Lessons from the Week 3 Trenches

The Raiders did a much better job in the running game. Both Brandon Bolden and Josh Jacobs averaged over five yards per carry. You can’t ask for much more from your backs. Not their fault the gameplan got away from that.

Pass protection looked better except when it did not. The group gave up a sack and allowed the Titans to apply pressure in some tough spots.

For reasons unknown, John Simpson did not find his way onto the field for the offense in Week 3. Simpson started at left guard the first two games. I was excited to see him build on an improved performance from Week Two.

On defense, Maxx Crosby was again the only player who consistently found his way to disrupt the backfield. Crosby wasn’t perfect, again whiffing on some potential sacks and getting caught up field versus the run. However, he got a sack and made plays in the passing lanes. That’s all you can ask for.

Overall, the group could’ve did more to disrupt Titans QB Ryan Tannehill as he completed over 66 percent of his passes. Some of that is on the secondary though too. They held Derrick Henry to less than 100 yards and only a touchdown. Henry did make some plays but you can’t ask for more than that, even if he averaged over four yards a carry. Adding Denzel Perryman back into the lineup should help the Raiders against the run.

Let’s jump more into the weeds from the All-22.

Interior line improved

Vegas did a better job getting push in the run game and staying on their double-teams. Part of that comes from rolling with Jermaine Eleumunor at guard over Lester Cotton. They also started Alex Bars over John Simpson. Both added some bulk to help contain Jeffrey Simmons.

Dylan Parham also looked better in his second start. His anchor improved and he looked better at the point of attack. However, the group did not do as great of a job getting up to linebacker. They also got caught slipping a few times recognizing stunts in pass pro. All of them need to do better at keeping their heads up and shoulders square to recognize stunts.

Individually, both Eluemunor and Bars both struggled with speed. Eluemunor got caught off balanced and stopping his feet. Bars also got caught leaning and stopping his feet versus strong hands. The inside offensive line is still a mess but it looked better verus the Titans.

Right tackle is still an issue

Rookie Thayer Munford started at right tackle. He didn’t play too bad considering he’s seventh round pick. His feet are good and he has the size and length to play in the league.

Unfortunately, he has not shown the pad level or punch timing necessary versus elite edges. Luckily, the Titans do not feature an elite edge rusher. Munford did get better in this game with more consistent playing time, which is a good sign.

Moving forward, the Raiders still need to figure out a long-term solution at right tackle for this season. Eluemunor looked better at guard because he does not have to worry about speed as much. However, there may be temptation to move him back to right tackle. That’s especially true if center Andre James returns. Then, the Raiders can utilize Parham at guard again, which could push Eluemunor back to tackle. Regardless, Eluemunor and Munford both leave a lot to be desired at the right tackle spot.

The DTs improved

Defensively, the Raiders tackles improved versus the run. Defensive tackles John Hankins and Andrew Billings found ways to push the pocket and eat up double-teams. Hankins got better in the second half when he could key in more on the run. Both could play with a little more leverage and lean to rush the passer. They did find ways to impact the passing lanes too.

Currently, the Raiders find themselves in scenarios where they must prioritize the best pass rushers or run stuffers.

That’s where Bilal Nichols, Malcolm Butler and Bilal Nichols come in. They’re supposed to be the players that provide the balance. None of them have been consistently effective against the run or pass.

Sliding Crosby or Clelin Ferrell inside could help them get more pass rush from the interior, while they rely on the size of Hankins and Billings to stuff the run. However, you can’t always rotate in the perfect package versus every situation. The Raiders still need to find the four player combination that consistently brings pressure and stops the run.

Crosby needs help on the edge

On that note, Maxx Crosby needs help ASAP. Chandler Jones should have dominated this game as the Titans were down their best tackle. Jones dominated Tennessee last season. He had a couple of good reps and still finds himself in the right position.

It could be age or a lingering injury but Jones has not found a way to bring consistent heat off the edge. He is not even seeing the same level of attention in Vegas as he was in Arizona due to Crosby’s play. Jones is getting paid a lot to not get home to the quarterback.

Ferrell looks better getting off the ball and playing with his hands but he still lacks the explosiveness and bend off the edge. He also looks uncomfortable in coverage. Ferrell has not showed much more than Jones when he has had the opportunity to step-in at edge.

Whether it’s Ferrell or Jones, Crosby needs help. Mad Maxx is the Raiders most consistent defensive player but he can’t be the only one if the Raiders are going to dig themselves out of an 0-3 hole.

Six lessons from the trenches moving to the Titans: Raiders versus Cardinals film breakdown

The Raiders loss to the Cardinals was even harder to relive in film on the all-22. We all know the game told a story of two teams. Vegas dominated the first half before the Cardinals willed their way to a comeback win.

However, there wasn’t too much difference in how the lines played in the first or second half. The defensive line looked out of gas and the offensive line looked even more out of rhythm in the second. Both showed cracks even with the team putting up a big lead in the first quarter.

The defensive line showed up in the box score by holding the Cardinals to 3-of-13 on third down attempts. They contributed with a sack and pressures. The Raiders defense walked away with one interception but should have had more.

That was all negated by the Cardinals converting two different two-point conversions. Arizona was also successful on 3-of-5 fourth downs.

Offensively, Josh Jacobs found seems and lanes to cut back but he did not get much push from the offensive line. Jacobs ran his hardest but still only registered 69 yards on 19 carries.

Quarterback Derek Carr was only sacked once, an improvement over Week One. However, Carr deserves some credit for getting the ball out quicker. It still felt like he forced the ball but at least he helped his line by getting the ball out a quicker, particularly in the first half when the offense was scoring. Here’s what else we learned from the tape.

What’s up with Chandler Jones?

Time to address the $51 million dollar question in the room. Chandler Jones, age 32, played 90% of the Raiders defensive snaps but came up with zero sacks through two weeks. Players like Jerry Hughes, Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, and Von Miller are all over the age of 30 with more than two sacks.

Watching the tape, Jones finds his way to the ball and into the play. Yet, he hasn’t shown the same consistent explosion rushing the passer or setting the edge. Jones is still a solid player. He won some reps but Jones has not shown the same elite abilities many hoped he would bring opposite Maxx Crosby. It’s hard to tell if it’s just rust bouncing back from last year’s injuries or if father time has caught up to him.

Jones was limited in practice this week due to rest. Hopefully, he can get his legs under him and show the consistent disruption the Raiders need. There’s too much pressure on Crosby as the team’s only respectable pass rusher.

Last year, Jones registered five sacks versus the Titans in Week One with the Cardinals. This time, Tennessee is expected to be without three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan went down with a knee injury versus the Bills. Let’s see if Jones and company can take advantage of their matchups.

More on Maxx Crosby

It’s hard to fault Maxx Crosby for much because he’s the team’s only consistent pass rusher. Keeping contain was a bigger priority versus Kyler Murray anyways.

Crosby did break into the box score with a sack and he continued to bring the heat via QB hurries and pressures. However, he could’ve walked away with at least a couple more sacks if he got his pads down and played with a little more control. Of course, tackling Murray is easier said than done. Plus, Crosby’s fire might make him whiff a few times but it also keeps him impacting plays.

Crosby found ways to consistently keep the right tackle on his heels with a barrage of power moves and lower techniques. Arizona had no answer for Crosby in pass rush situations. Thus, the great third down performance by this defense.

The Cardinals had no problem running right at Crosby. He also got beat on the option and almost got killed on a couple of read fakes.It’s not all on Crosby and the plays he made makes up for the plays he does not. He needs help.

Yet, for all the fire that Crosby brings, the Raiders need it on the big downs. They also need him to show a little more discipline in the run game, especially with more mobile QBs in the Raiders’ forecast. That’s how Crosby takes the next step as one of the greatest edge players in the league.

Where’s the defensive tackles?

We all saw the TikToks and Reels showing the Raiders tackles outran by Kyler Murray. They say the average play is about eight seconds but that infamous Murray run was twice as long. I don’t fault the group for that play. That was the wrong package for that moment in the game, even if they were prepping to stop an inside run.

The Raiders defensive line as a whole did solid at keeping Murray contained in the first half. They could have had a similar result if their offense converted some long drives or their secondary held onto an interception. Instead, they looked out of gas and got picked apart by Murray.

Arizona got away from the run game due to the big lead. However, the Raiders run defense was nothing to brag about. Upfront, the Raiders created a lot of seems and cutback lanes not playing discipline. They also missed some tackles and looked tired coming off the ball.

Johnathan Hankins and Andrew Billings were stout again but neither brings much as a pass rusher. Billings gets off the ball but his motor and athleticism is limited. It’s hard to keep Billings out there on pass downs but Hankins brings even less as a pass rusher.

Most of the big gains in the run were to the outside or due to missed tackles. Bilal Nichols looked solid in moments again. Him, Kendal Vickers and Clelin Ferrell can look disruptive one play and pedestrian the next. Vegas really needs someone to step up from the interior. They need constant disruption from the interior, other than Billings.

Vegas is not always going to be able to pick the best package versus the run and pass. They need the four best motors on the field in those big games.

James was missed

The Raiders offensive line struggled for the second straight week. They were down starting center Andre James. Unsurprisingly, the group struggled getting up to the second level and in blitz pickup.

The Left Side improved

They did a better job getting a body on body, specifically on the left side. Kolton Miller had a bounce back game, shaking off last week’s poor performance. He looked much more in control, using his feet and punch versus a group of pass rushers that weren’t as talented as the Chargers’ dynamic duo.

John Simpson got off the ball, got down field on screens and did better using his feet in pass pro. Simpson still got caught off balance and high a few times. He stopped his hands and his feet a few times in the run and pass. It was a better game for him but we still need more strength and power from him in the run game, both at the line of scrimmage and second-level.

Another rough outing for the collective

Rookie Dylan Parham struggled starting at center. His lack in size and anchor showed as bigger nose tackles pushed him around. Parham’s athleticism allowed him to get in front of people and he did his best to maneuver penetrating defenders. He did not do great getting push on double-teams. In fairness, he looked better at guard last week. Parham is learning trial by fire. It’s all about his response moving forward.

Tackles Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford continued to show their limitations. Munford is still really raw, evident by his three penalties. Eluemunor gave up two sacks. He is limited by length, size and strength. If you have two tackles splitting time, it’s cause you lack a good one.

Arizona relied on blitzes for pressure and the Raiders did a better job identifying those even if they didn’t win their individual assignments. This could have been a much worse performance if Arizona’s defensive line was better. The Cardinals lack an elite edge rusher. It could have been much worse.

Help is on the way?

That’s why they traded a sixth round pick for tackle Justin Herron and a seventh round pick. Herron started a few games with Josh McDaniels as the offensive coordinator. There’s hope he will compete for the starting right tackle spot or slide into the slide tackle role. Herron can’t be any worse than what the Raiders had the past few weeks.

Moving forward to the Titans

I wouldn’t rule Eluemunor out at right guard if Herron slides into the ride tackle role. Eluemunor won’t have to worry about as much speed at guard. It can work but he will have to worry about leverage versus more power players. He will bring more size inside to the Raiders offensive line if Parham keeps playing center. Lester Cotton Sr. is solid in pass protection but he does not give them much push in the run game.

If the Raiders get Andre James back, that will be a big boost for the Raiders offensive line. They will need him versus Jeffrey Simmons, one of the best nose tackles in the league. Simmons can also rush the passer.

All three Raiders running backs ran hard and effectively, despite uninspired blocking. Hopefully, the Raiders can establish the run versus the Titans. That starts with keeping Simmons on the other side of the line of scrimmage. The Raiders have struggled getting push and Simmons is fast off the ball and plays with strong hands.

Titans edge Bud Dupree isn’t the same elite player from a few years ago with the Steelers. He might not even play due to a hip injury. However, Dupree can still rush the passer and he has the speed and length to the give the Raiders right tackles problems.