Opponent Breakdown: Las Vegas Raiders

Jason Huber
September 11, 2020 - 1:27 pm
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LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (0-0)

Head Coach: John Gruden, 3rd season.

Head to Head: 3-3 all-time and Panthers lead 2-1 in Carolina

Offensive Strength: The Raiders struggled offensively in 2019, but with second-year running back Josh Jacobs proving his worth, the Raiders have a formidable rushing attack along with tight end Darren Waller, who is coming off a breakout season. Quarterback Derek Carr ranked 16th in the league last season with 253.4 passing yards per game and will have a lot younger and faster-receiving core to work this season. Las Vegas drafted speedy wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards this offseason and will have both rookies starting against the Panthers. Against a Panthers defense that isn't expected to be very good, the Raiders might be able to get their new offense rolling. The offensive line is also one of the top units in the league with Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, left guard Richie Incognito and rookie John Simpson leading the way.

Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Raiders TE Darren Waller Photo credit Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Offensive Weakness: Carr hasn't been able to replicate the success he had his first few years in the league and has struggled to help the Raiders get back to winning since 2017. That is the biggest question for the Las Vegas heading into the season. Carr has more talent this year but despite the speed of Ruggs and Edwards, they are still rookies. If Carr struggles, new backup Marcus Mariota is out this week and Nathan Peterman would be the next man up. Which, isn't good for Vegas.

Defensive Strength: The Raiders have sophomore defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby returning along with Johnathan Hankins and Maliek Collins in the middle to create a tough defensive line. Vegas' big defensive offseason acquisition was linebacker Corey Littleton who will replace now Panther, Tahir Whitehead. The Raiders also have depth behind Ferrell and Crosby with Carl Nassib and Arden Key, creating a scary edge. Ferrell and Crosby combined for 14.5 sacks as rookies in 2019.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Raiders DE Clelin Ferrell Photo credit Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Defensive Weakness: The Raiders secondary has question marks despite trying to improve it this offseason. They ranked 25th in passing defense in 2020. They'll have second-year safety, Johnathan Abram returning after missing all of last season following a Week 1 injury but weren't able to find an upgrade over Erik Harris at the free safety position. At corner, Las Vegas is still young with rookie Damon Arnette expected to start alongside second-year corner Trayvon Mullen, creating some questions until they prove their worth.

Special Teams: Punter AJ Cole, a former N.C. State player is entering his second season with the Raiders and netted 67 punts, 18th most in the NFL, averaging net yardage of 46 yards a punt, which ranked him No. 16 among all starting punters last year. At kicker, Daniel Carlson missed seven field goals last year but has been reportedly improved during training camp. For Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow is projected to be the punt returner and running back Jalen Richard will take kickoff returns.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Raiders Punter A.J. Cole Photo credit Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Injuries: 

Panthers:
OUT: G Dennis Daley (ankle)
Questionable: DE Stephen Weatherly (hamstring), CB Stan Thomas-Oliver (hamstring)

Raiders:
All Healthy as of Friday

Matchup vs. Carolina: Carolina won't be favored in many games and is a 3-point underdog in this one. There are a plethora of questions on the Panthers defense including a very weak secondary that might have trouble with the fast receivers that Vegas has. The Panthers have to hope Christian McCaffrey does his thing and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater can get the ball moving against the Raiders pass-rush. Vegas is the better team on paper and we'll find out a lot more about this Carolina team come Sunday.

Quotable:

"They're an extremely talented team. Derek (Carr) is an outstanding quarterback. A big, physical, powerful offensive line. Good backs, a good run game. They're going to physically oppose their will upon teams. Really, there are a lot of things they can do that can you give trouble. But if you don't find a way to stop the run, coach Gruden and coach (Greg) Olson will keep going back to it and will beat you up." -Panthers head coach Matt Rhule

"He walked in there, beat Penn State, turned that place around and he did it with style. This guy is special. He has a lot of passion, he has a lot of knowledge, and he brings a relentless presence every day." -Raiders head coach Jon Gruden on Rhule.

"They've (Raiders) got a lot of new players and they're a new defense. Just understanding their different elements and watch the game, they play hard and it's a fun defense to watch on tape. I think what they did and the acquisitions that they did, they've got guys who can make plays on the ball. At the end of the day, we have to end every drive with a kick," -Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady

"It (the Raiders' offense) all stems from their offensive line and run game. I think they're one of the better running teams and you know, time of possession. They do have a controlled passing game that helps with that. Last year they were in the top 10 in a lot of offensive stats so they present a lot of problems," -Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow

"I think we can be really good, it's just a matter of executing. I look around and I don't see something that we don't have. That's exciting as a player but in the NFL everyone has talent. We look around our team and we have so much talent but that's why they call it "any given Sunday" -- the team that plays the best on Sunday is the team that's going to win," -Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey

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