The Oakland Raiders are not the same team as in 2011 in a lot of ways. Many of the offensive players are the same, but the scheme is completely different. On defense, the Raiders will have new starters at two linebacker positions, both corner spots and the nickel position on top of having a new defensive scheme. Monday night will be the first test for the newly rebuilt team when the Raiders take on the San Diego Chargers. Here is a look at how the Raiders match up against their division rivals.
The Chargers are coming into the game with two key injuries on offense that may have a big impact on the game in favor of the Raiders. Starting left tackle Jared Gaither will be out of the game and will be replaced by an undrafted rookie. Starting running back Ryan Mathews also does not look like he will play much, if at all, on Monday. Both of these injuries are big for the Raiders. The defensive line for the Raiders is with out a doubt the strongest unit on that side of the ball and should be able to keep Philip Rivers under pressure most of the game. Meanwhile, the Raiders have struggled to stop the run for years now, and without Mathews, the new scheme will not face a very strong run game.
The down side for the Raiders defense is that their corner backs are pretty questionable. The Raiders do not have one single corner back left on the roster from 2011. Shawntae Spencer looked pretty good in the pre-season, but Ron Bartell was not nearly as convincing. At the nickel spot, however, the Raiders were able to make a big up grade by signing Joselio Hanson when he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles. Before the Eagles decided to over dose on corner backs by getting Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the same off season, Hanson was considered one of the better nickel backs in the league. With a good pass rush and good safety play, the Raiders might be able to keep Rivers in check. If, however, Rivers returns to the Rivers of old, it could be a long day in the Raiders secondary.
On offense, the Raiders have a big challenge in front of them. The Chargers have a strong linebacker unit and drafted a pass rushing specialist in the first round of the draft in Melvin Ingram. Overall, the Chargers defense should be improved over last season. The key will be the play of the Raiders offensive line. If they can open lanes for Darren McFadden and give Carson Palmer a decent amount of time, the Raiders should be able to move the ball. The problem is, the Raiders offensive line did not look strong in the new zone blocking scheme in the pre season.
The Raiders are not opening the year against a push over by any means, but they are not brutally out matched either. The Chargers match up well with the Raiders and the two teams should put on a good show for NFL fans in the first Monday Night Football of the year.