The Chargers and Raiders will renew their rivalry Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
The teams open the 2022 regular season against each other, with kickoff at 1:25 p.m. (PT).
We chatted with Tashan Reed, who covers the Raiders The Athletic, to get a preview of the season opener.
Let's start with Josh McDaniels, the Raiders new head coach. What kind of culture has he created this offseason?
TR: I don't know this is really unique for a football coach, but he's really been focused on being detail-oriented and harping on the fundamentals early on. It's something that Raiders have struggled with the last few years, they've been one of the most penalized and undisciplined teams in the league. It's come back to bite them on more than one occasion. They had a really clean preseason with not many turnovers or penalties, but you have to see if that translates over to the regular season. The focus and emphasis of the coaching staff hasn't been so much on bringing over super complex schemes, but more so making sure they're doing the small things right. It really started from the ground up, which most staffs do when they come into a new place. The question coming in was if they were going to be Patriots 2.0 again, which is very disciplinarian and hard-lined and would be a repeat of what happened when McDaniels went to Denver, where it obviously didn't go well. But it hasn't been that. Guys get harped on and have to run laps, but there's a lot of laughs and smiles around the building. I think McDaniels learned from that experience over a decade ago. It's brought more balance to his personality as a coach."
Check out the best photos from the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center.
The Raiders turned heads by trading for wide receiver Davante Adams, who was college teammates with quarterback Derek Carr. Did that duo find their chemistry together right away this offseason?
TR: Before the pandemic, they would meet up in the offseason because they lived near each other in California. They would throw and work on their games, so it wasn't like they hadn't thrown any passes at all to each other since college. They're very close friends so they'd talk a lot and build that rapport. With both of them being as good as they are — in my mind, Adams is the best receiver on the league and Carr is like a fringe top-10 quarterback — it's been easy for them to connect and build that chemistry through practice and make a lot of big plays. It looks like what you'd envision it looking like with players of that caliber."
Like every other team in the AFC West, Las Vegas has a pair of stout edge rushers in Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby. With Jones, what kind of impact do you think he'll have for the Raiders?
TR: He looks like Chandler Jones. I haven't been around him early in his career, but he's been giving the offensive line some fits in practice. It was the same thing when they went against the Patriots in joint practices. It looks like he's going to create that fearsome duo with Crosby that everyone expected when they made that move. It's not really any question about them, but more so the rest of the D-line. Are they able to create a pass rush outside of those two? And then obviously stopping the run. They have two star pass rushers in my mind, but the rest of the defensive line is far less proven guys.
Name a Chargers player the Raiders will be hyper-focused on Sunday afternoon?
TR: I think there's two guys. That may be cheating, but Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. The Raiders offensive line has been an issue since last season, and a lot of that was due to injuries. But coming into this season, they really didn't make any major additions to the offensive line outside of drafting a rookie in the third round in guard Dylan Parham. So they're really banking on coaching and internal development in helping the line improve. They didn't look very improved in the preseason, even though they were playing backups for the most part. They gave up the most sacks in the league in the preseasons. A lot of pressures. Run blocking was alright but pass blocking was the issue. Now you're going against arguably one of the best, if not the best, pass-rushing duos in the league. I don't think they have a ton of answers for either one of those guys. The reason it's hard for me to pick one is that the right side of the Raiders offensive line is weaker than the left side, where they have Kolton Miller. I would say the guy that lines up on the right side, but Bosa and Mack can move across the line. Maybe they put both of them on the right side? Wherever they line up, they're going to be difficult.
Finally, what do you think needs to happen for the Raiders to be a playoff team again?
TR: I think that offensive line has to at least be passable. They have a ton of talent with Adams, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Carr and Josh Jacobs. But you need to be able to block. I know the Bengals made the Super Bowl last year with a sub-standard offensive line, but it really doesn't happen that often, right? Especially in this division. The Chargers and Broncos upgraded their pass rush. And just in general in this league, it's tough to get by without some adequate blocking. Carr isn't stationary, he's able to move around and make plays. So that's the key thing, is this offensive line the Achilles heel or not? The AFC West is a tougher division. I think the Raiders improved on paper from last year, I think the rest of the division got better, too. That doesn't necessarily guarantee you're going to make the playoffs again in what I believe in the best division in football.
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