For the second year in a row, the Las Vegas Raiders have opened the season with a statement win. Using an evenly balanced mix of pass and run, the Raiders were able to move up and down the field and will against the Carolina Panthers. While many factors can be attributed to the win, one would be foolish to not led with the herculean efforts of Josh Jacobs and the offensive line.
Josh Jacobs Carries the Load as the Las Vegas Raiders Outlast the Carolina Panthers
It is no surprise that Josh Jacobs has started the season looking like the best running back in the league. Rushing for three touchdowns on Sunday, Jacobs had his way with the young defense of the Panthers for the better part of the day. He forced a league-high 12 missed tackles, and rushed for 93 yards on 25 carries. It is clearly obvious even despite the focus on wide receivers in the draft, that the Raiders will go as Jacobs does. If the Raiders hope to make the playoffs this season, then they will need a healthy Jacobs to do so.
The Offensive Line Shows up Big for Josh Jacobs and the Raiders
When it comes to the elite offensive lines in the league, it is finally time for this Raiders group to get the respect they deserve. Derek Carr was sacked zero times, and was able to leave the game with a fairly clean jersey because of it. After losing star right tackle Trent Brown three plays into the game due to a hamstring injury, the Raiders got major contributions from veteran backups Sam Young and Denzelle Good. They, along with the other four starters on the offensive line, shutdown the pass rush of a Panthers defense that finished second in sacks per game last season. Tom Cable, the Offensive Line Coach, might deserve more credit than anyone for Sunday’s win.
The Defense Leaves Much To Be Desired
The youth and inexperience of the Raiders defense was on full display against the Panthers. It is never a good sign when your defense gives up 30 points in a season opener. This is especially true when it comes to a team that has a completely new head coach and quarterback at the helm. Last year’s first round pick, Clelin Ferrell, had zero sacks and generated zero quarterback pressures on 30 pass rushes. It was not any better for last year’s breakout rookie, Maxx Crosby, as he was held sack-less as well. The Raiders defense only managed to sack Teddy Bridgewater once on Sunday. This information hits even harder when you realize that the Panthers had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season.
It is not all bad though. After only playing in one game last season, Jonathan Abram played like a man possessed. He was constantly seen flying all over the field, leading the team with 13 total tackles. It is clear that the defense of the Raiders will be the Achilles heel of the team this season. Things like youth and inexperience are not an easy fix, as the only real solution is time. With a tough stretch of games coming up, everyone will get to see just what this Raiders defense is made up of. Do not be surprised if Defensive Coordinator Paul Gunther is relieved of his position midway through the season.
All in all, it was a pretty solid performance on Sunday by the Las Vegas Raiders. The addition of Henry Ruggs helped open up the offense and prevented the Carolina Panthers from stacking the box. Just goes to show how deadly speed is in the NFL. If the Raiders can continue to have success balancing the run and pass game, then the playoffs are definitely in this team’s future. As long as Derek Carr can continue to play highly efficient football, then the Raiders should have no problem scoring points this season. A lot of those points may end up coming in shootouts, but those games will all be winnable as long as Carr and Jacobs continues to take care of the football.
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