ReFo: JAX @ OAK, Week 2
Oakland's Lamarr Houston continues his breakout and Jacksonville's safeties still struggle. That and more as Steve Palazzolo offers notes and thoughts for the Week 2 Raider-Jaguar matchup.
ReFo: JAX @ OAK, Week 2
I was among those that had the Oakland Raiders on the borderline of a 16-loss season, and while their talent level may be below most of the NFL, the defense deserves some notice after holding their own against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 and controlling the action this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Granted, the Jaguars’ offense isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine at this point and they’re dealing with some injuries, but the Raiders’ defense set the tone by stopping both the run and the pass right up until garbage time.
It’s still early, but the AFC West has shown well in the early going and the Raiders’ two strong games are right up there among the league’s surprises. The Jaguars, on the other hand, have some work to do on the offensive side of the ball, and a trip to Seattle to play the Seahawks next week is not the remedy they need. This wasn’t the most anticipated matchup of the week, but there were a number of intriguing performances.
Let’s take a look.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
Left Side, Weak Side
The Jaguars had mixed results up front as center Brad Meester (+1.9) and right guard Uche Nwaneri (+2.9) played strong games, but it was the left side that proved to be the weak link. Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Will Rackley graded at -2.5 and -2.6, respectively, as they allowed the majority of the team’s pressures and added little of note in the running game. For Monroe, it’s the second straight week of subpar play after flying under the radar as one of the league’s solid left tackles a year ago. Of his five surrendered pressures, four came at the hands of defensive end Lamarr Houston who got inside Monroe multiple times and even draw an illegal hands to the face penalty. The Jaguars need Monroe to return to the player that graded positively in 12 of his 16 games last season.
It’s a different situation for Rackley who’s trying to prove he belongs in the league after grading as our worst guard as a rookie in 2011 (-30.4) and then missing all of last season due to injury. He’s off to a rough start here in 2013 as he’s grading at -6.0 through two games. He had his own problems with Houston who got inside him for two pressures, including one on a stunt, and he was beaten by Vance Walker in less than two seconds at the 14:35 mark in the first quarter.
The left side of the line was the clear weakness on Sunday.
Hayes All Over the Field
One of the positives on the Jaguars’ defense was the play of linebacker Geno Hayes. He tied for the team lead with eight tackles, six of which were stops, and played a well-rounded game on his way to a +1.1 overall grade. It started out slow for Hayes who was sealed a couple times in the running game, but bounced back to make a number of plays in the hole and absolutely blew up the Raiders’ toss play at the 11:46 mark of the fourth. Hayes showed well in the passing game as he played tight coverage on RB Marcel Reese on a slant route at the 13:00 mark of the third and his similarly tight coverage at the 10-minute mark forced QB Terrelle Pryor to double clutch his throw resulting in a spiked pass as he pulled it back. It wasn’t a perfect afternoon by any means, but Hayes was always around the action.
For the second week in a row, the Jaguars got lacking play from their safeties as Dwight Lowery (-1.1) and John Cyprien (-2.6) both graded in the negative. It wasn’t disastrous by any means as both players had their moments, Lowery with a pass defensed and Cyprien with a forced fumble, but the negative just outweighed the positive. It started for Lowery early in the first as Reese was able to burst through him and into the end zone for the Raiders’ only touchdown. He was just a step slow on a number of passes, including the Oakland’s trick play with 12:10 to go in the third quarter as WR Rod Streater found himself wide open crossing the field.
Most of Cyprien’s struggles came when he tried to step up in run support. In addition to getting sealed out of a number of plays while playing in the box, he whiffed on a tackle against RB Darren McFadden at the 11:14 mark of the third quarter and later took a bad angle on RB Rashad Jennings’ 28-yard run with 8:46 to go in the fourth. The flashes are there for Cyprien, but much like he showed in the preseason, he still has some work to do to match his talent with on-field production.
Oakland – Three Performances of Note
Protection Up Front
Pryor was well-protected on Sunday as four-fifths of the Raiders’ offensive line graded positively in pass protection. LT Khalif Barnes (+3.8) led the way with a perfect day on 33 attempts while adding a beautiful second-level block on the aforementioned Jennings’ run. Center Stefan Wisniewski and RG Mike Brisiel were also flawless in pass protection while RT Tony Pashos surrendered a lone hurry. The weak spot was LG Lucas Nix who appeared to be hurt after whiffing on a screen block at the 9:56 mark of the third. He was having a rough game even before the mishap — he finished at -5.1 overall including -3.9 as a pass blocker, surrendering five pressures (two sacks, a hit, and two hurries) on 27 attempts. The first sack came at the hands of DT Brandon Deaderick who converted it into a forced fumble while the second sack saw DE Jeremy Mincey burst past Nix’s outside shoulder as he could barely get out of his stance, presumably because of injury. Nix came out of the game after 44 snaps and Andre Gurode played the last 20, grading at +2.0. Despite Nix’s struggles, it was a strong all-around effort up front for Oakland.
Strong in the Secondary
Oakland’s secondary gave the offensive line some competition for unit of the game as three of the four starters graded in the green in addition to rookie nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden picking up his first positive coverage grade of his career. CB Mike Jenkins led the way at +3.7 overall as he picked up two stops in the passing game as well as a pass defensed. CB Tracy Porter got his hand on three passes on the day while Hayden graded at +1.2 in coverage as many of his 66 yards surrendered came when the game was out of hand. The Raiders also got strong play from FS Charles Woodson (+1.9) who did a nice job working downhill on crossing routes, picking up two stops in coverage. The Jaguars’ passing offense certainly doesn’t resemble Week 1 opponents Andrew Luck and the Colts, but it was an encouraging sign see improvement from all three cornerbacks in Week 2.
Houston Continues to Impress
The new defense in Oakland appears to be playing to Houston’s strengths, currently our No. 4 rated 4-3 defensive end through two games. He notched eight hurries on Sunday on his 47 rushes while grading at +1.9 against the run. He played 69 of the Raiders’ 71 snaps after missing only one last week. Houston has taken to his new role on the right side and he’s adjusted well to playing more snaps on his feet rather than in a three-point stance. Though he didn’t notch a sack on Sunday, his pressure allowed his teammates to pick up a pair. First, at the 3:29 mark of the second quarter, Houston takes advantage of the mismatch on RB Jordan Todman to flush QB Chad Henne from the pocket and into Christo Bilukidi’s waiting arms. The second came with 4:47 to go in the fourth quarter as Houston gets inside Monroe and DE Justin Hunter cleans up the scrambling Henne.
Houston gave Monroe all he could handle off the edge and we’re interested to see if he continues to bring the pressure against some of the league’s best pass protectors.
– The Jaguars defense sent a LB or DB only once on 31 Raider drop-backs while the Raiders blitzed on 23 out of 44.
– Jaguars CB Will Blackmon’s 64 snaps were the most he’s played since Week 7 of 2008 when he was playing with the Green Bay Packers.
– McFadden picked up 144 yards on six carries off left end and right guard combined, but only 15 yards on 11 carries to all other run positions.
PFF Game Ball
There are a number of candidates on Oakland’s defense, but Lamarr Houston’s work against the run and as a pass rusher gives him the nod for this week’s game ball.
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