The Oakland Raiders head into their intrastate, intra-division rivalry game with the San Diego Chargers on Sunday with the task of trying to slow down and stop the Chargers’ red-hot quarterback Phillip Rivers. It’s a difficult task under the best of circumstances, but the Raiders will now have to do it with a banged up defensive line.
Over their bye week last week, the Raiders placed veteran Justin Tuck on injured reserve, ending his season. Mid-week this week, second-year player Denico Autry suffered a setback with a recurrence of concussion symptoms, ruling him out for Sunday’s tilt. And, if that wasn’t enough, second-year tackle Justin Ellis is listed as doubtful with a lingering ankle injury.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) October 23, 2015
Rookie Mario Edwards Jr. will take over for Tuck, and the Raiders will need his level of play to continue to rise if the line is to remain the strength of the defense. Ends Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith are enough to worry any offense in the league, and tackle Dan Williams is greatly responsible for the Raiders’ vastly improved rush defense, third in the NFL in allowing just 83.2 yards per game.
Against the Chargers though, the rush defense isn’t the worry. Rather, it’s the Raiders 32nd ranked pass defense lining up opposite Rivers, who is fresh off a Chargers-record 503 passing yards last week against the Green Bay Packers, and on a record-setting pace of 352.7 yards per game.
The Raiders’ secondary hasn’t had the performances this year to suggest they can withstand a Rivers onslaught. As such, it will be important for the Raiders to rush the passer. While they only have ten sacks on the season so far, the Raiders have made steady improvement each and every week in putting pressure on the pocket.
Football games at every level are often decided deep in the trenches at the line of scrimmage. If the Raiders are to pull off an upset on the road, they’ll need to get the very best out of what has become a very thin defensive line.
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