Instant Replay: Panthers 17, Raiders 6

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Instant Replay: Panthers 17, Raiders 6

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE -- The Raiders defense, for all intents and purposes showed up for the second game in a row.

The offense? Not so much. And really, it was playing down a man when quarterback Carson Palmer was knocked out of the game at about the 2-minute mark of the first quarter on a spear by Greg Hardy. Matt Leinart replaced Palmer, who was diagnosed with a rib injury, and the offense sputtered, with random signs of life.

But Oakland's red-zone issues continued.

Carolina 17, Raiders 6.

The Raiders last scored a touchdown on Dec. 6, with 5:36 to play against Denver.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton passed for 170 yards, on 18-of-29 passing, with a touchdown and an interception (Raiders rookie linebacker Miles Burris' first of his career), while rushing for 60 yards on 12 carries.

East Coast woes continue: The Raiders' losing streak in games played in the Eastern Time Zone moved to 10 straight. In the skid, the Raiders have been outscored by a combined 332-16, losing by an average score of 33-16. And since Dec. 15, 2002, when Oakland lost in Miami, 23-17, the Raiders are now just 5-27 in games played in the Eastern Time Zone.

Third-and-one mishaps: It would seem to be the easiest of play calls, but for the Raiders, it spelled disaster. The first three times the Raiders faced a third-and-one, Darren McFadden lost five yards on a pitch, Carson Palmer was obliterated by Greg Hardy and a pass from Leinart to Marcel Reece lost two yards.

Missed calls: A blatant hold on Lamarr Houston allowed Cam Netwon to throw a 23-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to Steve Smith. Then Newton kicking Tommy Kelly before Kelly retaliated and was thusly flagged was missed. And a personal foul on Miles Burris for a helmet-to-helmet hit on that same drive kept things alive for the Panthers.

"Icon" and "Entertainer" updates: Newton's kick of Kelly was at least the third time he took exception to a defensive player taking him down. Earlier, he had thrown quick jab-like punches at Miles Burris and MIke MItchell on separate plays. Later, in the fourth quarter, Newton was flagged when he ran into the referee as he attempted to taunt Mitchell.

Injuries…again: Besides Palmer, two other Raiders were knocked out of the game due to injury. Strong safety Tyvon Branch, who is dealing with an ankle injury, came out with a foot issue. And cornerback Phillip Adams, who has been concussed in two of the past three games, suffered a groin injury in the first half.

TP Time: Terrelle Pryor came on the field for three plays -- throwing a pass to Palmer and then taking the ensuing pass from Palmer for a 22-yard gain; running for a two-yard pickup inside the Panthers' 10-yard line; and hitting Marcel Reece for a five-yard pickup in the red zone.

Up next: The Raiders (4-11) end the season against the same team against whom they opened -- the San Diego Chargers (5-9). In the season opener, the Chargers beat the Raiders, 22-14, at the Coliseum, in a game in which the Raiders infamously lost their long-snapper Jon Condo to a concussion.

Raiders select DT Eddie Vanderdoes in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

Raiders select DT Eddie Vanderdoes in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

EDDIE VANDERDOES
Position: Defensive tackle
College: UCLA
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 305 pounds
Selection: Third round, No. 88 overall

The Raiders needed depth at defensive tackle. They got some in Eddie Vanderdoes. Whether he helps provide an interior pass rush – he needs improvement in that area -- or joins a run stuffing rotation will be determined in time, but the UCLA product is a solid athlete despite not looking the part. He’s agile with exceptional strength capable of dominating blockers along the interior line.

Good push is needed against the run and pass, especially with Dan Williams released in a salary cap move earlier this month.

Draft analysts say Vanderdoes brings toughness to his position group, and doesn’t mind taking on double teams. He has better pass-rush ability than his stats and shape suggests, assuming he can continue to develop that aspect of the game.

He’s from Auburn, just northeast of Sacramento, and will be happy playing closer to home the next few seasons.

Vanderdoes has an injury history. He missed most of the 2015 season with an ACL tear and didn’t seem to be 100 percent in 2016, when his performance took a dive. If Vanderdoes can return to pre-injury form, the Raiders have a solid player on the roster.

They didn’t produce enough in the middle against the run or pass, and need help to form a rotation capable of slowing opponents down on the interior. He can play on the nose or in three technique if asked, adding strength and versatility to the base package. Creating interior push could help Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin off the edge.

The Raiders entered this draft needing defensive help, and have added three players on that side of the football. The Silver and Black still need help at linebacker as they move into the draft’s third day, where depth can be added to this group.

Raiders select safety Obi Melifonwu in second round of the 2017 NFL Draft

Raiders select safety Obi Melifonwu in second round of the 2017 NFL Draft

OBI MELIFONWU
Position: Safety
College: Connecticut
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 224
Selection: Second round, No. 56 overall

The Raiders don’t have many safeties, a position group with Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph and not much else.

They added a physical specimen in the second round, someone who can play aggressive near the line of scrimmage. Melifonwu stands 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, which gives him an advantage intercepting and breaking up passes.

This is an excellent value at this spot in the second round, and provides depth and competition at a key defensive spot. He can cover tight ends well without being a size mismatch, an asset the Raiders have lacked in recent seasons. He’s a hard-hitting tackler with breakneck speed. He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine and jumped out of the building during agility drills.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said during the draft broadcast that Melifonwu can play press cornerback and linebacker in certain packages outside his natural safety spot. He has great range, helped by size and speed to cover miscalculations.

Analysts say he can be slow to diagnosis plays, but could be aided by veterans around him in the Raiders backfield. He also struggles at times as the last line of defense.

The Raiders have taken two defensive backs in as many selections, trying to fortify a pass defense ranked a disappointing 24th last season. They gave up too many big plays in the back, and the Raiders had drafted players who can shore up that deficiency.

General manager Reggie McKenzie prefers size in the secondary, and they got a player with great physical traits who can be developed into an even better player.

Incumbent members of the Raiders secondary should be on notice, with young bucks set to compete for significant playing time. It should be a deeper, tougher unit with Melifonwu and first-round pick Gareon Conley.

He impressed at the NFL scouting combine and the Senior Bowl, where he proved he compete with higher-level competition. If Melinfonwu and Conley make an immediate impact, the Raiders pass defense should be much improved.