October 10, 2010; Oakland, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) passes the ball in front of Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston (99) during the second quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
By Travis Duncan
Will Philip Rivers have time to throw?
Left tackle Jared Gaither won't play Monday night. Rookie Mike Harris will get the start at left tackle.
Running backs, as in the past, will be asked to assist in pass protection.
"We’ve always placed an emphasis on our running backs having a big role in our pass protection,” quarterback Rivers said this week.
He added, "The [Raiders have] always been a physical group. Their front seven is also a very big group. It’s always been a great game,and it’s been three or four times that we’ve gone up there on Monday night to start the season. We’ve also talked a lot about winning division games. Scheme-wise, there’s quite a bit of difference between this year’s Raiders. "
New Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver are implementing a more aggressive scheme in Oakland and the Raiders will likely blitz. In fact, eight of Rivers' interceptions in 2011 came off of the blitz, which was pointed out by Bill Williamson of ESPN.
The Raiders feature a front four of Matt Shaungnessy, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Lammar Houston.
Three lesser known players and Seymour who made his name in New England before a surprising trade sent him to the Bay area prior to the 2009 season.
Seymour is 32 years old and struggled in 2011 with a knee injury but still managed six sacks.
The veteran defensive tackle he has confidence in this Raider defense which ranked near the bottom of the NFL statistically in 2011.
"Well, I mean, it ain't like we're pulling it out of the sky, everyone knows the type of players that we have here," Seymour told the San Francisco Chronicle regarding the Raiders defense in 2012.
"But now I feel like the coaches are putting us in the right position and just have an opportunity to go out starting on Monday night to prove it."
The Raiders lienbacker core is Miles Burris, Phillip Wheeler on the edges and Rolando McClain in the middle. Burris is a rookie fourth-round draft pick which has stepped in for injured veteran Aaron Curry.
McClain is the most recognizable name, but he hasn't exactly taken Oakland by storm after a very stellar career for the Alabama Crimson tide, Monte Poole of the San Jose Mercury News writes "In two seasons in Oakland, though, McClain is more noted for plays he misses than those he makes, more infamous for arrests off the field than distinction on it."
McClain however was second in total tackles for the Raiders in 2011 and recorded five sacks. He may not have lived up to his first-round billing, but he's got talent and can make plays for the Raiders.
The Radiers secondary is Shawntae Spencer, Ron Bartell, Michael Huff and Tyvon Brancch.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said this week regarding this young secondary, perhaps the Raiders weakest link:
“I think as they’ve all gotten used to the system and gotten used to playing beside each other and getting a little bit of a feel for where people are going to be, how people like to react to different situations, I’ve seen growth there," Allen said.
He continued, "Just like I talk about on offense, same thing on defense, we have to continue to grow. It’ll be a growth process this entire season. We’re not going to rest. We’re going to keep trying to get better every day.”
The Raiders are not a great defensive team, as legacy Silver and Black units have been. But having ranked 27th in pass and run defense a year ago they have a lot to prove and can only go up from here. The opportunity will be there for Rivers, but making sure he has time will be key.
Darren McFadden is will play in his first regular season game after missing the final nine games of 2011 with a foot injury. It will be the first time Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer and McFadden have played together.
For career, McFadden averages 5.5 yards per carry against AFC West (208 att., 1,138 yards). Raiders are 7-2 when McFadden has 100+ rush yards
The Raiders will not be at full strength at receiver, meaning McFadden could get a heavy work load.
WR Jacoby Ford could miss Monday night's game with a foot injury he has missed practice this week.
Raiders WR Denarius Moore was limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury and could also miss Monday Night's game.