ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Raiders have one fewer day of preparation for their Week 2 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. But after leading wire-to-wire in a 24-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, they have reason to feel good after their first season-opening victory at home since 2002.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden was pleased with what was a complete-team win following Monday’s game, and the positive vibes continued on Tuesday — particularly when it came to the club’s pass protection.
In 2018, only two quarterbacks were sacked more times than the Raiders’ Derek Carr: Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans (62) and Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys (56). Carr and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tied at No. 3, having been sacked 51 times — an average of 3.2 sacks per game.
That completely changed on Monday. The Broncos didn’t even register a quarterback hit on Carr. The stat is even more surprising considering pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb combined for 26.5 sacks last season and are now coached by famed defensive guru Vic Fangio.
Left tackle Kolton Miller’s development has plenty to do with the offensive line’s success. As a rookie in 2018, Miller dealt with a knee injury that hampered him throughout the season. Now he’s healthy and stronger, which allowed him to shut out Chubb, who lined up across from him for most of the contest.
“He’s got a lot of pride. And he’s just a young guy,” Gruden said. “And as we’ve said, we think he has huge upside. He has to just continue to battle and prove it.”
Miller himself was pleased postgame with how the Raiders kept Carr upright.
“That’s the one thing you want as an offensive line … keep your QB clean,” Miller said. “Props to Rodney [Hudson] for picking up the pressures and Derek identifying where pressure could come from. I think we identified it and blocked it well.”
It’s also worth noting that the Raiders were playing with two backups along the interior. With starting left guard Richie Incognito serving the first of his two-game suspension and right guard Gabe Jackson sidelined with a knee injury, Jordan Devey and Denzelle Good executed seamlessly in the Raiders’ offensive attack.
“It just means that we mesh together and we can still be successful, even with interchangeable parts,” Miller said.
Second-year offensive tackle Brandon Parker is one such part. The Raiders’ swing tackle played six snaps as part of the offense’s “jumbo” or “giant” package, which features an extra offensive lineman. Three of Parker’s plays came on third-and-short situations during the Raiders’ 13-play, 95-yard touchdown drive in the first half. The Raiders converted each of those opportunities into first downs.
Gruden said playing Parker’s role is a challenge.
“I think it’s hard,” Gruden said. “For a guy in his second year, he’s got a lot of good experience to draw from, and he’s proven his versatility.”
But for all the good feelings and positivity, the Raiders now have to get ready for the Chiefs — an offensive juggernaut that scored 40 points against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1. Gruden was particularly complimentary of Chiefs wideout Sammy Watkins, who had nine receptions for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the contest.
“Sammy Watkins catches an 8-yard pass and looks like a rocket ship coming out the backend,” Gruden said. “They’ve got a lot of skill, man.”
Perhaps Gruden could’ve avoided the Chiefs-related stress by permanently dropping his headset last night following his 100th victory as an NFL head coach.
“Yeah, I didn’t even know that until after the game,” Gruden admitted Monday afternoon with a smile. “I was thinking about walking off and going back to Hooters and retiring, you know what I mean? That would’ve been a good walk-off.”