Oakland Raiders: Know Your Enemy - San Diego Chargers
David Wilson – Jul 25, 2012
Once again taking a look at the rivals in the AFC West, here is how the 2012 Oakland Raiders match up against the San Diego Chargers.
So, what has changed since last year?
Obviously the Raiders have new GM Reggie McKenzie, who has dumped players with outsized contracts (Stanford Routt/Kam Wimbley), and brought in others who are system fits at a more reasonable price, (Philip Wheeler/Mike Brisiel).
For the first time in 50 years, the Raiders will have a different defensive scheme, and I expect to see a much improved unit under Dennis Allen/Jason Tarver.
For the Chargers, at least they look to have had a decent draft, (unlike the screw up last year) strengthening their front seven by drafting OLB Melvin Ingram and DT Kendall Reyes in the first two rounds.
Receiver Vincent Jackson will be tough to replace as he was one of the best in the league, but the Chargers have brought in Robert Meacham and Eddie Royal who are good if not outstanding players.
Raiders Offense vs. Chargers Defense
Oakland will have Carson Palmer up to speed after a full off season and training camp, (unlike last year) and a solid offensive line. I like the move of Stefan Wisniewski to center, I think it suits his skill set much better. The Chargers defensive ends Corey Liuget and Vaughan Martin were less than inspiring against the pass or the run, so even with the addition of Reyes, I believe Oakland has the advantage here.
As these teams meet in week one, Oakland should have a healthy Darren McFadden, an elite player that the Chargers haven’t seen much of for one reason or another the last few years, although the Raiders have still won three out of the last four meetings. McFadden is truly a difference maker.
At nose tackle, rookie Cam Thomas played okay against the run, but struggled to generate any pass rush, whilst Antonio Garay was a decent pass rusher but weak against the run. Neither stand out as a complete player.
San Diego are stronger in their linebacking corps with Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes, but it is still tough for those players to defend the run when physically, the defensive line doesn’t match up well. As good as rookie Melvin Ingram has looked so far, my money is still on Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer to win that battle.
In fact I don’t think that there is a better young left tackle in the league than Veldheer.
In the receiving game, Denarius Moore has shown that he can burn Quentin Jammer any day of the week and Oakland have a young and fast receiving corps that is going to hurt some defenses this year. San Diego will be one of them.
Eric Weddle is really the lone bright spot in an average secondary, which will struggle against a deep group of Raider receivers.
Raiders Defense vs. Chargers Offense.
Vincent Jackson may be gone, but San Diego still has a functional receiving corps and Oakland has a set of cornerbacks made up of two free agents and two unproven second year players.
This is an area where Oakland will be tested defensively. Although Philip Rivers had a bad year in 2011, he is still a quality quarterback and can throw for big yards given the chance. The whole key to the defensive scheme against San Diego is pressure. If Oakland can get consistent pressure on Rivers as they did in the first game between the two teams in 2011, things will be fine. If they can’t, then we will see the second 2011 game, (where we lost) all over again. This is where Kamerion Wimbley will be missed most.
But the Chargers won’t be looking at the same Oakland defense of the past.
Expect to see different fronts, zone blitzes, and a host of other stuff from this new unit, and it is going to make a difference
Antonio Gates remains a top class receiving tight end when healthy, but has missed ten games over the last two years, and has been less than 100% in many others. Gates against Raiders safety Tyvon Branch will be a great battle to watch. Branch has just signed a big contract, and is one of the league’s best young safeties.
Oakland has a strong defensive line with Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly on the inside, and Matt Shaugnessy and Lamarr Houston at end. Houston is the least known of the three, but is a stellar run defender.
Shaugnessy was widely tipped to have a breakout season in 2011 and although he played exceptionally well when he got on the field, a shoulder injury put him in IR early on. The battle between him and Chargers left tackle Jared Gaither will be intriguing. Gaither is an elite player when healthy, but has struggled to stay fit and has a suspect work ethic.
But defensively, as well as offensively, Oakland has the advantage in the trenches, and that is tough to overcome for any team.
The emergence of Ryan Matthews at running back for the Chargers will be welcome, but like Darren McFadden he has yet to complete more than 14 games in a season. Matthews has shown some promise, but isn’t in McFadden’s league just yet—and likely never will be.
On a last but very important note, much will hinge defensively for the Raiders on how they improve in run defense. The team has consistently been near the bottom of the pile in this category for the last ten years and if they are going to make the playoffs, improvement has to come.
We know that Oakland has the best kicking duo in the league in Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler , but the Chargers have a pretty good combination themselves in punter Mike Scifres and kicker Nate Keading.
Kickoff returner Richard Goodman had an excellent year for the Chargers in 2011, (27.5 yards per return) and Eddie Royal is a useful punt returner with three TD’s in his career. Whilst the Raiders coverage teams played well at times, they gave up three TD’s on returns last year and Dennis Allen will no doubt be looking for some improvement under new special teams coach Steve Hoffman.
Finally, the other thing that you need to know about San Diego is that Norv Turner is still the coach—so whoever they draft and whatever they achieve in individual games, the sum total of their season will be the same as it always is—abject mediocrity.
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