The Chargers are 6-2 at the halfway point of the season (it seems like we say that a lot but it feels awfully good, doesn’t it?) and there isn’t an immediate buzzkill in the near future as their next opponent, the abysmal Oakland Raiders, are barely stumbling through their schedule, as it is.
Not much has changed since these two teams last met other than the trading away of Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. This move, however, shouldn’t affect much of anything. In their last match-up, Cooper was all but a non-factor after he was held to just one catch on a single target for 10 yards. Veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin was also recently cut from the team. That only spells worse things for the defense as Irvin was one of the only players that sacked Philip Rivers in the month of October.
Although you can never completely write off a team in a divisional game, this one will make it really hard not to.
On and off paper, the team has been awful and only got worse over the last 30 days.
But alas, there are still things to keep an eye on as I’m sure this game will be a tad more interesting than we would like to expect.
1.) After two-straight games of 100+ rushing yards and 7.0+ yards per carry, can Melvin Gordon continue his momentum against the Raiders interior defensive line?
On October 7th, Gordon hit a season-low in yards per carry and his second lowest output on the ground against the Raiders. This may be surprising to look back on as the Raiders defense has been well-recorded as being a wet blanket of a unit, but it’s their interior defensive line that has been the best group on the entire team.
There are two rookies along with veteran-signee Jonathan Hankins that make up the majority of the rotation. Maurice Hurst (Michigan) and P.J. Hall (Sam Houston State) are two of the most athletic and disruptive rookies at the position so it is no surprise this is where they are finding success when limiting opponent’s run games.
Fortunately for the Bolts, Gordon finds most of his success outside of the guards and should look to exploit the sudden loss Irvin out on the edge.
2.) Will the secondary continue their resurgence against Derek Carr and the anemic Raiders passing offense?
Just a couple years removed from a potential MVP-type of campaign during the 2016 season, Carr hasn’t come close to touching that level of play.
This year, he’s on pace to set a career-high in completion percentage while simultaneously setting a career-worst in touchdown-to-interception ratio. His 10 touchdowns to 8 interceptions split is one of the worst in the league and a depth chart consisting of Brandon LaFell, Seth Roberts, and Jared Cook isn’t going to do him any favors against one of the league’s hottest defenses.
Desmond King is currently the highest-rated cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus while Casey Hayward is still one of the top cornerback in the league in terms of yards allowed per route run.
King has three interceptions in as many game over the last month with one of them being returned for a pick-six. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him snag another from the recently-rattled Carr.
Desmond King is the highest graded cornerback in the NFL so far this season. pic.twitter.com/BVjF02YVeH— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 10, 2018
It’s a match-up made in heaven for the Bolts and I’m sure there won’t be one set of chops not being licked come Sunday afternoon.
3.) With a banged-up offensive line, will the Chargers’ pass-rush have a field day?
According to the team’s final injury report, offensive guard Kelechi Osemele, rookie offensive tackle Kolton Miller, and center Rodney Hudson were all limited in each of the team’s three practices this week. However, at this point, Oakland has set to set an injury designation to any of their players, leaving the Bolts to guess prior to tomorrow’s game.
If the Raiders were to be without Osemele, Miller, and Hudson, it would leave them open to a pass-rush that has found their groove, as of late. DEs Isaac Rochell and Melvin Ingram both have 3 sacks in the last month of action while rookie S Derwin James just needs one more sack to set the all-time record for sacks by a rookie defensive back which was set by his teammate, Desmond King, just one season ago.
On another note, with a banged up offensive line early last month, the Chargers held the Raiders to a miniscule 41 yards on the ground and forced Carr to beat them with his arm. In this week’s contest, the Raiders will be without Marshawn Lynch and will have to rely on the has-been Muscle Hamster and Jalen Richard to carry the load.