Top 3: Week 1 Free-Agent Class Standouts

The Oakland Raiders played well in every facet of the game against a formidable AFC opponent on the road, notching an impressive victory. In that win, general manager Reggie McKenzie saw good return value for many of his 2017 free agency acquisitions.

Here’s a closer look at the key contributions that many of the newcomers made in Week 1 versus the Tennesse Titans. Also, keep in mind that many of these contributions occurred at previously thought areas of concern.

Cordarrelle Patterson

In the off-season, the Raiders saw some of their best special teams contributors leave in Andre Holmes, Brynden Trawick, and Taiwan Jones. Patterson was strategically signed for his skillset as an all-around special teams ace while doubling as an offensive weapon for Carr. Patterson did just that, living up to his reputation as the NFL’s best kick off returner by taking his only kickoff return back for 41 yards, an extreme luxury for an already elite offense.

Patterson also made a significant presence as the punt gunner using his speed to provide excellent coverage on Marquette King’s booming punts. The punt gunner duo of Johnny Holton and Patterson is arguably the best in the NFL. The pair will go a long way in securing the in-game field position battle for the improved defense to attack and further cater to the high scoring offense.

Patterson also had a considerable snap count in the offense, lining up at multiple wide receiver spots, being a great decoy to move Cooper and Crabtree around into favorable matchups. He was used as a rushing threat with one carry for five yards; something defenses will have to account for is his big play speed in space, that will inevitably be showcased more in the future. Patterson only caught one pass for two yards, but that accounts for three different types of touches; returner, receiver, and a rusher. Patterson is a sneaky weapon that can impact the game in many ways, looks like a great free agent signing so far.

Jared Cook

With much of the off-season clamor being about the Raiders’ problems defending the tight end position, fans often overlooked the offense’s lack of a pass catching tight end threat. McKenzie sought after Jared Cook to come into Oakland as a big, fast, capable tight end to compete in camp with an underwhelming Clive Walford. Cook won the battle for the starting role and in Week 1 stood out.

Cook caught 5-of-5 passing targets for an efficient 56 yards in the Raiders’ victory as he asserted himself as a reliable pass catcher. Cook was benefitting from the attention the rest of the Raiders’ offense draws in the passing game, one reason I predicted this would be Cook’s best statistical season of his career. Walford seems to be out of the picture as Lee Smith took all the reps in double TE sets for his elite blocking and tough, physical presence matching Marshawn Lynch’s attitude running the ball. Cook looks to be the answer the Raiders were looking for at TE.

Marshawn Lynch

In comparison to the other two mentioned, Lynch was not a quiet, free agent acquisition for the Raiders. In fact, Lynch signing with Oakland was one of the biggest off-season NFL news stories, period. During pre-season and camp, Lynch was being preserved by the staff, and Raider Nation was excited to see his role in the offense that already had capable backs and an elite offensive line, and he was brilliant.

His first carry was everything Raider Nation hoped they were getting from the pre-retirement “Beast Mode.” Lynch shed multiple tackles and shook defenders with his swift footwork for 14 yards and a first down. It’s hard to believe anybody could fight a grin off his or her face finally seeing that take fruition in a regular season game. Lynch also evaded a run-blitz on a crucial 4th down conversion near the goal line with a quick jump-cut that he made look effortless. Then late in the game, he became the physical closer on the offense as he ran over 305 lb. Jurrell Casey, melting the clock to help seal the victory.

Lynch rushed 18 times for 76 yards averaging 4.2 per carry while catching one of two passing targets for 16 yards. I believe 18-22 touches per game is an expected workload in the more competitive games against challenging opponents. The Raiders just need to feed him the ball at the goal line next time!

McKenzie is Thrift Shopping for Luxury Players

The standing free-agent trio of Cook, Patterson, and Lynch combined for only 8.27% of the 2017 salary cap. Talk about “bang for your buck” to take this team to the next level.  I am excited to see them all perform in their home debuts this Sunday in Oakland. There might be an earthquake when Lynch’s name is announced coming out of that tunnel.

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