We were always going to find out what the 2022 edition of the Las Vegas Raiders were about Week 1 of the regular season — regardless of opponent. The NFL schedule makers, for their part, ensured the Silver & Black would tell us rather quickly what the Dave Ziegler & Josh McDaniels era has in store within the first five weeks of the campaign.
Within those first initial weeks is all three of the Raiders AFC West opponents. The Los Angeles Chargers in the season opener are first on tap as a divisional opponent. The Denver Broncos follow on October 2 and then the Kansas City Chiefs on October 10. Three division foes all before the bye week. That slate should give us a pretty good barometer for expectations as it’s a stout litmus test for the new-look Raiders.
This Sunday’s 1:25 p.m. matchup against the Chargers is down in Inglewood within the confines of the state of the art SoFi Stadium. It’s earmarked as a road game, however, don’t be surprised if it’s a home atmosphere for Las Vegas. So let’s dive right into Week 1 with the Raiders two areas of concerns against the Bolts: Cornerback and offensive line.
A revamped cornerback room that boasts a trio of newcomers — Rock Ya-Sin, Anthony Averett, and Sam Webb — to go along with two incumbents — Nate Hobbs and Amik Robertson — await a tremendous challenge of covering Chargers wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and the up-and-coming Joshua Palmer.
Allen stands 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds and heads into 2022 off an impressive 106-catch, 1,138-yard, six-touchdown 2021 campaign. In 15 career games against the Raiders, the 30-year-old Allen has notched 93 catches for 992 yards and five touchdowns with a 66 percent catch rate.
Flip it to Williams, who towers at 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, he enters 2022 off a 76-catch, 1,146-yard, nine-touchdown 2021 season. In 10 career games against the Raiders, the 27-year-old Williams sports a 27-catch, 407-yard, one-touchdown stat line.
Palmer, on the other hand, stands 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds and is fresh off a rookie season that saw him haul in 33 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns. He caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders last year.
Allen is one of the best route runners and technicians in the league while Williams is big and physical receiver. Palmer idolizes Allen and worked hard to refine his route running to mirror his mentor.
The challenge facing Ya-Sin, Averett, Hobbs and crew is steep against the Bolts. Especially considering that trio of wideouts have quarterback Justin Herbert throwing the ball. The young signal caller can sling the pigskin all over the yard.
Compounding matters is none of the Raiders cornerbacks on the active roster stand taller than 6 feet tall with Robertson being the shortest at 5-foot-8. Physicality may be another issue with Averett and Webb being more slight of build compared to both Ya-Sin and Hobbs, while Robertson is smaller than all of them.
Hobbs, in particular, may draw the task of covering Allen in the slot. The Raiders have dabbled with moving their talented young corner inside and out, but perhaps an assignment of shadowing Allen may be best.
Line of Sight
Khalil Mack returns to the AFC West donning the Bolts’ Powder Blue. While ailments negated his availability last season for the Chicago Bears, Mack did rack up six sacks in his final seven games for Chi Town. He now joins forces with Joey Bosa to give the Chargers a potentially electrifying pass rush duo. Bosa played in all 16 games last season for L.A. and got to the quarterback for 10.5 sacks.
In nine career games against the Raiders, Bosa sports a 30-tackle, eight-sack, three-forced fumble stat line. Mack, however, played only twice against the Raiders (both while a Bear) and has seven total tackles and one sack against the Silver & Black.
The challenge of keeping Bosa, Mack and the other defenders at bay and Derek Carr upright falls on Las Vegas’ offensive line. Kolton Miller represents the stalwart left tackle while Andre James returns to man the pivot. The other pieces surrounding them may be newish. John Simpson and rookie Dylan Parham are battling for the left guard spot while Lester Cotton Sr. may man right guard, with veteran Jermaine Eluemunor slotted in as the starting right tackle. Rookie Thayer Munford is in the mix with Eluemunor, too.
The effectiveness of Carmen Bricillo’s offensive line bears tremendous watching in Week 1.
McDaniels is a creative play caller that has a history of overcoming areas of opportunity. Whether it be a ground-and-pound game to try and wear out the rushers by running directly at them or quick passes, and the screen game, expect the Raiders to do everything it can to neutralize or slow down the combo of Bosa and Mack.