Rams at Raiders
The Raiders host the Los Angeles Rams at 7:20 p.m. for “Monday Night Football.” Here’s a breakdown by position.
Derek Carr and Jared Goff both have plenty of upside, but Goff has the luxury of already being acclimated with his playcaller, Rams coach Sean McVay. Carr and Raiders coach Jon Gruden are entering Year 1 together and it’s tough to tell how that marriage will work out. Gruden hasn’t called plays in a decade and Carr is coming off a letdown season. Goff and McVay operated arguably the league’s best offense in 2017.
Last season, the Rams took home most of the annual awards, with one going to Todd Gurley for AP Offensive Player of the Year. Gurley had a season to remember with 19 total touchdowns and 1,305 rushing yards. Many view Gurley as the best running back in the NFL. Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch is back for an 11th season, but he’s dealing with a groin injury. The Raiders will rely on Doug Martin and Jalen Richard to pick up the slack.
The Rams have a standout trio with Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Cooks is a first-year player in L.A. after being traded by the New England Patriots. The Raiders have a solid duo with Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, but the team is still waiting for a third receiver to emerge. Nelson will make his debut with the Raiders after playing 10 seasons in Green Bay.
The Raiders could struggle with their tackles not being up to speed. Donald Penn is moving to right tackle this season and appeared rusty during preseason. Rookie Kolton Miller takes over Penn’s old position at left tackle. The Rams’ stout offensive line is led by left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
The Rams rewarded star defensive tackle Aaron Donald with a new contract and partner in crime. Former All-Pro Ndamukong Suh signed as a free agent to give the Rams a scary one-two punch on the interior. The Raiders didn’t pay their star defensive player, Khalil Mack, who now plays for the Chicago Bears. Oakland is hopeful rookies Arden Key, P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst could fill the giant void.
The Raiders have three new starters at linebacker after signing Tahir Whitehead, Derrick Johnson and Emmanuel Lamur. Whitehead is coming off back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons in Detroit. The Raiders are expecting Johnson to provide leadership just like he did in Kansas City for many years. The Rams are thin at linebacker after trading Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants.
The Rams loaded up at cornerback by trading for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. The new duo could be one of the best in the league. The Raiders have three new starters in the secondary, which struggled mightily in 2017. Raiders second-year cornerback Gareon Conley could have a breakout year.
Greg Zuerlein is one of the best kickers in the league and Pharoh Cooper made the 2017 first-team All-Pro as a kick returner. The Raiders are relying on veteran kicker Mike Nugent. Dwayne Harris will be the kickoff and punt returner for the Raiders.
The Oakland Alameda Coliseum will be rocking for Gruden’s return to the Black Hole. This will be Gruden’s first regular season game as coach of the Raiders in 16 years.