The Raiders’ new-look offense got off to a hot start on Sunday against the Chargers, as wide receiver Davante Adams caught multiple passes from quarterback Derek Carr right out of the gate and looked good doing so.
But then, reality hit Las Vegas.
The offense slowed to a near halt, due largely to an inept offensive line, and the Raiders fell behind 24-10 by the third quarter. When Carr tried to lead them back, he threw two fourth-quarter interceptions (he had three overall), contributing to a 24-19 loss in coach Josh McDaniels’ debut.
Here are this week’s winners and losers as the Raiders fall to 0-1 to open the campaign.
Winner: WR Davante Adams
Adams looked sensational, especially at the game’s start and its finish. He had four catches for 59 yards in the first quarter, including an 11-yard grab on the Raiders’ first play on offense.
He had a beautiful 41-yard catch and run in the third quarter that helped the Raiders score their first touchdown of the season, a Carr pass to running back Brandon Bolden. And in the fourth quarter, Adams made a gorgeous touchdown grab to tighten the score.
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/boU8hJRTpo
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) September 11, 2022
Adams finished with 10 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown on 17 targets. And as crazy as it sounds, Carr perhaps should have gone to him more. He’s definitely as good as advertised and poised to have a huge season statistically.
Winner: CB Nate Hobbs
After Carr threw his two fourth-quarter interceptions, the Raiders were, miraculously, still in a position to win. But the defense needed to make yet another big play. Cornerback Nate Hobbs was up to the task. He made a picturesque pass breakup on a huge 3rd-and-3 play, knocking the ball away from Los Angeles WR Mike Williams.
.@based_nate said absolutely not 🚫
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/jHLmPPltOb
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) September 11, 2022
Hobbs looked fantastic all day, racking up nine tackles (six solo) two tackles for loss, and his fourth-quarter PBU. It appears he’s ready to build on his tremendous rookie season as he enters year two.
Winner: Raiders defense
Though this was a tough loss for Las Vegas, the entire defense did all it could to allow Carr and the offense to storm back.
Roderic Teamer allowed tight end Gerald Everett to score a skillful 18-yard touchdown at the 6:42 mark of the third quarter, but the Chargers, led by star QB Justin Herbert, didn’t score again.
After Carr’s first fourth-quarter interception, the Raiders forced a punt. Carr was picked again, and the Chargers could only travel 18 yards on seven plays and missed a long field goal. It was a positive sign for a unit with new players and a brand-new scheme.
Defensive end Maxx Crosby and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols deserve shoutouts, too, as they each made their presence felt up front, especially on a sequence in the second quarter. Nichols notched a tackle for loss on 3rd-and-short and Crosby stuffed Herbert on a 4th-and-1 QB sneak attempt.
Loser: QB Derek Carr
Unfortunately, Carr threw the first of his three interceptions after that (seemingly) pivotal sequence from Nichols and Crosby. He underthrew tight end Darren Waller, who looked to be behind the Chargers defense.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) September 11, 2022
In fact, all of Carr’s interceptions appeared to be underthrown. In an unpredictable development, his three miscues were on targets to Waller, Adams, and Renfrow, his three top weapons.
Carr also had two unsightly fumbles to end the game, each on a QB sack allowed by his offensive line. While the Raiders didn’t have a single turnover in the preseason, Carr had three in one day, and it could have been more.
Loser: Offensive line
The Raiders offensive line looked suspect on paper. Somehow, it appears to be worse than we thought.
In their defense, the Chargers boast a strong front seven, led by Khalil Mack, who had three of LA’s six QB sacks. (LA also had nine QB hits.) But in a sight you’ll rarely see, the Raiders tried multiple O-Line combinations during the game, seemingly grasping for any sort of solution.
By my count, we’ve seen 3 different O-line combinations for the #Raiders so far:
No. 1: Kolton Miller, John Simpson, Andre James, Dylan Parham, Jermaine Eluemunor
No. 2: Miller, Simpson, James, Lester Cotton Sr., Eluemunor
No. 3: Miller, Simpson, James, Parham, Thayer Munford
— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) September 11, 2022
The Raiders eventually tried four lineups, as Lester Cotton finished the game at right guard. Carr looked shook (understandably) until he got it together to bring the Raiders back late. But in the end, the line failed him again, as the Chargers ended the day for the Raiders offense with consecutive QB sacks and forced fumbles.
Loser: DE Chander Jones
The Raiders pass rush was a strength a season ago, and that was supposed to continue in 2022. The personnel (and scheme) is different, however, as Las Vegas acquired EDGE player Chander Jones and handed him a hefty contract.
He had one tackle for loss, a shoestring tackle in the fourth quarter, and a QB hit, but his impact was minimal. Plus, the Raiders failed to record a QB sack. That’s not all on Jones, but he’s supposed to make us forget about the pass-rusher the Raiders traded away, Yannick Ngakoue. So far, that’s not the case.
Loser: Josh McDaniels
McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler look foolish for not assembling a better offensive line prior to Week 1. And McDaniels, in particular, looked foolish calling a wide receiver pass when the Raiders were in scoring range and down big.
Josh McDaniels tries a WR pass with Adams… didn’t work out.pic.twitter.com/BfYNJE1YzF
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 11, 2022
Thankfully for McDaniels, kicker Daniel Carlson bailed him out by nailing a 55-yard field goal to finish that drive. But for a coach that is supposed to be an offensive genius, that’s a terrible look. He’s lucky Carr or Adams didn’t get hurt, too.
Despite a bevy of bad moments for Las Vegas on Sunday, they still almost won. They had their share of good moments, too, especially in the second half.
But with a player as talented as Adams on the outside, the Raiders looked soft in the middle. If their offensive line can block, then the league will be put on notice. Right now, the questions surrounding that unit are louder than ever, and that’s saying quite a bit. They’ll have a chance to right the ship against the Cardinals at Allegiant Stadium next Sunday.