5 Questions with Bolts Beat: Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers

Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) Oakland Raider wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) runs for a touchdown after making a second quarter catch as San Diego Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget (94) and cornerback Jason Verrett (22) give chase at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) Oakland Raider wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) runs for a touchdown after making a second quarter catch as San Diego Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget (94) and cornerback Jason Verrett (22) give chase at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Ahead of the Week 5 divisional matchup between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, we reached out to FanSided’s San Diego blog, Bolt Beat, with some questions.

With an opportunity to move to 4-1 to start the season, the Oakland Raiders will host the San Diego Chargers in Week 5.

Oakland swept San Diego in 2015, but the Chargers had the upper hand for much of the last decade. The Raiders certainly hope the tide has changed in their favor, and another win on Sunday will further prove that’s the case.

Divisional games are typically tough, as both teams know each other very well. So we decided to reach out to Bolt Beat with some questions, and Matt Pagels was kind enough to provide some answers.

Note: Just Blog Baby is in bold.

Let’s start with the obvious when discussing the Chargers season thus far, the string of injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Both Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead are major components of your offense, and both have suffered season-ending injuries. However, Rivers continues to elevate this offense to the tune of 30 ppg. What is compensating for the loss of two players like Woodhead and Allen?

Losing both Allen and Woodhead was devastating. Allen was on the verge of becoming one of the top receivers in the league. Woodhead — the dude caught 80 passes for 755 yards and finished with six total touchdowns last season, which led the Chargers in every single one of those categories! You can’t replace what both of those men brought to the team.

Now, to the fact that they are averaging 30.3 points per game, which is third-best in the NFL –Rivers has been great (7 to 1 TD/INT ratio), and we all know he can still find success with mediocre receivers (I might add that Tyrell Williams will be a guy to keep an eye on going forward), but having Ken Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator has greatly helped an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring over the last two years.

The other two factors: Running back Melvin Gordon and the offensive line.

Gordon is having a stellar start to the season, scoring at least one TD in every single game. He is playing like a totally different player and rushing with confidence. Up until the last game or so, the offensive line has done a decent job creating holes for Gordon and keeping Rivers upright. So Whisenhunt’s play-calling (for three quarters that is), Gordon’s ability to run the ball and the overachieving play from the offensive line has made up for those losses.

Echoing the injury tune on the defensive side of the ball, Jason Verrett was also lost for the year. Now Brandon Flowers will be out with a concussion. Who steps in for these two, and is there any experience there?

Losing Verrett for the season will hurt the Chargers more than losing their offensive weapons. Like I said, with time, Rivers can make any receiver look good (Dontrelle Inman (who?) had a career game against the Saints last Sunday), but losing your shutdown corner is going to be hard to overcome.

Fortunately, the Chargers have former Packer Casey Hayward stepping in as the No. 1 corner. One of Tom Telesco’s best free-agent acquisitions this offseason, Hayward has played lights out. He ranks in the top three with three interceptions, but it’s not even about the numbers. He’s right there with every receiver.

Hayward is young, fast and versatile (he’s mainly been playing on the outside). As of now, he’s Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 corner — you know the Packers are regretting letting him go. I’m curious to see who he shadows on Sunday.

Unfortunately, Flowers, who’s had his ups and downs so far, is out with a concussion. 2015 third-round pick Craig Mager, who had his first career INT last week, will start in his place, but he’s also questionable this week with a shoulder injury. Steve Williams (just re-signed), Pierre Desir (waiver-wire pickup before the season) and Trevor Williams (practice-squad addition) will likely be playing a lot of snaps…gulp.

What was a strong cornerback group is now depleted (same exact situation as the receiver group, too.). They might have to hold tryouts and find the next Vince Papale on defense if these injuries keep up.

Is this the week we see first-round pick Joey Bosa make an appearance? What is the overall feel amongst the fans and the locker room with regards to his holdout and absence from the start of the season?

Yes, we finally get to see our first-round pick. I could vouch for most of us that we are very excited to see him out there, but expectations MUST be tempered this week. The 21-year-old has yet to play a down in the NFL. He’s going to be rusty, and he’s going against one of better offensive lines in the league; but having him out on the field is important.

If Bosa is able to get pressure on the quarterback and stop the run in limited snaps, great — if not, people shouldn’t be saying “bust” right away. His holdout caused a divide between fans: Some blamed the organization for the way they dealt with things, and some blamed Bosa for being greedy. It’s time to move past that and hope he can help turn things around for the Chargers going forward.

How hot is Mike McCoy’s seat right now? Would a loss Sunday be pretty damning for his near future as head coach of this team?

I’ll keep this one short: You could stand on a pile of coal Ace Ventura-style and it still wouldn’t be hotter than McCoy’s seat. The next two games are against divisional rivals (Raiders and Broncos). If the Chargers lose both games, there has to be a change.

Give me an X-factor for both sides of the football that needs to step up for a Chargers win.

To win this game, the Chargers must dominate in the trenches. The offensive line struggled last week (three sacks allowed) and barely gave room to run. They need longer runs from Gordon, and that starts with the O-line’s play (unfortunately, both starting tackles are listed as questionable for Sunday).

Meanwhile, Derek Carr has only been sacked twice, which is amazing. The Chargers need to get to the quarterback, because if Carr has time, he will rip this injury-riddled secondary apart.

DE Corey Liuget and OLB Melvin Ingram need to shine. The Chargers also need to play football for all FOUR quarters. These fourth-quarter meltdowns are frustrating to watch. It’s sad when you’re the only sub .500 team (1-3) to have more points for than points against.

In my opinion, these teams are quite similar: Good offenses (both are averaging 266 passing yards per game, Carr/Rivers rank two and three in passer rating behind the Falcons’ Matt Ryan and both teams rank in the top 10 in ppg) and bad defenses (both rank in the bottom half of the league in total defense). Khalil Mack could be the difference-maker in this one.

Extra Credit: What’s the stadium situation looking like, and what are signs pointing to at this time?

Well, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed the Chargers’ stadium plan on Monday, which was a big boost. But the results from a recent poll taken by 10News and the San Diego Union-Tribune wasn’t so flattering.

According to the poll, 41 percent of voters are certain to vote against Measure C, while only 36 percent are voting for the initiative. With the way the team’s been playing and the disdain towards the ownership, it might not be enough to get a new stadium. Voting is a month from today (Nov. 8).

Next: Preview and Prediction