The Oakland Raiders (3-1) will look to earn heir first home victory of the season over their division rivals, the San Diego Chargers (1-3) on Sunday.
With this being Oakland’s first AFC West matchup, here is a deeper look at how the Silver and Black will open division play.
Raiders’ Receiving Corps to Bully Banged-Up Secondary
The broken record hasn’t stopped playing in San Diego, as Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett will join star receiver Keenan Allen and several other key Chargers players (Manti Te’o, Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver) on the sidelines for the remainder of the 2016 season.
Verrett, a first-round pick out of Texas Christian University in the 2014 NFL draft, started all four games to the start the 2016 season, accumulating 13 combined tackles, three pass deflections, and one interception, per ESPN.com.
To add to the dismay, Chargers No. 2 cornerback Brandon Flowers (concussion) and safety Jahleel Addae (clavicle) will also miss Sunday’s contest against Oakland, as both defensive backs are officially out, according to Chargers.com.
With Verrett and Flowers officially out, Chargers nickel cornerback Casey Hayward will be thrust into the role of the No. 1 corner, and second-year cornerback Craig Mager will likely earn the nod opposite of Hayward.
Mager, a second-year player out of Texas State, will earn his fourth career start on Sunday.
Hayward has graded out as the No. 2 cornerback in the league (88.4) through four games (trailing only David Amerson), and his lowest season grade since entering the league in 2012 sits at 75.4, per ProFootballFocus.com. The former Vanderbilt standout leads the team with six pass deflections and three interceptions.
Hayward and Mager will have their work cut out for them, as Oakland’s starting receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper have put on a clinic to begin the season, combining for 46 receptions for 626 yards and four touchdowns.
Crabtree, responsible for all four of the pair’s receiving touchdowns, will likely draw Hayward to his side because of his impact as a scorer, and, as a result, Cooper will benefit from having Mager opposite of him for a majority of the game.
Raiders slot receiver Seth Roberts should also take advantage of either third-year cornerback Pierre Desir or fourth-year cornerback Steve Williams — whichever cornerback will be responsible for covering Oakland’s slot WR.
Desir has seen just 22 defensive snaps this season, and Williams just re-signed with the Chargers after spending the last month on and off the inactive list with the Los Angeles Rams
Roberts, a former undrafted free agent out of West Alabama, has brought in 10 of 19 targets for 83 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Facing poor matchups across the board, look for the Raiders’ receiving corps to find the end zone early and often on Sunday.