The regular season is finally here. After an offseason full of change and significant roster turnover, the Raiders are back and face an early litmus test against the high-flying Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football.
The Raiders open the season on Monday night against the Rams, but without their best player in Kahlil Mack, can these Raiders actually be ready for prime time?
The game marks the return of coach Jon Gruden to the sideline. He should be very comfortable with the Monday night schedule since he broadcast those games for nine years.
The Raiders finished 3-1 in the preseason, but were only 6-10 last season and finished the year with four straight losses. On offense, the Raiders bring back pretty much the same group, with the new starters being former Packer receiver Jordy Nelson and first-round pick Kolton Miller at left tackle. Add retread running back Doug Martin in the mix and this offensive squad hopes to improve thanks to a more cohesive offensive scheme installed by its new coach.
Derek Carr needs Amari Cooper to rebound from a disappointing 2017 campaign. Marshawn Lynch will again be the main ball-carrier, with Martin backing him up. Carr expects a challenge from a revamped Rams defense that added Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to the backfield.
“I’ve played Aqib. I’ve played Marcus,” Carr said. “Talked to both of them. They know how I feel about them I think they’re two of the best corners in the NFL.”
Opening against the high-powered Rams offense will be a big challenge for a Raiders defense sans Mack, who was traded away a week ago. Facing a strong Rams attack behind running back Todd Gurley would have been a big challenge even with Mack.
The Raiders overhauled their entire linebacking crew, bringing in Derrick Johnson from the Chiefs, Tahir Whitehead from the Lions and Emmanuel Lamur from the Vikings. Other newcomers are defensive end Tank Carradine, cornerback Rahsaan Melvin and Marcus Gilchrist.
Second-round pick P.J. Hall will start at defensive tackle and last year’s first-rounder, Gareon Conley, will start at corner after an injury-plagued first year.
The Raiders come into the game mostly healthy, with only running back DeAndre Washington as a non-participant on Friday. Lynch, lineman Kelechi Osemele and defensive lineman Brian Price were listed as limited Friday, and cornerback Nick Nelson and linebacker Tahir Whitehead were both full participants after missing time earlier in the week.
Game time is 7:20 p.m. at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The game opened as a pick-em, but the Rams have been bet up to a four-point favorite. The total opened at 50, but dropped to 48.5 by Friday.