The kickoff to the Raiders 2018 season is just days away. The Raiders will have their hands full in week one when they welcome in the Los Angeles Rams to the coliseum. The Rams were very active in the offseason, making big additions to both the defense as well as offense.
Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib are three new faces on the defensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jared Goff’s new weapon on offense is former New England Patriots wide receiver, Brandin Cooks. And all the new faces are making it tough for Gruden to use game tape to prepare for them.
The Rams were a playoff team in 2018, so with the additions they’ve made you can why Las Vegas sportsbooks have them as one of their favorites to win the Super Bowl.
The Raiders on the other hand are entering the season with much more uncertainty. You would be hard pressed to find another team in the league that has experienced the type of change the Raiders have. Let’s start with a new head coach, and entirely new coaching staff. Not to mention 29 new players on the 53 man roster, and oh yea no Khalil Mack.
The Rams really don’t have many weaknesses on either side of the ball. Offensively they can be explosive. They also can get it done on the ground with reigning MVP, Todd Gurley III or through the air. Paul Guenther will need to come up with a game plan that can somehow slow down the NFL’s highest scoring offense from 2017.
A key match up to keep an eye on is Rams wide receiver, Brandin Cooks and whomever gets the task of shutting him down. My guess would be Gareon Conley. The Raiders have faced Cooks in the previous two seasons and in both years, he has torched them.
You might recall the 2016 season opener, when Cooks was a member of the New Orleans Saints. Although the Raiders won a 35-34 thriller, Cooks had himself a day. Catching six balls on nine targets for 143 yards, including two touchdowns.
Last season, new team but same results for Cooks. Once again he posted six catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. His game breaking speed must be accounted for.
Gareon Conley was selected in the first round of the 2017 draft for a reason, and that is to be a shut down corner. I would imagine Guenther will give his young corner the opportunity prove his worth against Cooks.
Let’s take a look at what players and coaches from both teams are saying about the match up.
Head Coach Jon Gruden, when asked how he plans to sustain drives against a formidable Rams defense.
“We need to have 36 minutes of possession. Well, Wade Phillips is going to blitz, they’re going to play an eight-man front and make it almost impossible to run the ball. So, the best way to win this game is to do something when you have the ball. We’re going to have to score. When we get our chances to run it, we’re going to have to deal with some loaded boxes and some talented Ram defenders. I can’t wait to see how we do it.”
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, on the challenge of facing cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.
“Man, those guys are good players. Ball hawks, really smart players. So it’s definitely going to be a challenge for us and I’m excited about it.”
Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson, when asked about the Raiders interior OL going against the Rams interior DL.
“Great match up and our guys are looking forward to it, I’m sure the Rams are as well. I think anytime you get to compete against the best at your position in the league, I think it’s no different than our wide receivers going against a very talented secondary. I think they relish the challenge.”
Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther, on facing Sean McVay’s high powered offense.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Sean, what he does, the program he runs. They are very innovative on offense, obviously they are the number one offense in the NFL. It will be a great challenge for us Monday night.”
Kolton Miller, on playing in his first NFL game.
“Excited, very excited, a little nervous for the first regular season game but I feel good, feel ready, feel prepared. Ready to attack it.”
Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, on facing a Raiders defense that no longer features Khalil Mack.
“I think he’s a player that’s such a good football player that sometimes you’ve got to be more cognizant of others. But we have a lot of respect, they’ve gotten some young players that they’ve drafted and some veteran guys that have done a lot of good things in this league. We have a lot of respect for their front.”
Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, on facing close friend and mentor Jon Gruden.
“If you get a chance to coach against one of your mentors, and a guy that taught you almost kind of the foundation of what you know about this game, I think it would be a fun, humbling opportunity,”