Linebacker Bruce Irvin and Defensive End Khalil Mack
As the Oakland Raiders prepared for their Week 3 matchup with the Tennessee Titans, we posed five questions that we were hoping to have answered Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium.
After a much-improved performance by the Raiders defense, the Silver and Black flew back to Northern California with a 17-10 win in tow, so let's see if our five questions were answered.
1. Can the defense respond?
In short, yes.
After not delivering quality outings to start the season, the Raiders defense responded in a big way Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium.
The Silver and Black's offense scored 17 points in the first half of Sunday's matchup, but didn't put any points on the board after halftime, and the team had to lean on the defense in the final moments of the game to secure the road result.
The Titans offense was able to put up 395 yards of total offense, but the Raiders were able to limit their trips to the end zone, allowing just one touchdown en route to the Week 3 win.
"I saw glimpses of what it should look like," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio about the defense. "I think we all did. We saw glimpses. Nowhere near what it needs to be yet but certainly reasons to be optimistic, which I am. I am very optimistic about the men we have and the work we are putting in. We have got a lot of things to clean up."
Del Rio's analysis is spot on, as the team did put together a quality defensive effort, but likely aren't where they want to be just yet.
2. How does Menelik Watson hold up at right tackle?
Well, for the 21 offensive snaps he was on the field, Watson, and the offensive line as a whole, played pretty well, giving quarterback Derek Carr time to work and helped spring running back Latavius Murray for a 22-yard touchdown run.. However, Watson was forced to leave the game early because of injury, and was officially ruled "out" in third quarter with a lower right leg injury.
After he departed, rookie lineman Vadal Alexander entered the fray, playing the 48 snaps in his first extended run during the regular season, and overall, Head Coach Del Rio was pleased with what he saw from the former LSU Tiger.
"I think Vadal [Alexander] went in and played well, so we've been – it was our fourth offensive tackle to play this year on the right side, or fifth if you count the left moving over to right, so we've played them all over there and we've done a good job," Head Coach Del Rio said. "We've done a good job."
The severity of Watson's injury is still unknown, so there's a chance we could be seeing more of Alexander as the season goes on.
3. Can the Raiders limit Marcus Mariota's productivity on the ground?
While the Raiders defense was indeed able limit Mariota from successfully running the ball – he carried it three times for 22 yards – the same couldn't be said for limiting the production of the Titans two running backs, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
Murray ran the ball 16 times for 114 yards and one touchdown, and Henry provided a nice complement, adding 10 rushes for 45 yards.
The Raiders defense no doubt put together a better effort Sunday afternoon, but allowing 181 yards on the ground is something that will be addressed going forward.
4. How does Karl Joseph Look?
After two weeks of waiting, Raider Nation got to see the rookie from West Virginia as part of the team's base defense, and Joseph didn't disappoint.
The dynamic safety played 61 defensive snaps in Sunday's win over the Titans, and finished the game with a team-leading 10 tackles, and during his time on the field, the defense didn't allow the Titans to find the end zone.
"It felt good, man," Joseph said postgame. "Game started slowing down as the series went on but it felt like we did a great job. We were locked in all week, and it showed."
Although, Joseph is listed at just 5'10" and 205 pounds, his defensive teammate Sean Smith was pleasantly surprised by what the rookie brought to the table Sunday.
"Hey, Karl [Joseph] was coming up hitting," Smith said postgame. "I was surprised, being so small, that he was throwing his body in there at those big backs they've got. I think he came in, he played fast, he was loud, made all his calls. I was happy for him."
5. Can Khalil Mack make his presence felt?
It's all about the end result of the game, and the Raiders won their Week 3 matchup with the Titans, but for the third-consecutive week, Khalil Mack was not much of a factor on the final stat sheet.
In the end, Mack finished the day with just a pair of tackles, and through three games, the All-Pro defensive end has yet to tally a sack.
Now, Mack's slow start, while certainly noteworthy, isn't cause for concern just yet, but if the Raiders want to fully the right the ship on the defensive side of the football, getting big No. 52 rolling will be critical to making that happen.