ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Raiders have been one of the best teams in the league at pass protection, allowing just nine sacks in 2019. But they haven’t faced a pass-rushing tandem like the Chargers’ Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Those two have combined for 11 sacks — 8.5 from Bosa and 2.5 from Ingram. In addition, Bosa’s 17 quarterback hits are tied for the third-most in the league and he’s tied tor the league lead with 11 tackles for loss. Ingram, who missed two games with a hamstring injury, has five tackles for loss and five quarterback hits.
They figure to be a handful for the Raiders to handle on Thursday night.
The Chargers are coming off their best defensive performance of the season on Sunday, allowing just 184 yards to the Packers. Los Angeles’ previous low was 233 yards surrendered in a 30-10 victory over the Dolphins in Week 4.
The Chargers’ victory last week displayed the Bosa/Ingram tandem at its best. Each player had 1.5 sacks. Bosa finished with four quarterback hits and Ingram had two.
Despite pass protection being a Raiders’ strength — only the Steelers have surrendered fewer sacks — this should be the biggest challenge yet to the Raiders’ front.
“Oh my gosh — they’re two of the best in the whole NFL and they’re on the same football team,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “You see what they did against a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers last week. It was tough for Green Bay to get first downs, tough for them to move the ball at points.”
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Bosa and Ingram are so difficult for an offense to counter because of their effort and diverse skill sets. Gruden noted that in addition to being a defensive end on early downs, Ingram lines up everywhere along the defense as a rusher in known-passing situations. He is also the Chargers’ middle linebacker for their goal-line defense.
“I don’t know where the hell he is,” Gruden said. “He’s sideline to sideline. He runs like a linebacker (but) he’s got defensive end prototype size.”
With Bosa, Gruden put it simply: “He’s a problem.”
One other aspect that makes Bosa and Ingram particularly dangerous is when they both rush from the same side. Most of the time, teams will put their best pass rushers on opposite sides to rush one-on-one against the offense’s right and left tackles. The Chargers will do that, too, but occasionally they’ll line up Bosa and Ingram next to one another, which can cause issues with a team’s pass protection.
“When they’re both healthy and on the field at the same time, you can’t chip both sides unless you’re in max protection all day. So they help each other that way,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “But when you put them on the same side, we do that for matchup reasons to see how teams are going to adjust.”
One of the players tasked with countering Bosa and Ingram will be left tackle Kolton Miller. He’s gone against the Chargers a couple times and says some of what Los Angeles does is different than what the team has seen so far this season. Plus, Miller said, both rushers are special in how they play.
“Melvin is kind of a shifty guy — he’s got power, he’s got speed. Bosa, he’s got his long arm. And they’re both really dynamic — they try to play off each other,” Miller said. “We’ve got to really dial it down these next couple days to be ready for it.”
The Raiders have combated injury issues along their offensive line all season — the club has started six combinations of linemen in eight games. Miller is the only lineman to start each game this season. He said the Raiders have still been so good at pass protection because everyone has bought into what the coaching staff has been preaching.
“We’ve been able to identify the pressures,” Miller said. “And as long as we’re all on the same page (with) picking up our guys, it makes it really clean.”
Starting center Rodney Hudson (ankle) and starting right tackle Trent Brown (knee) are questionable for Thursday’s game. Andre James and David Sharpe would start at their positions, respectively. If Hudson and Brown are out, getting on the same page against Bosa and Ingram will be of even more importance to the overachieving Raiders’ offensive line.