In their 2020 season debut, the Las Vegas Raiders the Carolina Panthers. In order to get to this point, the Raiders crossed multiple timezones. Led by Josh Jacobs, the Raiders defeated the Panthers 34-30. With this win, the Raiders start their 2020 campaign with a strong start. If your honest, the offensive line, to a man, won this game offensively. The Panthers could not bring any heat to the pocket.
Entering the season, many expected Josh Jacobs to lead the offense. After all. Jon Gruden displays an affinity for the ground game. Yet, after a strong rookie year, the Raiders wanted to unleash him early on the revamped Panthers defense. If you look past the 3.7 yards-per-carry, Jacobs touched the ball twenty-nine times with three rushing touchdowns. Behind the offensive line, Jacobs enjoyed holes and lanes to burst through. More importantly, his improved hands saw him reel in four catches for 46 yards. Whether the Raiders contend or not, Jacobs clearly solidified his franchise back status.
Blessed with an array of young playmakers, Derek Carr took the field. Granted, he didn’t face an elite defense, but Carr mostly executed when he needed it. Above all else, he showed what he can accomplish with talent across the board. Granted, his stats may not appear eye-popping, what you saw was efficiency and the ability to avoid the catastrophic mistake. Early in the game, Carr tried to connect deep with Henry Ruggs. The hope remains this aggression become commonplace and not a feared anomaly. To his credit, Carr found Nelson Agholor with a 23-yard strike for the score.
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From the first snap, until he left the game with an injury, Carr looked in Henry Ruggs’ direction. Connecting three times for fifty-five yards, Carr and the rookie wideout showed a measure of chemistry. Going forward, the Raiders will look to their first-round pick to build upon a strong outing.
Amongst the happy details of the season-opening win, a bit of concern. Right tackle Trent Brown exited the game early with a lower leg injury. Now, Sam Young performed admirably. Yet, how Brown recovers and the extent of his injury remains up in the air.
Lack of Rush
Outside of a Maurice Hurst/Carl Nassib sack, the Raiders mustered little to no pressure. As the season progresses, they will need to get home with frequency and urgency. In the next two weeks, they face Drew Brees and Tom Brady consecutively. Under those circumstances, the defense must dial up the pressure in a hurry.
With the rebuilt unit looking to shine, the unit struggled all day. You can cite an anemic pass rush or the fact the Panthers’ receivers played better than expected. Either way, this group needs to improve in a hurry. Mistakes cost the Raiders in this game. If not for a Clelin Ferrell stop, this game could’ve wandered away. Erik Harris took a poor angle, allowing Robby Anderson to streak 75 yards. Anderson and DJ Moore combined for ten catches and 169 yards.
The Raiders put 34 points on the board. That should be enough to win most games comfortably. Yet, the inability to generate consistent pressure put this game in unnecessary peril. While Las Vegas prevailed, they welcome a Saints offense that will dissect them, if Drew Brees sits in a pristine pocket.