Oakland welcomes Houston for Home Opener

Photo courtesy of footballsfuture.com

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — After falling to the Jets, 19-14 in New York in Week 1, the Raiders look to rebound Sunday when they host the Houston Texans at O.co Coliseum in Oakland’s home opener at 1:25 p.m.

Making his first career start in the NFL, rookie quarterback Derek Carr played pretty well, but not well enough to help the Raiders start the 2014 season on a winning note.

Carr threw for 151 yards on 20-of-32 passing, with two touchdowns with a passer rating of 94.7. Carr looked poised for much of the game, throwing the ball with no hesitation while making sound decisions.

Oakland may have a rising star in wide receiver Rod Streater.

Even though Streater had 46 yards receiving, I thought the  team-leading five catches and his12-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter was most important. Carr seems to trust Streater, which will be important for both Carr’s and Streater’s continued growth.

What Carr didn’t get was help from the running game and against a team that has a stud defensive end like Houston has in J.J. Watt, you are going to need help from your running backs. The running game which was looked upon as a possible strength of the team’s, has got to be a factor on Sunday.

Oakland only mustered 26 rushing yards from the tandem of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew led the team with nine carries, but injured his hand Sunday and didn’t finish the game. A source told Comcast SportsNet’s Fallon Smith that Jones-Drew underwent a procedure to repair the injury.

According to the Bay Area News Group’s Jerry McDonald, Jones-Drew didn’t practice Wednesday and his status for Sunday’s home opener remains in question.

Defensively, I thought that Oakland played admirably. Outside of Chris Ivory’s back-breaking 71-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to ice the game, Oakland’s defense played tough on Jets quarterback Geno Smith.

Free safety Charles Woodson recorded an interception that led to an early touchdown, while linebacker Sio Moore was all over the field with a team-leading 15 solo tackles, and one of Oakland’s two sacks. Strong safety Tyvon Branch had the other sack.

But Houston is coming to the Black Hole looking to spoil the home opener, while trying to avenge their  28-23 loss to Oakland last season at Reliant Stadium.

Houston (1-0) won their home opener last week ,14-6 over Washington behind their defense, particularly Watt. The Texans sacked quarterback Robert Griffin three times, and recovered two fumbles. Watt recorded one of each to go along with three tackles.

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph finished with a team-leading 11 solo tackles, while strong safety D.J. Swearinger  (1 sack) and cornerback Kareem Jackson finished tied with six tackles. Linebacker Brooks Reed had five tackles, while recording a sack.

Offensively, Houston has weapons and Raiders defensive guru Jason Tarver is going to have his work cut out for him in slowing down the Texans.

Fitzpatrick threw for 206 yards on 14-of-22 passes (109.3 passer rating), including a 76-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins in the second quarter. Hopkins finished with  four catches and 89 yards receiving, while the ageless wonder Andre Johnson led Houston with six catches and 93 yards receiving (15.5 yards per catch).

Oakland’s cornerbacks Terrell Brown and Carlos Rogers are battle tested, but will need to play smart and aggressive if they are going to slow down Houston’s duo.

Running back Arian Foster appears to be healthy again, after missing the majority of last season with a back injury. Foster rushed for 103 yards on 27 carries against Washington.

Next week, Oakland will pack their bags for 11 days, heading to New England to take on the Patriots, before flying over to London (a home game sadly), to take on the Miami Dolphins the following week.

Houston faces the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in Week 3.

Players to Watch:

Houston: It’s a no brainer that you want to watch Watt. At 6’5″ and 289 lbs, Watt is just a freak of nature that has an active motor on every down.  With 37.5 career sacks, their is no question that Watt gets to the quarterback. Carr must make sure that he knows where No. 99 is at at all times.

Oakland: Streater is the man that Oakland has to get involved early. In last year’s meeting against Houston, Streater had six catches for 84 yards receiving, including an 18-yard touchdown catch.

 

Oakland visit New York for Season Opener

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Finally the preseason is over and now the wins and loses will count for each team on their quest to be one of the final two teams to play in Super Bowl XLVIX  in February out in Glendale, AZ  for the Lombardi Trophy.

The Oakland Raiders hope to be one of those two teams, but will need to break an 11-year playoff drought first in order to make that happen which begins Sunday in New York against the Jets in Week 1.

Oakland finished the preseason 2-2, and had glimpses of a quarterback controversy with backups Matt McGloin and Derek Carr playing well at times in place of projected starter, Matt Schaub. Carr will the first rookie quarterback in team history to make his first start in Week 1.

Well there is no quarterback controversy as FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer reported Monday that Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen named Carr the starter ahead of Schaub for Sunday’s tilt in the Big Apple.

“Not an indictment on Matt Schaub, Derek Carr is mature beyond his years,” coach Dennis Allen said after Monday’s practice. “We feel very comfortable with him helping us win football games. … Derek is the starting quarterback.”

Schaub, who was battling parts of training camp with elbow tendinitis in his throwing elbow, didn’t play like a starting quarterback in his three starts, throwing for 218 yards, no touchdowns and one interception on 24-of-47 passes. The former Houston Texans quarterback is trying to resurrect his career in Oakland, after a disastrous 2013 season for the 2-14 Texans.

“Matt is disappointed but he has handled it like a pro,” Allen said. “Derek has grown [by] leaps and bounds…He is ready to accept the challenge.”

In three preseason games (missed one due to a rib/concussion injury), Carr finished 30-of-45 for 326 yards passing, four touchdowns and one interception, with a 108.2 QB rating. In his start  against Seattle in the preseason finale at home, Carr looked like a seasoned veteran, taking command of the Raider’s first-team offense on two touchdown drives against the vaunted Sehawks first-team defense.

With the help of what should be a promising running attack with the tandem of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, Carr should not feel pressured into trying to win the game on his own. Both MJD and McFadden played sparingly during preseason, and look healthy to shoulder the load on the ground.

Defensively, Oakland made several key free agent acquisitions, most notably with an influx of veteran leadership with the signings of defensive end Justin Tuck, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, and cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Terrell Brown. Oakland is counting on those guys to help improve an Oakland defense that finished 22nd  in total defense in the league last season.

The Jets, who finished the preseason 2-2, are led by second-year quarterback Geno Smith.

Smith, who started all 16 games last season as a rookie, threw 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions (fourth-most in the league), but did finish with 3,046 yards passing.

New York is banking on the five-year $36.25 million contract they gave former Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker to help the former West Virginia Mountaineer improve on those numbers, and end a three-year playoff absence for New York.

Second-year defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is the force behind a vastly improved Jets 3-4 defense that ranked 11th in total defense in 2013.

Richardson is the key to the Jets defense, enabling defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to get after the quarterback.

Wilkerson finished with a career-high 10.5 sacks last year and could make Carr’s first career regular season start a tough one as Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan loves to blitz and give multiple defensive looks to opposing quarterbacks.

If Carr continues to grow and show the confidence that he’s exhibited during the preseason and play mistake-free football, Oakland has a great chance of leaving New York with a win.

 

 

 

 

 

The Silver and Black Readies for Green Bay

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — After splitting the first two preseason games against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, the Oakland Raiders will play their third and final NFC North opponent when they head to Green Bay to take on the Packers Friday night. Friday night’s encounter with the Packers will be a nationally televised game, airing on CBS with JimNantz and Phil Simms in the booth.

The Silver and Black are coming off a dramatic, 27-26, victory at home against the Lions last Friday night.

Matt McGloin engineered a 13-play, 68-yard drive that was punctuated by a 19-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Brice Butler with just 0:06 remaining. McGloin finished 7-of-15 for 114 yards passing after replacing Derek Carr midway through the fourth quarter, after Carr left the game with what was later diagnosed as a concussion and bruised ribs. Carr did play well before leaving the game, finishing 9-of-16 for 109 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to tight end Jake Murphy in the third quarter.

Carr passed the standard concussion test as per protocol by the NFL, but won’t play in Friday’s game due to the linger pain in his ribs.

Oakland’s defense got off to a rough start early, finding themselves down 13-0 in the first quarter, but settled down as the game wore on.

One of the team’s key free agent acquisitions in the offseason, cornerback Terrell Brown was burned for a 28-yard touchdown by Detroit’s wide receiver Golden Tate (Detroit’s biggest offseason acquisition).

Linebackers Nick Roach and Khalil Mack each recorded a sack. Mack also finished with two tackles, and appeared more active on the field as he transitions to the speed of the NFL.

Green Bay went into St. Louis and imposed their will on the Rams, leaving the Edward James Dome with a commanding 21-7 victory Saturday night.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked nearly flawless win short work, running the no huddle offense to perfection. Rodgers went 11-of-13 for 128 yards passing, including a 3-yard score to wide receiver Randall Cobb.

Packers linebacker Brad Jones had four tackles, and rookie safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix finished with two tackles, and a sack.

The game can be seen locally on KPIX Channel 5, and heard on 98.5 KFOX with the voice of the Raiders, Greg Papa and two-time Super Bowl winning coach, Tom Flores with the call.

Both teams finish up the preseason next Thursday, when the Raiders host the Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks, and the Packers will face the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field.