The Las Vegas Raiders are traveling to their home away from home, for an AFC West showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers. Coming into the Monday night showdown, the Chargers are coming off the heels of a huge upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Sitting at 2-1, the Chargers look to give the Raiders their first loss of 2021. With both teams riding high, this match-up is a huge test for the Raiders, and specifically their offensive line.
Raiders Offensive Line Biggest Key to Victory in Week 4
The Raiders spent the 2020 off-season dismantling their offensive line, trading three starters and going a cheaper route up front. The experiment has been brutal thus far, as the offensive line has been the Raiders worst position group so far in 2021. New center Andre James has struggled mightily with bad snaps, penalties, and being very ineffective off the snap. Rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood has struggled in pass protection as advertised. These struggles along with two back-up guards replacing injured Denzelle Good and Richie Incognito has caused some major concerns for the Raiders. The only thing masking this issue thus far has been the resilience of quarterback Derek Carr. However, on Monday night, the Raiders offensive line is going to need to pave the way to victory against a good opponent.
The Run Game Must Improve
In 2021, the Raiders rank 25th in rushing yards per game. The only reason they aren’t lower is Peyton Barber exploded in overtime in Week 3, leading to a 1oo+ yard performance. The interior of the offensive line has struggled to create holes for the running backs. While missing Josh Jacobs has hurt the team, even the return of the star running back wouldn’t change the blocking up front. After spending a first round pick on Alex Leatherwood to improve the run blocking of the team, this start to the season has been mildly disappointing.
Derek Carr is throwing the ball 40+ times a game, and the lack of running game will eventually come back to bite the Raiders. In order to ice football games and control the game, the run game is eventually going to have to improve. The Chargers are giving up an astonishing 170 yards rushing per game, the worst in football. So, this week may be the week the Raiders pound the rock on the ground, rather than air it out. Josh Jacobs is listed as questionable, and likely to sit another week, so it will be the Peyton Barber and Kenyan Drake show on Monday night.
Slow Down Joey Bosa and Company
The Raiders are giving up nearly three sacks a game in 2021. This is not a recipe for success with a quarterback that struggles to hold on to the football. Heading into a match-up with star pass-rusher Joey Bosa, the Raiders are in for a challenge. Bosa has graded out as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL so far this season, and is probably salivating at the idea of facing struggling rookie Alex Leatherwood. The Raiders will likely chip that side as much as possible, but still will face pass rush from other areas of the line.
One thing that will help the Raiders this season is the Chargers not having a viable option opposite of Joey Bosa. Jerry Tillery is a middling option with just 5.5 sacks in his career. In result, they can offer more help to Alex Leatherwood on Bosa with an added tight end or running back on that side. With the Raiders hopefully being able to run the ball better in Week 4, and keeping Derek Carr clean, they can improve to 4-0 for the first time in nearly two decades.
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