Raiders-Cardinals Game Grades
Quarterback: B In his first game after being named starter, Bruce Gradkowski showed why he's a better fit for the Raider offense. Gradkowski gets the ball out to his receivers quickly. He also showed that he isn't afraid to launch the deep ball every now and then. It's no coincidence that Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Zach Miller have performed better with Gradkowski under center. Gradkowski completion percentage of only 50.0 percent hurts and it's no better than what JaMarcus Russell could muster. The interception off a batted ball was a freak play but there were a number of throws that were questionable. When it comes to mechanics, Gradkowski does what works. But due to his lack of size and his low delivery, it looks like Gradkowski will be susceptible to a few batted passes at the line. With all that said, Gradkowski showed nice mobility and he does an excellent job buying time with his feet. Gradkowski moves the offense better than Jason Campbell and what's more, he puts points on the board. The Raiders final offensive drive to give themselves a chance to win was something JaMarcus Russell or Jason Campbell could probably not have done. Running Backs: A- Darren McFadden continues his great start to the 2010 season. He broke the century mark for the second consecutive game—a first in his career. McFadden looks different. He still has the same great speed and agility that he's flashed over the years. But this year, he's running with power and authority. If there could be one criticism of McFadden, it's not so much his fault as it is the execution. In the past two games, the team has gone away from using McFadden in the passing game. He only caught two passes for 17 yards. Michael Bush made his return and was in there for only three carries for 13 yards. It looks like the Raiders are willing to ease Bush back into the fold, especially with McFadden running as hard as he is. Interesting to note, on goal line situations in the red zone, the staff put Bush in the backfield instead of McFadden—still showing some confidence in their power back. Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+ Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey continue to impress with Gradkowski at quarterback. Murphy finished with five catches for 119 yards. It's the first time in his career that he's had two consecutive games of 90 yards receiving or better. He did an excellent job of getting open and working with the ball after the catch. Heyward-Bey had only three catches for 49 yards, but he had a lot of balls thrown his way. He was especially utilized in the deep passing game—an area that the Raiders were trying to exploit. Heyward-Bey's biggest play was on fourth down of the Raiders final drive. He made a nice move to come back to the ball for a 12-yard reception, and had the presence of mind to get out of bounds. Zach Miller had a nice game—four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. He had one drop that should have been a first down grab, but other than that, he continues to be old reliable for Gradkowski. Besides two catches a piece from McFadden and Marcel Reece, the only other tallied reception was courtesy of tight end Brandon Myers. It's probably not on the team's immediate radar right now, but eventually, it will become more necessary for the offense to get more people involved. Chaz Schilens' returns, whenever that may be, will definitely add to the passing attack. Offensive Line: C+ With Langston Walker get nicked up, the Raiders rotated in Khalif Barnes at right tackle. Mario Henderson got most of the time at left tackle, although rookie Jared Veldheer rotated in and out as well. Those two tackle spots continue to be a weakness for the team. Whether it be on the pass rush or on mental errors like pre snap penalties and holding calls, the tackles have slowed the offenses' development. Against the Cardinals, penalties were yet again an issue. Gradkowski was sacked three times, and while there were a few times he had excellent protection and had time to throw, he was hurried for most of the day. Henderson's confidence is noticeably shaken and sharing time with a rookie probably doesn't help the cause. Hopefully, Tom Cable has something up his sleeve to get his left tackle back on track. Daniel Loper probably had the best performance. With Robert Gallery missing his second consecutive game, Loper has filled in more than admirably. Loper moves especially well for his size, and was on traps and pulls, he was always in the thick of the action and making critical blocks. Samson Satele got dinged up a bit but was able to finish the game. As it's been the trend this season, the run blocking was better than the pass blocking. Defensive Line: B Richard Seymour was back in action and had a good game, finishing with four tackles and a sack. Matt Shaughnessy also had a sack for the Raiders. As a unit, this group did an excellent job at containment. There were a few times they were pushed off the line and holes opened up for Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. But as the game wore on, the defensive line went hat-on-hat with the offensive line, opening up space to move for the linebackers. It was one of the better performances by the Raider linebackers, and it's all thanks to the defensive line's ability to keep the big bodies off them. The pass rush had its moments, but as a whole, needs to keep a consistent pressure. This is especially true when going up against a guy like Derek Anderson who doesn't have the greatest pocket presence and mobility, and struggles mightily with pressure. Linebackers: B+ As mentioned above, the linebackers had an excellent thanks to the defensive line's ability to contain and keep the big bodies off Rolando McClain and company. McClain had perhaps the best game of his young career. He only had four tackles, but he did an excellent job at making adjustments at the line and assuming a larger beyond his play on the field. After the snap, McClain was quick to the ball and made nice solid tackles. He'll only get better as the season moves along, and that's a scary thought. Kamerion Wimbley and Trevor Scott had nice games. Both of them are terrors on the pass rush, and there were a number of times they forced Anderson to throw early and off target. Quentin Groves was a playmaker on Sunday. He finished with only one tackle, but recovered a fumble on special teams and also intercepted a pass. Secondary: A- On one hand, Derek Anderson is not a very good quarterback. On the other hand, the Raiders secondary held Larry Fitzgerald to two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown. The matchup between Fitzgerald and Nnamdi Asomugha was the most notable battle coming into the game, and it didn't disappoint if you're a Raider fan. Asomugha and Fitzgerald were physical throughout the game, and Fitzgerald was certainly frustrated by the constant pressure. Asomugha did have a pass interference call against him, but whenever you can hold the NFL's best receiver (arguably) to those numbers, you take it as a victory. Michael Huff finished with six tackles, and he's probably feeling all of them right about now. Huff and Beanie Wells got plenty familiar with each other. Tyvon Branch once again led the team in tackles—he finished with nine. While he has more than proven himself as a solid defender who is always in the heat of a play, Branch has to watch his overaggressive play. Stevie Brown had a nice game with two tackles. He's a spark plug on defense who just has a knack for making plays. Special Teams: F First of all, Shane Lechler gets an A+ for his performance. He was his usual self: five punts for a 51.8 average and two punts inside the 20-yard line. Jacoby Ford did a nice job on kick returns, finished with 83 yards on three returns. The coverage team gets a well-deserved F for their embarrassing performance. LaRod Stephens-Howling finished with 179 yards on five returns, the big blow being the game opening 102-yard touchdown return. Of course, the story of the game is Sebastian Janikowski's no-show. Last year, Janikowski missed only three field goals total. He matched that number in Sunday's game, and already has five for the year. This is especially disconcerting after Janikowski received a record deal this offseason. After the game, Tom Cable said that the game was not won or lost with the final kick. But we beg to differ. A virtual chip shot for Janikowski, he instead pushed it to the left. Certainly, the Raiders had plenty of other opportunities to win the game. But when it comes down to it, critical plays are critical plays. And they don't get much more critical than a 32-yard field goal to win the game with only four seconds left. This one is going to hurt for a while, Raider Nation. What looked like a 2-1 record is now a 1-2 start to the season. And it doesn't get much easier with the Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers on the horizon.