Film Session: Raiders banged up O-line faces tough challenge on short week

The Raiders won’t have much time to celebrate their victory over the Detroit Lions as they will be facing off on Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers for control of 2nd place in the AFC West. These short weeks tend to favor the home team and Oakland will take all the help they can get.

Injuries and an early suspension of left guard Ritchie Incognito have conspired to prevent the offensive line from playing at full strength this season. Those issues are continuing into week 10 as center Rodney Hudson did not play last week and right tackle Trent Brown left the game with a knee injury. Either or both of the Raiders best offensive linemen missing this game could lead to a rough day for the offense.

The Chargers’ defense is one of the best in the NFL ranking 7th in total yards as well as sporting the 8th-best scoring defense. Throwing on the Chargers is especially difficult, too, as they boast the 5th-ranked pass defense and are tied for 17th with 21 sacks on the year. The Raiders will need to be stout up front if their 28th-ranked defense once again struggles and quarterback Derek Carr is forced to put the ball in the air.

Let’s jump into the film room and see what they will be up against.

Straight 4-man rush

There are numerous ways that a defensive coordinator can scheme a pass rush. Stunts, blitzes, and replacement pressures can be effective at getting hits on an opposing quarterback. Unfortunately for the Raiders offense, the Chargers don’t need to do any of that. Their combination of EDGE rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have racked up a combined 11 sacks with Bosa accumulating 8.5 of them.

“He’s a problem,” Head Coach Jon Gruden said of Bosa. “He’s just a really good pass rusher. He’s got tremendous hand usage, (and) get off. He’s got an arsenal of moves and it’s hard to find him, he moves around. We’ll have our hands full with him.”

Having an elite EDGE rusher that can constantly win his one-on-one match-ups allows the defense to simply rush four and get to the quarterback. Of the teams 21 total sacks, 16 of them (76.1%) have come from a straightforward (no stunts) four-man rush. Hopefully right tackle Trent Brown can go this week and make life at least a little difficult for Bosa.

Melvin Ingram on the move

Melvin Ingram has 2.5 sacks so far this season but he impacts plays in ways that do not always show up on the stat sheet. They move him around and bring him on blitzes from multiple angles.

“Ingram is all over the place,” Head Coach Jon Gruden said at Monday’s press conference. “Someone needs to do a statistical chart on this guy, how many miles he runs per game. He’s the middle linebacker on their goal line defense. He’s a Rover on 3rd down. He walks around, I don’t know where the hell he is.”

This is where having center Rodney Hudson on the field to make protection calls would really help. Having all five starters would also help with the communication required to pick up these twists the Chargers use with Ingram walked up over the guard.

The good news for the offense is back-up center, Andre James, has been playing well. Also LA hasn’t utilized as many stunts and blitzes. Only two (.09%) of their sacks have come from stunted 4-man pressures. Likewise, they only have three (14%) of their 21 sacks coming from 5-man (blitz) pressures.

This all adds up to the Raiders needing to handle their one-on-one blocking assignments. Gruden will make it easier for them with a similar game plan to what he rolled out in week one against the Broncos. Expect the tackles to cut the EDGE players and the passing game to center around quick throws designed to get the ball out of Carr’s hands.

The Chargers 20th-ranked rush defense will also be tested early and often. The Raiders lay claim to the 6th-ranked rushing attack behind talented rookie running back, Josh Jacobs. Between quick throws and pounding the run, Oakland can control the time of possession and minimize the Chargers pass rush opportunities. As long as the game remains close, that is. If the score gets out of hand and the offense has to play catch-up, it could give Bosa an opportunity to add to his highlight reel.

The Raiders face a tough test possibly missing their two best pass protectors, but if they can keep the game close, they will have a shot at getting their second win in 5 days. A win would give them sole possession of second place in the AFC West. It could also move them into control of a wild-card spot depending on how other games shake out. A loss won’t necessarily end their playoff hopes but it would put them at least 2.5 games behind a Kansas City Chiefs team that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Whichever way it goes, this might be the game that defines the Raiders 2019 season.

Twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL

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