The Las Vegas Raiders debut Allegiant Stadium on Monday night against the NFL’s premier offense — led by its most prolific quarterback — of the last 15 years. Mike Mayock may only be in phase one of rebuilding the Raiders defense but the difficult challenges like stopping Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook behind one of the best offensive lines in the league aren’t going to wait until Vegas believes they’re ready.
They have to be ready this Monday.
To preview the Saints, who won their Week 1 matchup 34-23 over Tom Brady’s Bucs (since 2006, the Patriots lead the NFL with 112 30-point games, followed by the Saints at 106 and third place is all the way down at 82), I’ll go through their current and expected starters for Monday Night Football.
This will not include all-pro receiver Michael Thomas, who will miss his first game since his rookie campaign in 2016. It will include a lot of other good players.
QB - Drew Brees, Taysom Hill
I can’t imagine there have been many times in the last 50 years that you could preview another team’s quarterback position in the NFL and felt compelled to mention two names. In week 1 against Tampa Bay, Brees played in 66 of 68 snaps and Taysom Hill made his way onto the field for 17 offensive snaps, including 1-of-1 passing for 38 yards.
Brees went 18-of-30 for 160 yards and two touchdowns. His 5.33 yards per attempt was the lowest such mark he’s posted since November 29, 2018 against the Cowboys. However, in his last eight games, Brees has thrown 24 touchdowns and one interception while only being sacked six times and completing 72.8-percent of his passes.
Hill is not likely to throw more than one or two passes and his usage in Week 1 was basically the same as it was last season.
RB - Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Taysom Hill, Ty Montgomery
As much as outsiders want to claim that running backs don’t matter, the NFL’s most potent offensive franchise since 2006 has paid Kamara ($34.3 million guaranteed) and Sean Payton didn’t go out and get an undrafted free agent or sixth round pick to replace his 30-year-old between the tackles.
Murray carried the ball 15 times for 48 yards against the Bucs, totaling 23 snaps.
Kamara had 12 attempts for 16 yards and a touchdown, plus five catches for 51 yards and another touchdown on eight targets. After scoring 31 touchdowns in his first two seasons, Kamara only had six in 2019. He’s already one-third of the way there.
Hill had three carries for 13 yards. He only had two games last season with three or more carries.
Worst @NextGenStats rush yards over expectation, Week 1:— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) September 15, 2020
1. Derrick Henry, -36 ($50 million)
2. Alvin Kamara, -24 ($75 million)
WR - Emmanuel Sanders, Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Taysom Hill
What happens now without Michael Thomas, who is out with an ankle sprain? The answers for Brees and Payton may fall outside the spectrum of his receivers. Sanders caught three of five targets for 15 yards in Week 1, with a touchdown. Harris had a 17-yard catch. Smith had a four-yard catch. Hill had a 14-yard grab.
There’s been some hype around Smith for several years but he’s yet to put it all together and become a reliable receiving option for Brees.
It may be more targets for Jared Cook and Kamara and Hill.
TE - Jared Cook, Adam Trautman
Cook was the main weapon in Week 1, catching five of seven targets for 80 yards. At 33, Cook really seems to have found “home.” He caught nine touchdowns in the final 10 games last season and could be the one player for Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski and the like to be focusing on this Monday.
Jared Cook was the focal point of the Saints passing attack last Sunday. Combine him with Kamara and Raiders LBs and safeties will have to be on their game on Sunday.— The Mad Raider (@RaiderLoot) September 16, 2020
OL - Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz/Nick Easton, Ryan Ramczyk
If there’s an offensive line for the Raiders to be jealous of, this would qualify. Ruiz, a first round pick this year, missed Week 1 but could return and take back the right guard job he won in camp. McCoy was a second rounder last year. Even with so many great things about this group, Payton continues to build it up and it should provide a difficult test for the Las Vegas defensive line.