Written for Salute Magazine; original here
It took a lot for the Oakland Raiders to hold off the Tennessee Titans in their first regular season game of 2017 on Sunday. A 26-16 score usually suggests a tough, grind-it-out contest, and this one was no different. Here are five standout performers from the Raiders opening week win.
Derek Carr, QB
Carr had the richest contract in NFL history at one point during the offseason, and he sure looked like he was worthy of such a status on Sunday. He completed 22 passes out of 32, finishing with 262 yards and two touchdowns. The second TD throw was a beauty, putting the ball in a perfect spot for Titan killer Seth Roberts to reel it in between two defenders.
The biggest thing to take away from this performance for Carr is efficiency. A 68.75% completion rate could be improved on, but Carr didn’t make any poor decisions during the majority of his throws, the one thing he could’ve stood to fix during the offseason. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the fourth year signal caller.
Amari Cooper, WR
It definitely wasn’t perfect for Coop. He dropped a couple of passes and wasn’t on the same page as Carr for two throws. But when he flashed, it was brighter than the sun.
Cooper had 5 catches for 62 yards and a TD, the first that Carr threw. That play in particular was one of the highlights of the game, as Cooper kept himself from tackled by using the ball to brace his body from the ground, charging for the endzone with a push from a few of his offensive lineman for the score. He also had two long catch-and-runs on third down conversions. Coop looked deadly in the preseason, and he could stay that way if he erases the mental mistakes.
Michael Crabtree, WR
While Cooper had the flashier plays, Crabtree was the most consistent target for Carr during the game, (barring tight end Jared Cook who caught all five of his targets). The veteran receiver caught 6 passes for 83 yards. All but one of them went for at least 10 yards. He had a few acrobatic catches of his own as well. A one-two punch of Cooper and Crabtree may be near-unstoppable.
Karl Joseph, S
The Raiders defense has a lot of work to do in order to stay competitive, but Joseph isn’t a problem. The second year safety led the team with 9 total tackles. He was instrumental in cleaning up the messes of some of his teammates. Joseph also had a clutch pass break up that forced the Titans into a chip shot field goal. He could be poised for a breakout season.
Giorgio Tavecchio, K
A kicker? Well, when that kicker is responsible for 14 of your 26 points in his first regular season game, he deserves some recognition.
Tavecchio faced the enormous task of replacing the Raiders’ longest tenured player, Sebastian Janikowski, who had to go to injured reserve the day before the game. He came through big time, hitting all four of his field goal attempts. Two of them were from 52 yards out, and the last one iced them the game for the Raiders with under two minutes left. He even hit the crossbar on his first kickoff. Any concerns the Raiders had with Seabass’ absence may have been erased with Tavecchio’s performance.