The 2020 NFL season opened with a bang for the newly minted Las Vegas Raiders. It may have looked like the Raiders defense was still struggling with past woes, but their control in one very key aspect of the game could lead them to a victory in their inaugural game at their new home – Allegiant Stadium on Monday Night Football.
The season opener in Carolina against the Panthers was a good back-and-forth affair for the teams. With nine lead changes throughout the game, the Raiders commanded the first half and held star running back Christian McCaffrey to just eight rushing attempts for 31 yards. He scored one of his two touchdowns on the day during that first half, but overall it was very quiet for the do-everything McCaffery as the Raiders defense held him in check.
In other words: the Raiders defense was doing its job and doing it well.
How does that translate to the Raiders home opener against a much more stout New Orleans Saints team? Probably better than one would expect.
Alvin Kamara on that side of the ball may make it appear to be an insurmountable task for the home team, who may very well be without starting linebacker and defensive captain Nick Kwiatkoski. But the build-up after the Raiders starter went out was promising. The game ended on a 4th-down and short attempt by the Panthers to push their way up the gut to keep their hopes alive. The attempt was thwarted by Raiders 2019 first-round pick Clelin Ferrell who might have had a quiet day otherwise but came up big at the moment that mattered.
With a week under their belt to plan for the stout rushing attack of the Saints and to adjust for the likelihood of a Taysom Hill and Jared Cook passing game, the Raiders are in a promising position. With new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, the team has a defensive mastermind who spent the last several seasons organizing plays to stop the likes of Saquon Barkley and Zach Ertz.
The Raiders have a heavy hitter back in safety Johnathan Abram and the linebacker corps, while seemingly depleted, still has the talent to contain a running back that, while incredibly talented, just isn’t Christian McCaffrey. With the right players in the most effective positions, this is a Raiders defense that has the ability to keep a game close and give the offense a chance to make their presence known.