What We Saw: Ravens at Raiders

This. Game.

Ravens @ Raiders

Final Score: Ravens 27, Raiders 33

Writer: Corey Saucier (@Deputy_Commish on Twitter, /u/Lights_Kamara_Action on Reddit)

 

Let me start by saying that this game was absolutely insane, especially from the second half on. Early on, Baltimore cruised out to a 14-0 lead and things weren’t looking great for the Las Vegas Raiders in their debut with fans in their lovely new stadium. The Raiders’ offense came out flat early on – being forced to punt on each of their first four possessions. On the other side, Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson and newly-crowned starting RB Ty’Son Williams both had an impressive first half for Baltimore. I attempted to watch the ESPN2 broadcast featuring Peyton and Eli Manning, but after just a few seconds in, I realized that was a bad idea. The second time that the action cut away from the game to Peyton at a whiteboard while he and Eli gave mock cadences back and forth, I knew I would be better off with the original broadcast (even with my annoyance at Louis Riddick’s insistence of referring to the red zone as the ‘red area’). I mean, sure, the words ‘zone’ and ‘area’ are somewhat interchangeable, but clearly only one of them is correct. Come on, man! Could you imagine a certain telecast on Sundays featuring Scott Hanson being called The Red Area? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. Anyway, I digress.

Raiders’ QB Derek Carr got off to a slow start – ending the 1st quarter with seven straight incompletions. Even when the Raiders had success moving the ball early, offensive penalties and mistakes cost them on multiple occasions – including a bad snap on a 3rd-down play that Carr wasn’t ready for, knocking the Raiders out of field goal range. But then, after halftime, everything started to change. Lamar Jackson came out cold throwing the ball and Carr eventually started to get things going. Raiders’ TE Darren Waller ended with a career-high 19 targets (yes, you read that correctly) and finally found the end-zone on his 19th late in the fourth quarter. Raiders’ WR Bryan Edwards had an interesting evening. After not recording his first catch until there were 34 seconds left in regulation, Edwards appeared to score a 33-yard walk-off TD in overtime – but the replay review showed his knee touched down just before the ball broke the plane. Had the play stood as a TD, Edwards would have finished with five catches, 114 yards, and a TD – all while being held to a goose egg until 34 seconds were left in the 4th. I could go on and on about how entertaining, back-and-forth, must-watch this game was, but I literally can’t wait to get into all of the fantasy implications involved. Let’s dive into what we saw:

 

Baltimore Ravens

 

Quarterbacks

 

Lamar Jackson: 19/30, 235 yards, TD | 12 carries, 86 yards, 2 Fumbles (2 Lost)

 

Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson opened the season with a respectable fantasy performance on Monday night against the Raiders, but not a great one. Jackson cooled off a bit last season to finish as the QB10 after setting the league ablaze with his 2019 MVP campaign. With his top three RBs lost for the season before even the first snap Monday night, it’s been theorized that Jackson’s fantasy value should get a slight bump overall. I would generally agree with that take, seeing as how Jackson is going from being the best runner on his offense by a little bit to being the best runner on his offense by a lot. From a passing standpoint, Jackson begins the 2021 season with rookie first-round WR Rashod Bateman and perennial contributor WR Miles Boykin on IR. Even with all the injuries that have piled up on this offense, Jackson certainly has the star power to be a solid contributor this year.

That being said, Jackson was clearly a disappointment on Monday night, failing to find the end-zone on the ground and losing two fumbles on the ground as well.

 

 

His lone TD pass came on a broken third-down play, scrambling around and giving enough time for WR Marquise Brown to find an opening in the defense:

 

 

Jackson also broke a couple of signature runs to extend Baltimore drives, including this one to set up a go-ahead FG in the 4th:

 

 

All in all, it wasn’t an awful night for Jackson, but those who have him rostered will certainly hope for more from him next Sunday night against the Chiefs.

 

Running Backs

 

Ty’Son Williams: 9 carries, 65 yards, TD | 4 target, 3 receptions, 29 yards

Latavius Murray: 10 carries, 28 yards, TD

Trenton Cannon: 2 carries, 5 yards

 

What started out as a legitimate RB Ty’Son Williams coronation extravaganza, eventually became a head-scratcher that saw Williams finish with only 3 touches from 9:18 left in the 4th quarter onwards. Williams actually looked really sharp in the first half – including finding the end-zone with this 35-yard burst on 4th down:

 

 

Williams also looked plenty capable as a receiver. Baltimore doesn’t traditionally throw to their RBs super often, but Williams’ three grabs for 29 yards brought his total yards to nearly 100. Now, I know what you’re thinking – and I agree. It’s hard to be upset a hyper-efficient 7.8 yards per touch, nearly 100 total yards, and a TD for Williams in his first real NFL action. We know Baltimore is going to get multiple backs involved, no matter what.

Speaking of other backs, RB Latavius Murray made his debut for Baltimore on Monday night as well but wasn’t nearly as efficient with his workload. He was especially inefficient on his first-half touches, being hit behind the line of scrimmage multiple times – including on a fourth-and-one just before halftime. Murray would have been a risky start in this one either way, but if you were forced to start him, at least he was able to get in the end-zone on this eight-yard scamper:

 

 

While it’s no guarantee that Williams will hold onto the lead-back role with Murray already taking touches and RBs Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman waiting in the wings, his performance on Monday night showed that he’s capable of producing as long as he’s there.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Marquise Brown: 6 targets, 6 receptions, 69 yards, TD

Sammy Watkins: 8 targets, 4 reception, 96 yards

Mark Andrews: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 20 yards

 

As I mentioned in the opener, Baltimore opens their 2021 season slightly thin at the WR position. Until Bateman and Boykin return from IR, the Ravens will rely heavily on WRs Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins, as well as newly-rich TE Mark Andrews. Brown flew under the radar in a lot of drafts this year after having a sneaky-good second half last season, and he certainly looked the part of Baltimore’s WR1 on Monday night. Brown hauled in each of his six targets, including the TD seen above. WR Sammy Watkins made an impression in his Ravens’ debut – pacing Baltimore’s pass-catchers with 8 targets and already showing a rapport with Lamar Jackson. Watkins hauled in this circus, over-the-shoulder catch late in the game to set up Latavius Murray’s TD:

 

 

TE Mark Andrews was the lone disappointment of the trio on Monday night – finishing with only five targets and three grabs. Andrews will surely be worked more into the offense as the season goes on, but Las Vegas did a good job of taking him out of the game. There were a couple of routes where Andrews snuck open but Jackson opted to go elsewhere with the ball, and Andrews was unable to secure a target late in overtime on the play just before Jackson’s second fumble that would have helped to pad his stats.

 

Las Vegas Raiders

 

Quarterback

 

Derek Carr: 34/56, 435 yards, 2 TD, INT | 4 carries, 6 yards

 

Raiders’ QB Derek Carr struggled out of the gate, but he rebounded to not only lead Las Vegas to an overtime win to open their 2021 season but also to finish with a better fantasy performance than counterpart Lamar Jackson. Carr force-fed targets to TE Darren Waller at a rate he had never done so before, and ultimately it paid off for the Raiders’ offense.

Carr’s only “mistake” of the night was an interception late in overtime that went through the hands of Willie Snead IV, bounced off a defender’s helmet, and right into the hands of Anthony Averett.

 

 

It wasn’t totally Carr’s fault, but the throw was clearly too hot for Snead to handle.

Carr didn’t have much help from the running game, either – Las Vegas rushed for only 82 yards as a team on the night. Carr’s 435 passing yards were the most he’s had in a game since Week 4 of the 2018 season against Cleveland. Raiders’ head coach Jon Gruden has made it well-known throughout his career that he wants to create a power-rushing offense that uses the run to set up play action. That being said, 400-yard passing performances are not indicative of the type of offense Las Vegas would like to run, but with RB Josh Jacobs noticeably banged-up and Waller as the clear top offensive weapon on this offense, you have to wonder if Carr might just be able to keep up this type of passing volume. I will leave you with this absolute walk-off dime to WR Zay Jones:

 

 

Running Backs

 

Josh Jacobs: 10 carries, 34 yards, 2 TD | 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Kenyan Drake: 6 carries, 11 yards | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 59 yards

 

With Raiders’ RB Josh Jacobs earning the ever-elusive ‘toe/illness’ injury designation this week, it was murky coming into Monday night’s game as to just what his workload might look like. Jacobs was clearly in pain from the very beginning of the night – being forced to limp off and change his cleats on the Raiders’ opening possession. Even at less than full-strength, Jacobs was able to rip off a couple of impressive runs – but he also threw in a few duds as well. You wouldn’t think that Jacobs was hurting on this 15-yard TD burst:

 

 

Jacobs’ injury status will certainly be worth monitoring going forward. Meanwhile, first-year Raider RB Kenyan Drake looked solid as a receiver out of the backfield. Drake’s 1.8 yards per carry average was less-than-stellar, but he matched Jacobs’ pace with 11 total touches and clearly seems to have gained Carr’s trust as a receiver. Drake lined up all over the field for Las Vegas, and his usage going forward is certainly something to keep an eye on.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Darren Waller: 19 targets, 10 receptions, 105 yards, TD

Hunter Renfrow: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 70 yards

Henry Ruggs: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 46 yards

Bryan Edwards: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 81 yards

Zay Jones: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 46 yards, TD

 

TE Darren Waller was targeted 19 times on Monday night. The end. Clearly, I’m kidding, but Waller was so heavily involved in the Raiders’ passing attack that the game was halfway through the second quarter before Derek Carr threw his first completion to a wide receiver. Now, it’s difficult to imagine that Waller will keep up this pace and finish the season with 323 targets, 170 catches, 1,785 yards, and 17 TDs. Obviously, I’m joking there, but after Monday night it’s easy to imagine Waller putting up even bigger numbers than he did last year. Waller left multiple plays on the field on Monday night: including a 22-yard gainer that was wiped out on a suspect offensive pass interference call on WR Bryan Edwards. Waller also had a shot to make a play on a ball misthrown by Carr, but just stabbed one hand towards it instead. Here’s Waller’s spinning, diving TD grab on his 19th and final target of the night:

 

 

Raiders’ WR Hunter Renfrow seemed to establish himself as the Raiders’ #2 target behind Waller in the passing game for most of the night. Renfrow was continuously able to get separation out of the slot, and he showed the toughness to make contested catches as well. Renfrow was so effective that not only did he force Baltimore All-Pro CB Marlon Humphrey to cover him on several occasions, but he also drew an unnecessary roughness penalty against Ravens’ LB Patrick Queen. Renfrow likely won’t be on the radar for many TDs, but if his role stays around Monday’s clip then he could be worth rostering and potentially work himself into flex consideration.

WR Henry Ruggs appeared to be favoring his lower leg after his first catch of the game just before halftime but was able to finish the game after all.

As mentioned in the opener, Bryan Edwards – a popular/sleeper/breakout candidate – carved out a respectable fantasy performance, even though he was just 34 seconds away from a complete goose egg. Carr has talked a lot about him in the lead up to the season about how he expects Edwards to be a guy he can rely on this year, and when the game was on the line he looked Edwards’ way time and time again, and Edwards delivered. It was an impressive few minutes for the young WR and we may have seen the breakout that many were expecting. If he’s somehow available in your league, now is the time to add him before it’s too late.

 

 

Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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