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Alex’s Raider Roundup: The Jimmy Garoppolo-era in Las Vegas starts with a win

Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season is now over, and the Las Vegas Raiders stand alone at the top of the AFC West. For the first time since Week 8 of the 2021 season, the Silver and Black are in sole possession of first place in the division. What a way for the Jimmy Garoppolo-era to begin.

This exact scenario is one that has only played out twice since the merger. Aside from Sunday, the only other time the Raiders won on opening week while all three of their AFC West rivals lost was at the start of the team’s ’00 campaign.

Las Vegas opened up the year by taking on the Broncos in Denver. It was a game of offense – mostly – as both teams combined for only three punts. Yet, oddly enough, neither team put more than 17 points on the scoreboard. The Raiders walked away with a 17-16 victory.

As Associated Press’ Josh Dubow notes, only 23 times since the merger have teams punted three (or less) times combined while failing to reach 33 combined points. For the Silver and Black, this was their third time achieving such a feat.

The Raiders are 1-0, and looking down at all of their division rivals who sit with 0-1 records. There’s plenty of positives that translated to earning their win on Sunday. However, there’s also quite a few lingering negatives that kept the game close, and possibly would’ve resulted in a different outcome had Denver not missed a pair of kicks.

From good to bad, I’ll touch on everything you need to know.

Alex’s Raider Roundup: Raiders sit alone atop the AFC West after Week 1 win vs Denver

It’s always a good time when the Raiders are winning, isn’t it Raider Nation? I’m going to keep the positive vibes going – for now.

We can’t start the positives section without immediately turning our attention to Jakobi Meyers. Nine receptions, 81 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns. How’s that for a debut with a new club?

With a 72.8 receiving grade, Meyers was the 19th-highest graded receiver in Week 1 via Pro Football Focus. The first-year Raider had a 140.0 passer rating when targeted, which ranked sixth-highest at his position. Meyers came to Las Vegas touted as a threat in the slot, but proved to be much more as 24 of his 27 total snaps came out-wide.

The former Patriot joins Marcel Reece (2015) and Courtney Anderson (2005) as the only Raiders to total more than one receiving touchdown in a Week 1 contest since 2000. Needless to say, the Jimmy Garoppolo, Jakobi Meyers connection looks fantastic.

Many fans were worried Josh Jacobs might not be in “football shape” upon his return as the 2022 rushing leader didn’t participate in camp. As it turns out, not too many – if any – players on the field looked more fresh than the fifth-year running back.

The stats aren’t going to turn heads, totaling 48 yards on 19 carries, but this was a player who looked great on film. 43 of his 48 yards came after contact, tying him at 11th for most yards after contact league-wide. With 5 forced missed tackles, only Lions rookie Jahmyr Gibbs stood above Jacobs in this category.

And just look at this unbelievable blocking job:

Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t have gotten that first down with Jacobs’ efforts to keep him clean.

Players shine on defense

Three Raiders stood out on the defensive side of the ball, and two of them were pleasant surprises. The third of the three was, to nobody’s surprise, Maxx Crosby.

With a defensive grade of 89.7, Crosby was the sixth-highest graded edge rusher league-wide. Although the All-Pro only recorded one sack, his four quarterback pressures was the fourth-most at his position. At one point in the game, Crosby tackled a Broncos player behind the line of scrimmage on three consecutive plays.

Well, is it fair to say Nate Hobbs playing great football is a pleasant surprise? Under normal circumstances, of course not. After a rough ’22 campaign, however, it’s great to see. Furthermore, Raider Nation can rejoice as Hobbs is playing the same slot role he thrived in during his rookie season.

Hobbs was involved in 12 tackles, letting a ball carrier slip through only one. No cornerback had more tackles than the Illinois alum in Week 1. The Raiders slot corner earned the 14th-highest coverage grade among all defensive backs (80.7), surrendering a mere 4.2 yards per reception.

This is the positives section, but it would be wrong to glance over a clear negative. With 5 catches allowed on 5 passes his way, Hobbs must learn to break up a pass or two. This has been a weak point of his game since Day 1 in the NFL.

One step up, one step down

Many people – myself included – thought low of the Raiders’ linebacker core. The unit wasn’t overly impressive in Week 1, but Divine Deablo played exceptionally.

Deablo’s 84.5 grade was ninth-highest among all linebackers. Even more impressive, his 90.7 coverage grade ranked third at his position. The former third-round pick allowed four combined yards after catch on three receptions, earning a quarterback rating of 64.6 when targeted. Deablo was even credited with a pass breakup.

Such promise in coverage is something Deablo hasn’t shown before. The 25-year-old linebacker has never finished a season with a coverage grade north of 50.7, nor has he ever been credited for more than one pass breakup in an entire campaign. He’s well on his way to posting career-highs in both of those categories.

And now, the negatives.

I get it, Raider Nation; the Raiders won, and that’s all that counts. That said, Jimmy Garoppolo and his squad nearly came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Had the Broncos not missed a few kicks, perhaps they become the AFC West team who sits alone in first place. If Josh McDaniels wants to win from his own team’s success as opposed to his opponents self-inflicted wounds, there are things that need to change.

One of these things is the massive step in the wrong direction by the Raiders via run blocking.

Las Vegas had only one offensive lineman finish with a top-30 run blocking grade, and that was first-year Raider Greg Van Roten (72.6). No other player on the team cracked a top-50 spot. Van Roten’s counterpart Dylan Parham struggled more than anybody, ending his day with a run blocking grade of 46.3. This ranked 103rd out of the 123 offensive linemen with at least 20 run blocking snaps.

If Jacobs didn’t force five missed tackles, this would’ve been the Raiders downfall.

The Raiders won, but some things need to be addressed

Tyree Wilson’s potential is genuinely through the roof, but there’s a reason why we’re talking about his potential and not what he currently is. For Wilson to start mining at his potential, he must learn to get off the line of scrimmage much faster.

On multiple plays, Maxx Crosby was well beyond the line of scrimmage before Wilson had even begun moving. That’s just unacceptable. Wilson is recovering from a foot injury, so perhaps that helps explain this situation. No matter the reason, it has to change.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the Raiders shot themselves in the foot with penalties at the worst times. On a third-down, Jerry Tillery jumped into the neutral zone and gifted Denver a fresh set of downs. Las Vegas was able to get a stop later in the drive, but a second penalty once again kept their opponent’s scoring hopes alive. This time, Luke Masterson ran into the punter’s plant foot.

The drive prior, Las Vegas forced a turnover to give the Silver and Black a massive momentum boost. Unfortunately, Marcus Peters was called for a defensive hold, and Denver got the ball right back. These sequences cannot continue, and you can bet the entire team knows that better than anyone.

New teammates looking like new teammates

Finally, there’s the connection between Jimmy Garoppolo and Davante Adams. Hunter Renfrow had zero targets in this contest, but that shouldn’t be of concern. What should be concerning, however, is how little Garoppolo’s game meshes with Adams.

Davante hauled in six passes for 66 yards. If you’re looking at the numbers, that’s a respectable day in the office. The two just seem to be on two different pages, however. Jimmy Garoppolo is firing the ball early and often, and the results to his top wideout have left much to be desired. No receiver league-wide had more targets in tight coverage than Adams, who was only able to catch one of the four ‘contested targets’ his way.

Give Davante Adams time to beat his matchups. Good things will happen.

*Top Photo: Las Vegas Review-Journal

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