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What we learned from Raiders 26, Titans 16

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That wasn’t the start that anyone wanted, but here are a few takeaways from Week 1.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Welp, that wasn’t the hot start that all Titans fans were hoping to see this week, but the good news is that we still have 15 games left to make up for it. Let me give the Raiders some credit. They played very well today on both sides of the ball and got an incredible performance from a rookie kicker. Hats off to them. They are going to be a force in the AFC this year.

That being said, I think this game was a lot closer than what you’re probably feeling right now. Check out these team stats for the game:

First Downs: Raiders 22, Titans 21

Total Yards: Raiders 359, Titans 350

Yards Per Play: Raiders 5.7, Titans 5.6

Turnovers: Raiders 0, Titans 0

Penalties: Raiders 5-49, Titans 5-49

That’s a close game, even if the Titans ended up 10 points short on the scoreboard.

Before we get in to my initial reactions from the game, it should be noted that I haven’t reviewed the All-22 tape yet so some of my opinions may change slightly once I get the chance to take a closer look.

Corey Davis is the real deal

Its hard to get much better than the first catch of Corey Davis’ NFL career.

He finished the game with 6 catches for 69 yards, and very much looked the part of a future go-to receiver despite being supposedly "limited" coming in to the game according to Mularkey. I’m ready to see what the unlimited plan looks like. He also generated the most separation on average of any Titans receiver at 3.36 yards according to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats.

There were a few misfires in Davis’ direction that were the result of miscommunication with Mariota. That’s going to happen when you have a rookie who missed most of training camp. Its going to take some time for those guys to get on the same page.

Adoree Jackson stepped up to the challenge

The Raiders went at Jackson early and often, but I thought the rookie held his own against a very formidable passing attack. He had a couple very nice pass breakups and never got burnt. I’m not going to knock him for the "missed tackle" on Cooper for the Raiders first touchdown. He did enough to get the guy down, Cooper just made a great play to stay up and keep fighting.

The one kickoff return was nice. While the leap was cool to see, I’m not sure I want to see it again unless he’s out in the open field. That felt like an injury waiting to happen. The balance he showed when he took the big hit from the Raiders player and just bounced right off him was pretty special. He’s taking a kick back at some point this year. Its just a matter of when.

Johnathan Cyprien had a horrible debut

I watched a lot of tape on Cyprien this summer and this was the worst I’ve seen him play by quite a bit. Usually a sure tackler, he missed — by at least one count — as many as 5 tackles today which is really really really bad. He also got caught in coverage on Amari Cooper a couple times and that went about as poorly as you’d expect.

To make matters worse, he ended up having to leave the game with what Mularkey called a "strained hamstring". We will see if he’s able to play next week in Jacksonville, a game that I’m sure he really wants to play in. Cyprien isn’t a bum so I fully expect him to bounce back, but this was about as bad a start as he could have had.

Jurrell Casey might have had his worst game as a Titan

Casey was a total non-factor for this entire game. You never see him just disappear, but it happened today. Credit the Raiders interior line — the best guard to guard group in the game — as well as their coaches for figuring out a way to neutralize one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game.

Casey finished with zero tackles and zero pressures. That won’t happen again this season, but it killed our defense today. Adding some salt in the wound was Marshawn Lynch trucking him in the 4th quarter. The Titans need more from him.

The offense in general looked out of sync

The offense got off to a good start, scoring a touchdown on their first drive, but fizzled after that. I’m willing to chalk a lot of this up to rust. Decker and Davis missing big chunks of camp showed up today. Decker’s slip on a big third down route was costly, and I’d like to never see him on the receiving end of a bubble screen ever again. That’s what you have Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor for.

Speaking of Taylor, I was disappointed that we were never able to even get a good look at a deep shot down the field to him or Davis today. This is something I want to check the All-22 and see if I can figure out why. Chunk plays were so important to this offense last year and they really never got one today.

The running game seems a little off as well. The Titans only ran the ball 21 times today which is likely to be among the lowest total all season. Part of that was game flow late, but the Titans run game never got its rhythm early either due to entirely too many 3rd and 4+ situations caused by short runs on 1st and 2nd down. It’s hard to get on track offensively when you’re constantly behind down and distance.

Finally, Mariota wasn’t his best self today. I don’t think he played horribly — he was turnover free and made some really nice plays, including his touchdown run — but the Titans need him to be better than OK. He struggled with his accuracy in the 2nd half and even had a couple gimme type throws land at his target’s feet on key third downs in the 1st half. Throwing to new targets can explain some of those issues, but these timing and communication issues need to get worked out soon.

A couple major positives from Mariota from this game for me were his pocket movement and his speed. He did a great job of moving around the pocket to avoid pressure all game. He also flashed his speed a couple times on runs and looked like the same explosive Mariota we’ve always known.

I thought the defense actually played pretty well

26 points allowed isn’t exactly a banner day for the defense, but 9 of those points came on long field goals of 43, 52, and 52 yards. Rarely will you see any kicker have the day Giorgio Tavecchio did against the Titans, much less a rookie kicker making his NFL debut.

The run defense was up and down most of the game. I’ve got to say that I was surprised at how good Marshawn Lynch looked at 31 years old after being out of the league for a year. He’s still got it and that’s going to make them even tougher on offense.

I thought Logan Ryan played pretty well for the most part. The Seth Roberts touchdown — seriously, almost 40% of his career TDs have come against the Titans — came against Ryan, but I’m not sure that Byard wasn’t supposed to have inside help on that coverage. That’s one I’ll have to go back and watch. Otherwise, the Raiders largely stayed away from Ryan.

Erik Walden was impressive in his debut for the Titans. He got a bunch of snaps and I thought he looked good. I’m interested to go back and watch the tape on him to see if he was as good as I thought on the first watch.

To me the single biggest problem with the defense today was tackling. The Titans should be a pretty good tackling group based on the track record of their personnel, but that didn’t show up in this game. The good news is the Titans don’t have to play an offense like this again until Pittsburgh in Week 11.

Special teams were not great

First, lets talk about the onside kick. I like the call even though it didn’t work out. I thought Tye Smith should have attacked the inside shoulder of the guy who recovered for the Raiders instead of the outside shoulder. If he does that its almost certainly a Titans recovery. Luani Shalom made a great play to hang on to that ball with Smith hitting him too. I like the aggression from Mularkey though.

That is just one of several special teams plays that directly helped the Raiders score points. They also had a running in to the kicker penalty on a punt block attempt by Brynden Trawick which directly resulted in 3 points for the Raiders. I’m not sure Trawick wasn’t blocked in to the feet of Marquette King, but that’s a complaint for another day. In fact all 3 guys that were brought in specifically for special teams — Daren Bates, Eric Weems, and Trawick — all committed penalties on special teams today. That’s got to be cleaned up. And last but not least, they allowed a 41 yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson that helped get the Raiders in range for the game clenching field goal late in the 4th quarter. That’s 13 points that can be traced back to execution on special teams. That would have been enough to change the outcome of the game, and this is why special teams matter.

Odds and End

  • The Titans lost this game, in my opinion, on special teams miscues and lack of execution in the red zone.
  • Jacksonville, the Titans next opponent, destroyed the Texans and caused a classic Bill O’Brien short fuse QB benching of Tom Savage. Turns out Savage is who we thought he was. The Jags finished with a franchise record 10 sacks in the game, including 4 by free agent addition Calais Campbell. The Titans offensive line better be ready next Sunday. The Jags did lose wide receiver Allen Robinson for the season with a torn ACL.
  • The Jags defense is probably pretty good, but the Texans offense is awful. Both QBs averaged an Osweiler-esque sub-5.0 yards per attempt Sunday while Lamar Miller average just 3.8 yards per carry. They may be in serious trouble.
  • The Colts may have been even worse. Scott Tolzien was awful and they got routed by the Rams 46-9. It was so bad that Chuck Pagano forgot which team just whipped him after the game.

The Colts aren’t winning a game unless Luck comes back.

  • The Titans can take over 1st place in the AFC South with a win over the Jaguars on Sunday.
  • Cyprien was the only injury of note for the Titans this week. Mularkey did say that it would be possible for the Titans to get LeShaun Sims back for Week 2.