We're half-way through pre-season, and with the regular season right around the corner, we start to wrap-up our San Diego Chargers' opponents preview. Each team has made plenty of moves in order to improve, and this series should help you become more a little more familiar with each opponent.
In other words, KNOW YOUR ENEMY...
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After a disappointing 4-12 campaign in 2013, the Raiders enter what could be a pivotal year for GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen. Since they both took over in 2012, Oakland has gone 8-24, however, with lots of new faces at key positions, they are looking to show that they are taking this team in the right direction.
Trading for Matt Schaub could help in this process, as he could provide a stop-gap until they feel Derek Carr is ready to start. The departure of Rashad Jennings, one of their lone bright spots last year, will hurt, but bringing Maurice Jones-Drew back to his "hometown" might help, as he tries to prove he still has something left in the tank. However, a rebuilt offensive line will be the key to how well this offense will be in 2014, but with plenty of questions, this unit is still a wildcard to succeed.
Defensively, the Raiders show a lot of promise on this side of the ball. Landing Khalil Mack with the 5th overall pick could be huge for them, as his pass-rush skills have been compared to the ones Von Miller processes. Pairing Mack with Sio Moore and Nick Roach could pay huge dividends down the road, as both had strong first seasons with Oakland last year, combining for 162 tackles and 10 sacks. Terrell Brown and Carlos Rogers should help a secondary that ranked 28th last year, while LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck should improve a pass-rush that looked very anemic last year.
Additions: Maurice Jones-Drew, James Jones, Donald Penn, Austin Howard, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, Terrell Brown, Carlos Rogers
Departures: Jared Veldheer, Lamarr Houston, Rashad Jennings, Jacoby Ford, Vance Walker
5. Khalil Mack, LB University of Buffalo
36. Derek Carr, QB Fresno State
81. Gabe Jackson, OG Mississippi State
107. Justin Ellis, DT Louisiana Tech
116. Keith McGill, CB Utah
219. TJ Carrie, CB Ohio
235. Shelby Harris, DE Illinois State
247. Jonathan Dowling, SS Western Kentucky
Taking Mack in the first round was a no brainer, but addressing their need at QB was a must, and drafting Carr should give them an answer at a position they saw three different players start and disappoint last year. Gabe Jackson, a 6-3, 336 pound guard, will help beef up the offensive line, while the addition of Justin Ellis should do the same for the defensive side of the ball. Keith McGill is an interesting prospect, a 6-3 DB with the potential to play CB or FS in this league.
The Raiders have had quite a few disappointing seasons over the last decade, but adding three former Super Bowl champions in James Jones, Woodley, and Tuck could help this organization turn the corner. They will be counting on Schaub to regain his form, but after a 10 TD and 14 INT season last year, along with a QB rating of 73.0, we could be seeing a similar performance if his protection falters.
With Jones adding his skills to the passing game, along with Mychal Rivera continuing to develop, this passing offense should be improved. So far, Schaub has played well, but Derek Carr has impressed through two preseason games, going 19-for-32 with 183 yards 1 TD and 1 INT, and could be pushing to start if we see the offense struggle.
If they can stay healthy, Darren McFadden and Jones-Drew should make a nice tandem in the back-field for Oakland, but that might be asking a lot, as both have missed considerable time because of injury over their careers. Marcel Reece provides versatility, and after two-straight Pro Bowl appearances, has shown to be quite a weapon.
Both teams will have an extra week to game plan for their respective home match-up, as the Raiders will be coming off their week 5 bye, after traveling to London to play the Miami Dolphins the previous week. The second match will see the Chargers coming off their week 10 bye, and a cross-country trip to Miami the week before.
Philip Rivers has a career record of 12-4 against the Raiders, while Keenan Allen has 8 receptions for 153 yards and 1 TD in two starts against them, and should continue to draw the ire of Oakland fans, after letting the Cal product slip from their backyard.
The key to this game for the Bolts will be protecting Rivers, with Oakland's pass-rush looking to prove they still have some juice left in them. Woodley and Tuck are a bit long in the tooth, but with a combined 117.5 career sacks, their additions give this unit a leadership presence they have been missing. Antonio Smith's addition brings a threat to the inside of the defensive line, but with all of them logging a combined 288 starts, their age might play a bigger factor than their experience can.
The Raiders lead the all-time series 59-48-2, with the two splitting wins last year, as each team won at home. The first game is week 6, Sunday October 12 in Oakland, with the second match scheduled for week 11, November 16 in San Diego.