The final quarter of the season started last week for the Raiders. They stumbled out the gates, losing badly to the Colts. They have a chance to get back on track against the rival Chargers tonight.
Maxx Crosby vs Storm Norton
This week it’s the other team that has their starting right tackle out. Bryan Bulaga won’t play with a concussion and will be replaced by third-year undrafted tackle Storm Norton, making just his second start. Crosby had a good game the last time these two teams met but haven’t had a sack in a month. Last week he didn’t get so much as a pressure on former Chargers QB Phillip Rivers. That must change in a big way this week with a favorable match-up.
Nelson Agholor vs Casey Hayward
Agholor has been the Raiders’ best receiver all season. The Raiders will depend on him even more this week with Henry Ruggs III on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Agholor will be the team’s deep threat. He had a 45-yard touchdown catch on Hayward in week nine. Raiders will need more of that tonight.
Cory Littleton vs Hunter Henry/Austin Ekeler
Nicholas Morrow played well while Littleton was on the reserve/COVID-19 list and continued that solid play after Littleton returned. Now Morrow is out with a concussion, so Littleton will need to start playing like he was supposed to when the team signed him as a free agent this offseason.
Littleton was seen as one of the best all-around linebackers in the league last season. He especially excelled in coverage. The Raiders haven’t seen much of that from him this season and they will need it tonight. They can’t afford to put a defensive back on Henry. Not with the likes of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on the field. The Chargers also have one of the league’s better receiving backs in Austin Ekeler. Littleton’s primary task will be to keep these two from gouging the Raiders in the receiving game.
Trayvon Mullen vs Mike Williams
Keenan Allen is the Chargers’ top receiver. They move him around a lot, so it takes a team effort to stop him. Williams is the most physically dominating receiver on the team and Mullen will have his hands full keeping him in check.
It was Williams who got the call for the fade to try and win the game for the Chargers. Mullen was out of the game with an injury and Isaiah Johnson made the pass breakup in which Williams was injured for the final play. No telling what would have happened had Williams been given another shot.
Rod Marinelli vs Adversity
“He looks forward to adversity, he thrives in it. I think he looks forward to these challenges of building this defense and putting it all together.”
That’s what Jon Gruden said about interim defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli on Monday, following the firing of Paul Guenther. There is certainly plenty of adversity for Marinelli to overcome.
First and foremost, this team has been completely lost as to how to stop the run of late. Since the Jets put on a long second-half touchdown drive that consisted of just one pass for 11 yards, teams have just been running it down the Raiders’ throats with ease. Marinelli has to try and fix that after taking over the job on a short week.
That same short week will also have the defense considerably shorthanded. Six defensive starters are out, four of whom have concussions. Maliek Collins has had a disappointing season with the Raiders, but he had his success on the line under Marinelli as DC in Dallas. He won’t have the chance to rebound now because he’s on injured reserve. So too is safety Jeff Heath. They’re joined by DE Clelin Ferrell (shoulder), LB Nicholas Morrow (concussion), CB Damon Arnette (concussion), and S Johnathan Abram (concussion).
The last time these two teams played, the Chargers put up 26 points on them and were within a couple of miracle pass breakups in the end zone of a game-winning touchdown drive. Marinelli may need some of them miracles again.
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