Oakland Raiders: X-Factors who could impact Sunday’s game

2 of 5

October 11, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) is sacked by Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (53) during the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

1. Malcolm Smith

I think I’ve been pretty vocal about my support of Malcolm Smith ever since general manager Reggie McKenzie picked him up in free agency. Malcolm Smith jumped onto world’s radar after winning Super Bowl MVP honors in Super Bowl 48. Living in Seattle, and being friends with many Seahawk fans, Malcom Smith was someone who was brought to my attention early on, and it seemed like he jumped out at me every week.

After the Super Bowl and a less than stellar 2014 season, Smith began to fade from conversations, and his Super Bowl performance began to be overshadowed by the borderline comical play of the Denver Broncos.

In Oakland, Smith is reunited with the only linebackers coach he’s ever had, in Ken Norton, he’s also on a fresh team where he isn’t buried on a the depth chart while being completely healthy and the Raiders are reaping the benefits. Smith is currently playing the best football of his career, leading the Raider defense with 40 combined tackles (32 solo) already eclipsing his total from last season and only 2 solo tackles away from reaching his career high in a single season.

Smith has also been an integral part in the steadily improving pass rush of the Raider defense. Since Norton started incorporating more blitz packages into the playbook, Smith is now second only the Khalil Mack in sacks with 2. That’s not a great number, but it does account for 20% of the team’s sack total and is a season high for Smith.

The fact that Smith is being used in the pass rush shows just how versatile he is.  In Seattle, he was used more in coverage and in run stopping, and now he’s showing he can be a productive part of a pass rush proving he is a one of the more valuable pieces of this defense.

Against the Chargers, Smith has an opportunity to continue being an anchor of the defense. The Chargers have a fairly solid set of tackles on their offensive line, but Mack and Aldon should be able to wear them down. Which could leave opportunities for Smith to make impact plays with the pass blocking focused on the Raiders outside pass rushers.

The Chargers will no doubt be looking for ways to handle these two machines by trying to double one or both of them a majority of the game, leaving a wide open opportunity for Malcolm to add to his sack total, if called upon in the blitz game.

Next: Sunday X-Factors: Clive Walford