Full of high hopes, and eager for a fresh start, the Oakland Raiders took the field Monday night ready to face the Los Angeles Rams.
Following the first 30 minutes of action, the Silver and Black entered halftime with a 13-10 lead, as the Raiders defense limited the Rams to 99 total yards of offense.
That trend didn't last however.
Following the break, the Raiders struggled to piece much of anything together offensively, failing to score the rest of the game. Regardless of the fact the offense had a disappointing second half, tight end Jared Cook's performance will go down as one of the best of his career.
Against his former squad, No. 87 came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Headed into the halftime Cook already had over 100 yards, and he wasn't about to stop there. In the second half, Cook added to his already impressive stat line by finishing the game with nine receptions and 180 receiving yards — tying New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas for the most among all receivers in Week 1.
Cook had the Rams number all night, and he attributed that to a lot of studying and preparation.
"We knew going into the game they were going to play a lot of man, so we knew we had matchups all across the board," he said. "It was just taking advantage of mismatches and finding open guys."
Derek Carr wasn't at his best Monday night, and I'm sure he'd be the first to tell you, but his connection with Cook was on full display against a loaded Rams secondary. No. 4 targeted Cook and running back Jalen Richard more than any other receiver (9), with Cook finishing as the team's leading receiver.
Postgame, Head Coach Jon Gruden met with reporters to discuss the Raiders highs and lows from the game, and shared some high praise for his tight end.
"Jared Cook came up huge today," Gruen said." The nature of their coverages allowed us to get the ball to our tight end and backs."
The offense certainly would've liked to start the 2018 campaign on a better foot, but Cook believes the team as a whole is better than last year's.
"The pieces that we got. The players that we got. The coaches that we got," Cook said when asked about how the team got better. "Guys in this locker room know football, guys in this locker room have played a lot of football, and at a high level. Some of the best guys in the league to have on your team. It's not about football knowledge, it's about how you take that and put it on the field, and we have a lot of guys that can do that."
Week 1 is never indicative of how any team will perform for the next 15 weeks, so there's no reason to push the panic button just yet. If there's one thing we know about Gruden, he's not going to waste time getting back in the facility and watching the tape. Postgame he was pleased with the overall effort from his team, and even though there's some areas that need correcting, Cook's night will be the main highlight.
Next week the Raiders will travel to Colorado to face the division rival Denver Broncos at Mile High. We'll see how the group responds Sunday.