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Raiders Week 1 preview: Attacking the Chargers passing defense

The Raiders can create explosive plays Sunday

NFL: New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Raiders preseason is over, and the 53-man roster will have a few minor adjustments. It is time to look at the matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, Super Bowl favorites across the football landscape.

The team is pushing to make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 2000 through 2002. It will be an excellent test for the Raiders to see if the moves they made this offseason will turn them into contenders.

Davante Adams joins the wide receiver group and adds a massive weapon to the offense. Mix this with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow; the passing offense is expected to become one of the best in the league.

Derek Carr didn't farewell vs. Brandon Staley in 2021, even though he did produce clutch moments in Week 18. He averaged a YPA of 5.46 and didn't throw over 200 yards in either game. Staley runs a diverse scheme that can confuse the best quarterbacks in the league.

What could look like zone could be man coverage or what Nick Saban calls cover 7. Vic Fangio made it famous in the NFL, while Staley added even more college elements that helped lead the Rams to the best defense in football.

His first year didn't produce the same results for Staley. His team finished 21st in passing EPA, according to RBSDM.com, and everyone knows the issues vs. the run. However, the Chargers have revamped their awful defense from last season and expect a turn by adding Khalil Mack and J.C Jackson.

Jackson might not suit up with an injury, but he wasn't there last year, and the Raiders quarterback still faced issues overall. Josh McDaniels also got a chance to meet Staley's exotic defense, and Mac Jones struggled with the pass rush. He was 17/37 for 217 yards and 5.9 YPA. However, they made enough plays to pull off the victory, and Jones missed concepts and throws he should have made.

McDaniels's game plan vs. the Chargers was a beauty to watch, and you can see his understanding of defensive rules. His acumen for knowing when to attack certain coverages was on full display, and it could be a preview of what happens on September 11th.

Attacking the safety with post routes

The Staley system is a part of the quarters family of coverages. The two-high defensive look is now a trend in the NFL, with teams all over the NFL deploying different elements to stop the high-power offense of today. One weakness is, at times, it can leave the post safety on an island post-snap while he adjusts from the original disguise. It can create huge plays if the quarterback has time.

Below the Patriots are running a concept they call pearl, which is a comeback and a deep adjustment route from the inside receiver. He can run a go, post, or an over route decided by reading the coverage. Based on the defensive rules, the slot corner has to stay with the vertical, but while it has man principles, he is still in zone coverage. He will be expecting help inside from the post safety.

Nelson Agholor does a great job of selling the vertical, getting Derwin James to flip his hips. He converts to a deep-over out with a ton of open space in front of him. Jones uses good pocket movement to find Agholor for a big play downfield.

There are plenty of examples of how Staley's defense can be exploited through deep over and post routes. Of course, your quarterback will need time to get the pass off and why Staley has Joey Bosa and Mack together.

Bunch sets

Bunch sets can create missed assignments for a defense based on the setup of the formation. Defenders must be disciplined and understand their zone or man scheme, or it leads to explosive plays for the offense. McDaniels put that on the film during Week 8 vs. the Chargers.

The Patriots are in a 3x1 set, while the Chargers are in cover 2 man, or cover 5. James has the inside receiver, but the motion changes his assignment, with Kendrick Bourne becoming the inside slot in the bunch. McDaniels calls an option route for Bourne while Myers runs an in route with Agholor on the flag.

Post snap, you see the confusion as James has to get through traffic to cover Bourne. It leaves the former San Francisco 49er wide open for easy completion and first down.

Creating one on one matchups

With the zone coverages in the Chargers' defensive scheme disciplined in man match, the need for players who can play press coverage is critical. That's why the Chargers went and got Jackson, but with him hobbled, McDaniels can use different formations to create one-on-one matchups for his receivers.

McDaniels calls another 3x1 set, this time isolating Agholar for the go route. The Chargers have MOFO split safety look post snap and both safeties outside the hashes. Since Agholar is lined up to the safety closer to the line of scrimmage, it allows a pure one-on-one with no safety to help the weak side of the field.

The safety who turns into the post safety after the snap will not have time to run to the other side before Jones can get the ball there.

Jones misses, but the opportunity for huge plays is still available. The Raiders have one of the best play callers in the league who finds ways to create easy matchups for his receiver and quarterback. Hopefully, he brings fireworks to the nation on opening day.