Oakland Raiders are off to Denver to open up divisional play against the Broncos this Sunday

Photo credit: Raiders Report (@raiders_fanly)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — The Raiders travel to Denver to take on fellow AFC West rival, the Broncos, Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to open divisional play for the Silver and Black.

Both teams are looking to get back into the win column after both losing on the road in Week 3.

Oakland (2-1) was humbled by the Redskins 27-10 in Washington on prime-time in a game that the Redskins held quarterback Derek Carr and the high-power Raiders offense to just 128 yards in 48 plays ran. The offense didn’t hit the 100-yard mark in total offense until the fourth quarter.

Carr had a game to forget, completing just 19-of-31 passes for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions with a 52.9 passer rating. Tight end Jared Cook led all Oakland receivers with 43 yards on four receptions. Cook scored his first touchdown in a Raider uniform on a 21-yard pass from Carr.

Carr was also sacked four times, another rarity for the Silver and Black who only surrendered 16 sacks in 2016.  Oakland’s stout offensive line has already gotten Carr sacked six times this season through three games.

Oakland’s defense was paced by linebacker Cory James, who recorded a team-high 12 tackles and one forced fumble. Defensive end Khalil Mack recorded his second sack of the season while finishing with nine tackles on the night for Oakland, who allowed 472 yards offensively to Washington on Sunday night.

Washington starting quarterback Kirk Cousins torched the Raiders, passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions. Cousins completed 25-of-30 passes and finished with a blistering 150.7 passer rating against Oakland, who couldn’t keep running back Chris Thompson at bay the entire night.

Thompson hauled in six receptions for 150 yards (74 yards coming on an easy pitch-and-catch

But the lack of production from Oakland’s top receivers was the real eye-popping issue from the game.

Washington’s secondary led by the trash-talking Josh Norman, the Redskins’ top cornerback, were in the faces of Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Washington held the duo in check, limiting Cooper and Crabtree to just two receptions for 13 yards on eight targets.

Crabtree and Cooper will have their work cut out for them again Sunday when they have Denver’s stellar pair of cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., lined up against them, especially when  Crabtree and Talib line up.

Who can forget when Talib ripped off Crabtree’s gold chain following a play in last year’s season finale, a 24-6 victory for the Broncos at home?

The Crabtree/Talib matchup could be the best one-on-one matchup within the game, and could prove to be the difference maker in a win for either team.

Denver (2-1) is coming off a 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Western New York last week. The Broncos defense recorded four sacks and held Buffalo to 272 yards of total offense. Linebacker Brandon Marshall recorded a team-high 10 tackles and one sack.

Outside linebacker Von Miller also posted a sack, but his 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on third-and-six after not helping up Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, which was an absolute joke, proved to be critical in aiding the Bills to victory.

The Broncos’ defense is one of the best in the league, ranking first in rushing yards per game allowed (59.7), fourth in total yards per game allowed (263), 10th in passing yards per game allowed (203.3) and 16th in points per game allowed (21.3) through three games.

Oakland has the ninth-best offense in the league, averaging 27 points per game.

Offensively, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas led Denver with six receptions for 98 yards, but quarterback Trevor Siemian didn’t pass the ball well, completing 24-for-40 passes for 259 yards and like Carr in Washington, threw two interceptions against the Bills.

Siemian finished with a 58.2 passer rating on the day.

With Kansas City sitting on top of the AFC West at 3-0 and both teams needing to keep pace, Sunday’s game is most certainly a must win.

After the embarrassing showing in Washington where many critics started to question the Raiders’ effort on national television, what team will show up in Denver?

The one that resembled a powerhouse team after vanquishing Tennessee and the New York Jets almost with ease?

Or the team that was hung upside down by their ankles in Washington, watching all of their lunch money spill out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takeaways from Raiders preseason opener at Arizona

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr warms up prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

GLENDALE — With the majority of the starting lineup on both sides of the football  sitting out, the Oakland Raiders entered their first preseason game in Arizona looking to develop depth around the championship-caliber roster headlined by franchise quarterback Derek Carr and defensive linchpin, defensive tackle Khalil Mack.

Even though the Silver and Black fell to the Cardinals 20-10 Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, Oakland had some bright spots in the game:

The battle for the No. 2 quarterback

Former Buffalo starting quarterback EJ Manuel started the game for Oakland and was impressive in his first appearance in a Raiders uniform. Manuel looked sharp in the first half, finishing 10-of-12 for 107 and a passer rating of 103.8.

In the second quarter, the fourth-year pro out of Florida St., made a nice throw over a Cardinals defensive back that found tight end Clive Walford for a 30-yard gain that set up a 43-yard field goal by kicker Giorgio Tavecchio that finally got Oakland on the board, 17-3 right before halftime.

Second-year quarterback Connor Cook wasn’t as effective as Manuel, but did lead the Raiders to their only touchdown score of the night.

In the third quarter, Cook engineered a five-play, 63-yard drive, keyed by a 29-yard screen pass to backup running back John Crockett that would setup Crockett’s one-yard score that pulled Oakland closer, 17-10, albeit against Arizona’s third- and fourth-team units.

All indications are that Manuel will cement his position has Carr’s backup once the regular season begins, but Cook (who made NFL history by becoming the first rookie quarterback to make his pro debut in a playoff game last season), will make the decision tough for Del Rio and Co. as the preseason progresses.

The linebacker room

A position that has some question marks coming into the season, the linebackers for Oakland could actually be a strength for the Silver and Black.

With Bruce Irvin firmly entrenched as the team’s starting “SAM” linebacker, Cory James and rookie Marquel Lee made cases to join Irvin in the starting lineup in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Sept. 10.

James, in his second year with Oakland out of Colorado St., led the Raiders with seven tackles against Arizona and is currently listed as the team’s starting “WILL” linebacker on the unofficial depth chart.

Rookie Marquel Lee started as the team’s “MIKE” linebacker and finished with six tackles (five solo). Lee, was drafted in the fifth round by the Raiders in this year’s NFL draft, recovered a forced fumble by defensive tackle Justin “Jelly” Ellis in the first half.

The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon still needs to improve is footwork in pass coverage as Lee did find problems covering tight ends on curl- and in-routes.

Overall, the Raiders’ defense racked up four sacks, two a piece by fellow linebacker LaTroy Lewis and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, possibly developing more depth for a team that must improve a 26th-ranked defense in 2016.

Oakland (1-0) host the Los Angeles Rams next Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Rams (1-0) defeated the Dallas Cowboys 13-10 Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.