In the NFL, most teams operate under the "24-hour" rule with coaches and players given a full day to process the game before turning their attention to the next week. As an evaluator, I take a little more time to sort through the tape to make notes and observations on how the team can improve from week to week.
Given a couple of days to review and reflect on the Raiders' loss to the Cardinals, here are three observations from the eyes of a former NFL scout.
No Davante, no problem
After Davante Adams' impressive debut against the Chargers, the Cardinals made sure No. 17 was surrounded by at least two defenders on key downs. The loaded coverage neutralized the All-Pro wideout (two catches, 12 yards) but the Raiders' offense did not skip a beat with Derek Carr forced to target the "others" on the perimeter.
The veteran finished the night completing 25-of-39 passes for 252 yards and two scores. Most importantly, he connected with seven different targets in an efficient performance that showcased the Raiders' versatility in the passing game.
From quick passes out of empty formations to an assortment of screens and swings to the running backs, the Raiders seemingly had an answer for the Cardinals' defensive tactics, particularly in the first half. With Carr's discipline and patience enhanced by Josh McDaniels' multi-faceted playbook and "snowflake" game plans (no two game plans are alike), the Raiders seemingly have answers for the challenges opposing defensive coordinators will throw at them.
With more time and repetitions to improve the chemistry and execution, the Raiders' offense has the potential to emerge as an unstoppable force as a diverse aerial attack.
Where are the closers?
The football world was buzzing after the Raiders inked Chandler Jones to put the Pro Bowler on a frontline that already features Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby. The duo was not only expected to wreak havoc off the edges but they were supposed to help the close out games with critical sacks and pressures.
Against the Cardinals, the Raiders' pass-rushing tandem combined for a sack and five QB hits, but could not come up with a key stop in the fourth quarter with the team nursing a 16-point lead. Perhaps the cumulative effect of chasing a "rabbit" (dual-threat quarterback) all over the field wore down the veterans, particularly with the Cardinals running 50-plus offensive plays in the second half.
The combination of up-tempo football and non-stop pursuit drills left the defensive line weary and unable to chase down an explosive dual-threat quarterback with the game on the line. Considering how Murray ran around to block a few times on each of his critical two-point conversions, the Raiders need their star pass rushers to find a way to finish the game like an MLB closer in the ninth inning.
In a division loaded with premier quarterbacks, teams invested heavily in pass rushers to close out games in the fourth quarter. The Raiders need Jones and Crosby to play like superstars in the fourth quarter to prevent elite quarterbacks from stealing wins at the end of games.
Finish, finish, finish
The Raiders experienced enough winning in 2021 to understand the urgency and attention to detail needed to win. Last season, the squad recorded an NFL record six walk-off wins to sneak into the playoffs for just the second time since 2002.
Although the 2022 version has a different leader and a handful of new faces, the veteran-laden squad has enough individual and collective experience as winners to understand how to finish games. From the proper execution of the "four-minute" drill with runners staying in bounds to keep the clock running to playing "top-down" defense to eliminate deep balls in key moments, the Raiders have veterans with winning resumes to know what it takes to chalk up a win in an ultra-competitive league.
"You have to maintain the ability to be aggressive," Coach McDaniels said Monday. "We have to learn to play aggressively with a lead. ... There's an art to learning how to finish a game the right way against an opponent who's going to apply some pressure to try to get back into it. It is what it is. That's going to happen in every game that you get a lead in."
The NFL season is a marathon with the best teams displaying enough competitive stamina to make it to the finish line. Despite an 0-2 start, the Raiders have more than enough time to absorb the lessons from the early season losses to become a better team down the stretch. With more attention to detail and a greater urgency to finish the job in the fourth quarter, the Raiders can quickly transform these losses into wins and climb back into title contention.
View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 2 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals at Allegiant Stadium.