Yikes! That was ugly. Las Vegas Raiders fans surely didn’t see such a one-sided affair coming, and neither did Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Raiders had their hopes of a 2-0 start to the season dashed in Buffalo this past weekend. Josh McDaniels’ squad was beaten soundly by a score of 38-10. There were a few positives to take away from this one, believe it or not. Here are some knee-jerk reactions to this week’s loss to the Bills:
Welcome To The Jimmy Garoppolo Experience
Garoppolo’s debut performance against the Broncos was very refreshing for Raider Nation. We got to see a Raiders quarterback play some gritty football, keeping the chains moving and putting the game away by making plays with his legs. However, Denver’s offensive ineptitude made things pretty simple. All “Jimmy Vegas” had to do was keep the offense moving and not make any huge mistakes. Let’s face it, he didn’t have to make too many plays. He thrives in that role.
This weekend was a different story. Garoppolo needed to do a lot more on Sunday. When he is asked to do that, we see more of who he really is. ‘Jimmy G’ is a guy that can lead your offense, make the throws that are there, and keep the offense on schedule. He is also going to have a handful of head-scratching throws each game. Both of his picks this week were avoidable. On the first, all he had to do was step around the defender before throwing, instead of trying to throw it through him. On the second, if he is going to insist on checking the ball down to Josh Jacobs while Bills linebacker Matt Milano is draped all over him, it has to be thrown low. Interceptions aside, the Raiders likely now have their top two wide receivers in concussion protocol, thanks to Garoppolo’s hospital passes.
This is something that Raider Nation is going to have to get used to. The jury is still out on whether Jimmy Garoppolo is an upgrade over Derek Carr or not. It may be worth a few extra bad throws to have someone running the offense more efficiently. Ultimately, it will come down to wins. One hallmark of the ‘Carr Wars’ was the debate over the fairness of blaming the defense for Carr not winning. One thing that we know for sure about Garoppolo, he needs a defense. Based on what we saw vs. Buffalo, that might be an issue.
The Raiders Defense (Still) Sucks
After getting flattered by Denver’s offensive incompetence in the season opener, the Raiders defense got a harsh reality check against the Bills. On the ground, they were bullied by a combination of James Cook, Damien Harris, and Latavius Murray (yes, he is still in the league). In the passing game, Josh Allen picked the Raiders apart. Las Vegas, like usual, struggled to get off the field. Creating big plays like sacks and turnovers remains a challenge.
A big part of the struggle is the lack of talent. They have one great player on that side of the ball in Maxx Crosby. The rest of the defensive line is mediocre, the linebackers are barely serviceable, and the secondary is solid but is missing elite talent. On top of that, the Raiders have a defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham who does not run a very aggressive scheme.
This has been the state of the Raiders defense for years now. They have one All-Pro surrounded by mediocrity but do little more to address the issue than band-aid free agent signings and the occasional high draft pick (which usually doesn’t pan out). If you want to invest in Jimmy Garoppolo and rest of the offense, that’s fine. You can make up for a lot of deficiencies on defense by playing aggressively. Instead, the Raiders have continued to bring in defensive signal-callers that don’t blitz and play soft off-man and zone coverages.
The Silver and Black either need more talent or a more aggressive scheme on the defensive side of the ball. Until one of those two things happens, don’t expect much from this team. That actually brings us to our last knee-jerk reaction for this week.
The Raiders Are Not A Playoff Team
It is fair to say that there was some cautious optimism heading into the season that the Raiders could sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard team. That optimism only grew after the Raiders defeated Denver and found themselves at the top of the AFC West standings. This week’s drubbing by a Bills team that may not win its own division was a rude awakening.
Yes, it is only Week 2, but I have seen enough to write this team off. They were not all that impressive last week against a lesser opponent, and they completely folded the first time that they were truly tested. Las Vegas lacks too many crucial elements to being a contender.
Either due to poor run-blocking, regression by Jacobs, or a combination of the two, Las Vegas cannot run the ball. The defense cannot get off the field, exacerbating the ball-control issues created by the lack of a run-game. The only way to mask those issues is to have elite quarterback play. The Raiders clearly do not have that, either. The franchise is more likely to finish this season in contention for a top-five draft pick than they are a wildcard spot.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes