Report card vs Broncos

Not much went right for the Raiders in their 41-14 season-opening loss to Denver on Monday night. Find out who got passing grades and who failed in Michael Wagaman's weekly Raider report card.

QUARTERBACK

JaMarcus Russell played about as well as could be expected considering he was missing his top two receivers and spent most of the night on the run as a result of the breakdowns in pass protection. While he made mistakes typical of a young QB -- like holding onto the ball too long, which resulted in at least one sack -- Russell also made several nice plays, including an 8-yard TD to Ashley Lelie. Not outstanding but a definite starting point. Grade: B-

RUNNING BACKS

All eyes were on Darren McFadden but it was Justin Fargas who carried the bulk of the workload in the backfield, rushing for 97 yards while also catching a pair of passes. He did get stuffed on back-to-back plays in the second half but Fargas looked as effective as he did before getting hurt in 2007. McFadden ran for 46 yards but wasn't able to get into the open field where he could do some damage. Justin Griffith did well as a receiving out of the backfield and also made two key blocks for Fargas, but Michael Bush was noticeably absent from the offense and it showed in Oakland's failures in short-yardage situations. Grade: C

RECEIVERS

Javon Walker pulled up lame before the game, leaving the Raiders with few options. TE Zach Miller was Russell's favorite target but spent a lot of time blocking and also got blatantly held in the red zone on one play the refs somehow missed. Newcomer Ashley Lelie caught three passes and made a spectacular play to snatch the ball away from a Denver defensive back in the end zone for a touchdown. Beyond that, there wasn't much to work with. Ronald Curry caught two passes but missed an opportunity at a big play when he dropped a pass from Russell in the first half with no defenders even close to him. On the plus side, rookie Chaz Schilens looked very promising while making a pair of catches. Grade: C

OFFENSIVE LINE

The running game produced 150 yards and the backs had a lot of success running to the left side behind LG Robert Gallery and LT Kwame Harris. But that was about it. Oakland didn't have much luck running to the right side and the pass protection was just short of terrible. Russell was only sacked twice but had defenders in his face most of the night. RT Cornell Green got called for a pair of false starts, LT Kwame Harris had to leave the game with an injury, and backup Paul McQuistan, who committed a personal foul on his first play after replacing Harris, later suffered what appears to be a season-ending injury. Grade: C-

DEFENSIVE LINE

Denver didn't break off any long runs or anything like that but the Broncos successfully and steadily pounded the rock right through the heart of the Raiders' defense. Oakland really had no answer for Denver's quartet of backs who kept the chains moving all game. More critically, the Raiders never sacked QB Jay Cutler and rarely got close enough to put a hand on him. That is a formula for disaster which is exactly what the game turned out to be. DE Jay Richardson started off well but tapered off as the game went along. Grade: D-

LINEBACKERS

There's plenty of blame to go around for the defensive problems the Raiders had and the linebackers are no exception. Most glaring was the play when team captain Kirk Morrison got caught out of position when he was beat for a 72-yard reception by Denver tight end Tony Scheffler. He and Thomas Howard, who were routinely in double digits in tackles last year, combined for only nine. Grade: C-

SECONDARY

So much for having the best secondary in the NFL. Denver QB Jay Cutler shredded the Raiders pass defense almost every time he dropped back to throw. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall had a particularly rough night while trying to defend rookie WR Eddie Royal, who abused the two-time Pro Bowl defensive back the entire game. SS Gibril Wilson surrendered a 26-yard touchdown in the first quarter and allowed several other completions. FS Michael Huff missed two tackles and gave up a long completion. The only good news was CB Nnadmi Asomugha, who made a nice play to stop Jay Cutler a yard short of a first down. The most telling stat for the Raiders, though, was that they did not break up one pass from Cutler. Grade: D-

SPECIAL TEAMS

It's never a good sign when your punter is the busiest player on your special teams, which was the case for Oakland and Shane Lechler. Lechler carried a 51.0-yard average and his net (39.2) would have been much better except that two kicks rolled into the end zone after almost being downed inside the 5-yard line. Sebastian Janikowski was a non-factor but kickoff return man Johnnie Lee Higgins provided the Raiders with one of their few highlights with a 58-yard return in the first half. Good enough for teams with good offenses but in Oakland's case it simply wasn't enough. Grade: C+

OVERALL

The stage was set for the Raiders to prove to the rest of the NFL that their troubled days were behind them but it didn't take long to see that simply wasn't true. All of the same old problems that have plagued the team for years -- penalties, missed tackles, poor execution -- cropped up again and kept Oakland from ever finding a groove. The Broncos, on the other hand, were crisp, sharp and well-disciplined and looked like a team ready to challenge for the AFC West power. The Raiders looked like a team that has a lot of work to do. Grade: C-


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