in Pittsburgh. When someone needed to be firm (or “bad cop”) Mayock was that guy to Gruden’s good cop. When they had enough, they cut bait for the good of the team, a team that is completely bought into the philosophy of Gruden and Mayock. They did a great job (along with Raiders Director of Communications, Will Kiss) navigating the dicey water that Brown created.

 

 

Photo courtesy of mercurynews.com

2. Josh Jacobs: Jacobs became the second rookie since 2001 (LaDanian Tomlinson) to have 113 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on 24 total touches in his NFL debut. He ran tough, showed great vision, and also showed he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Jacobs proved he was a 3-down back and he could carry the load for the Raiders. Jacobs was “the closer” for the Raiders, something they lacked in recent years, honestly since Gruden left the first time. Jacobs made big plays down the stretch and proved he can carry the load for the Raiders.

 

 

OAKLAND, CA – SEPTEMBER 9: Oakland Raiders’ Josh Mauro (97) tackles Denver Broncos’ Noah Fant (87) for a 5-yard loss in the first quarter of their NFL game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

3. The Raiders defense: The Raiders defense was the worst in the NFL in 2018, but if opening night was any indication, they will be much improved. You saw a defense that was flying around, hitting players, and making plays. The team had 3 sacks against Denver after only having 13 in total in the 2018 season. Ferrell, Abram, LaMarcus Joyner, Vontez Burfict, Ardon Key, and Josh Mauro all made an impact during the Raiders victory. Conley was also having a good game until he went out with a scary neck injury (off a hit from Abram). Thankfully Gruden said that the word is Conely is doing fine. If the Raiders can get that type of effort and production from this group, they should be in a position to win a lot of games this season

4. The Raiders offensive line: The Raiders offensive line was historically bad last year. They went out and made Trent Brown the highest paid tackle in the history of the NFL, only to play him on the right side, which was highly criticized by pundits and fans. Kolton Miller, the Raiders’ 2018 first-round pick, didn’t have a great rookie season after he was hurt after week 4. Gabe Jackson will miss half the season with a knee injury and Ritchie Incognito is serving a 2-game suspension.

raiders vs broncos
September 9, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) scores a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

But last night, the Raiders new, revamped offensive line dominated the Broncos defense all night long. Raiders’ fans didn’t hear the names Von Miller and Bradley Chubb the entire night. They also allowed Carr to carve up their defense to a tune of 22/26 for 259 and 1 touchdown pass.

 

 

 

 

Follow Joe Arrigo on Twitter @JoeArrigo