It’s only Week Six, but the Oakland Raiders find themselves in a must win game. The Chargers are coming off their first win of the season and the Raiders are desperately trying to get a win. Oakland is already three games behind in the division but luckily this next game is at home. That makes scoring points all the more important. Los Angeles is No. 21 in total defense and giving up the 11th most points in the NFL. The Silver and Black must find ways to beat a defense led by Gus Bradley.
Bradley comes from the Seattle Seahawks coaching tree. Prior to spending the past four seasons as the head coach in Jacksonville, Bradley was the defensive coordinator from 2009-12. He helped the Seahawks establish a culture of defense that includes the Pro Bowl legacies of Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman.
In Jacksonville, Bradley helped the Jaguars make significant which included being the No. 6 defense last year. The Chargers defensive coordinator landed his first NFL assistant job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he stayed with the organization from 2006-09. Bradley also coached at Fort Lewis College and North Dakota State, where he played collegiate ball.
It’s no surprise but the Chargers are tied for third in the NFL with 17 sacks for the year. They’re also allowing the fourth fewest passing yards per game. Again, not surprising considering Bradley was intricate part of the Seahawks’ original Legion of Boom.
This is also a physical unit and they will be more physical versus their AFC West rivals. Mentally, Oakland cannot come out flat like they have the past three weeks. They’ve also got to stay tough and impose their will on a team they should dominate. Oakland cannot have franchise left tackles getting rattled by fans outside the parking lot, like Donald Penn after last week’s game. The Chargers were a missed field goal away from beating the Raiders at home last year. This will be a tough game as Los Angeles will try to do it again.
Scheme-wise Oakland is playing their first base 4-3 defense of the year. However, Bradley is known for using hybrid and multiple defensive fronts. Melvin Ingram will mix it up by putting his hand on the ground or rushing as a linebacker. Either way, the Raiders assignments will not change. It is all about communication upfront, especially if Carr is unable to play. Last week, they had a few breakdowns in protection that could easily be fixed by talking and recognizing blitzes before the snap.
The Chargers biggest weakness is their run defense. They are giving up the most running yards per game and it is surprising given the depth they have in the front seven.
It’s on the Raiders to utilize their offensive line and running backs that we have heard a tone about. Generally, a team’s running game is supposed to improve as the season goes on but that has not been the case with the Raiders. The RBs are doing their best to gain yards and the O-line has been solid even if they’re not great like years past. However, the Raiders passing game is not the same threat as last year and teams are keying in against the run.
This week, Oakland needs to get their running game going. The right side of the offensive line, including Gabe Jackson, has to show improvement this week. Oakland should also ride whichever running back is hot. Each RB offers something different but the Silver and Black need to stick with whoever is the hot hand.
Additionally, WR Amari Cooper hasn’t been in rhythm all season so the offense needs to find ways to get his confidence up. Sure, Cooper has dropped passes and he has another tough matchup versus Casey Hayward and the rest of the Chargers’ secondary.
For the Raiders, they’ve got to find ways to pass against this defense. Pass protection looked improved last week but that was against the Ravens. This week, the offensive line has gotta protect E.J. Manuel or Derek Carr. If Manuel gets the start again, it would be great to see more zone read and playaction bootlegs. They did this a few times last week but they need more. They also need more multiple tight end sets to find some mismatches on linebackers and safeties.
Otherwise, Los Angeles has not created a lot of turnovers this year. They’ve created two interceptions and four forced fumbles. The Raiders can’t give away the ball in this game. Los Angeles needs to get worn down by the Oakland’s running game. A few turnovers could easily give the Chargers life in what will be a physical battle.
Gus Bradley will have his defense fired up and prepared. It is up to the Raiders to come out with confidence on offense, regardless of who starts at QB. They can easily beat the Chargers defense with their run game and deep attack but it starts by having an imposing mindset across the offensive unit.
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