Week 1 has come and gone and given space to critique the Las Vegas Raiders and their up-and-down season debut. Denver set out to open the new campaign with a win at home by any means necessary. However, the Broncos couldn’t overcome these five factors, equally contributing to their loss.
The Vegas Offensive Line Kept Jimmy Garoppolo Clean
The offensive line held up well in the pass-blocking phase. On Sunday, the Raiders surrendered zero sacks, one tackle for loss, three quarterback hits, and a sparkling 94 percent win rate in pass protection. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had clean pockets on nearly every dropback and ample time to progress through reads. All in all, the Vegas frontline did one hell of a job.
Kolton Miller, a 2018 first-round draft pick, is the leader of the unit on the blindside. Second-year player, Dylan Parham, a 2022 third-rounder, is still finding his way, while Andre James, an undrafted tackle converted to center, enters his third season as a starter. Greg Van Roten and Jermaine “The Main Show” Eluemunor round out the group. Van Roten is the new addition to the team, relieving Alex Bars of his duties during training camp. Only one week into the 2023 slate already has the Raiders offensive line as one of the league’s best.
Offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo took Tom Cable’s young and struggling offensive line and coached them into a well-oiled machine. Last season, the maturation of Andre James, Kolton Miller, and Jermaine Eluemunor was a key element to their success. Heading into Orchard Park, New York, against the phenomenal defensive line of the Buffalo Bills, it is paramount to play as well as they did in Week 1.
Jakobi Meyers Gets His Raiders Career Off To A Hot Start
While the Broncos pounded their chests for devoting their entire defensive efforts to stopping Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs, and Hunter Renfrow, Jakobi Meyers was getting it done. Damarri Mathis made the mistake of celebrating an early victory over Meyers; he then proceeded to lose the war. The former Patriot absolutely owned Mathis from that point on.
Meyers simply refused to allow himself to get shut down by the Broncos’ young defender. He was open on every route whether Jimmy Garoppolo looked his way or not. The new Raider could have easily ended the day with three touchdowns if he was able to corral a second-quarter pass in the end zone.
Hell, if Garoppolo had looked to his right after Broncos’ linebacker Josey Jewell cheated back in between the hashes, he never would have thrown the interception. Instead, Meyers missed a potential third touchdown of the day. Only a cheap shot to a defenseless receiver could stop him. The concussion protocol is standing in between Meyers and playing on Sunday, but make no mistake, the Raiders will need him against the Bills.
El General And The Deablo
One of the most pleasant surprises of the game was the play of Divine Deablo and Robert Spillane. Spillane has asserted himself as the leader of the defense, while Deablo is the yin to his yang at the other linebacker position.
Deablo made plays, including a tackle for loss, a pass defended, and he recovered Russell Wilson’s fumble. Albeit, the play was ultimately called back due to a real ticky-tack illegal contact penalty on Marcus Peters, possibly after Wilson left the pocket. Deablo was a monster in pass coverage, shutting down all passes to the flats.
Field General Spillane saw everything on the ground, including plays before they even happened. At his direction, Nate Hobbs lined up in a nickel linebacker role, shot through a gap, and tackled the ball carrier in the backfield for a loss. Later, Spillane would burst up the middle on the goal line, running through the center to make a tackle for loss.
Personally, I would like to see Spillane, Deablo, and Curtis Bolton on the field at the same time. There are a lot of looks defensive coordinator Patrick Graham could show and give. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen has been loose with the football without former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Confusing him will elicit mistakes.
Jakorian Bennett: Growing Pains, But Progress
Evaluating rookies at cornerback is a difficult practice. If you look at targets vs. completions, it would lead you to believe Jakorian Bennett had a horrible game. To the more experienced eyes, a young dawg was let off the leash for the first time.
All seven of Bennett’s tackles were solo. No one else on the team made every tackle on their own, making himself a huge factor in run support. In the air, he took some lumps by often getting high-lowed in his coverage zones.
That leads to an illusion that he got beat in coverage. Bennett flashed ball-hawking potential by closing on an out route and narrowly missing a pick-six attempt. His play as a fourth-round draft pick is a sight for sore eyes.
Jimmy Garoppolo Is The Leader The Raiders Need
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi
Getting off to a fast start is ideal for any football team. Teams rally behind their leaders, and Garoppolo has earned the respect of his teammates. His play style is reminiscent of Rich Gannon, placing a premium on pre-snap diagnostics. “Jimmy G” has no regard for his body when it comes time to keep the chains moving or to ice a close game. He knows the system inside and out and executes it at a high level.
Some players are “me guys” and all about individual success, but Garoppolo doesn’t care about his stats; he has said as much. Incredibly, after his first start, his name sits near the top-five in most statistical categories. The 31-year-old signal-caller has the fourth-highest completion percentage at 76.9 percent, while his passer rating sits at sixth-highest, checking in at 107.9.
What’s crazy about these numbers is how much meat Garoppolo left on the bone. He tossed two touchdown passes, but a third clanged off the hands of Meyers. He had opportunities to cash in on deep shots to Davante Adams and DeAndre Carter. Hunter Renfrow never even saw a target. Heading into Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills, this offense has only begun to scratch the surface of what it can be.
*Top Photo: Jack Dempsey/AP