Oakland Raiders Opponent Preview: Get to Know the San Diego Chargers

Oct 9, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) meets with San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) after the game at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) meets with San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) after the game at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Here is everything you need to know about the Week 15 opponent of the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers.

After a disappointing showing on Thursday Night Football last week in Kansas City, the Oakland Raiders have had the benefit of an extended week to rest, study and prepare for this week’s tilt against the Chargers. Travelling to Qualcomm, the Raiders can make history this week with a win. Defeating the Chargers will lock up the Raiders first postseason berth since 2002.

Let’s dive into the strengths and weaknesses of this Chargers unit. As always we’ll start with the coaching staff.

Head Coach: Mike McCoy

Offensive Coordinator: Ken Whisenhunt

Defensive Coordinator: John Pagano

Mike McCoy leads the Chargers for his 4th year at the helm. It hasn’t been an easy year for McCoy and his troop by any stretch of the imagination. The Chargers currently sit at 5-8 on the season, but the first few weeks of this year had to have been some of the hardest for Chargers fans in recent memory.

San Diego built a reputation for themselves as a team that kept shooting itself in the foot late in games, repeatedly losing close contests. Continuously snatching defeat from the jaws of victory certainly took its toll early on. When the Chargers finally snapped the streak against the Broncos in week 6, Mike McCoy was seen kneeling on the sideline in utter exasperation in the final minute. It was a sombre image. A man whose job was no doubt on the line, hands over his creased forehead in hope made for one of the more human moments this season.

Despite their struggles, the Chargers are by no means an easy win this week. As aforementioned, they beat Denver in a nail-biter earlier this season. A team fighting for late season respect can oft times be more dangerous than they have been all season.

Furthermore, how the Raiders cope mentally with their abysmal performance last week will be crucial coming into Sunday. The Chargers are coming off a 28-16 defeat to Carolina last week, and will be chomping at the bit to get after the Raiders.

Let’s start by taking a look at the San Diego offense:

QB: Philip Rivers

RB: Kenneth Farrow

WR: Dontrelle Inman

WR: Tyrell Williams

TE: Antonio Gates

LT: King Dunlap

LG: Orlando Franklin

C: Matt Slausen

RG: D.J. Fluker

RT: Joe Barksdale

The Chargers offense resembles a Picasso painting at this point in the season. Fragmented would be an understatement. On the one hand, San Diego is 11th in total offense and 6th in passing, with Melvin Gordon 3 yards off a 1,000 yard season after not scoring a single touchdown in his rookie year.

On the other hand, the Chargers sit in the bottom third of the league in rushing yards per game (23rd) and red zone offense (21st). Rivers has thrown 17 interceptions to 27 touchdowns. Good luck making sense of that. The result is a team that has flashed moments of brilliance (especially with Gordon’s emergence) but been underscored by a far more consistent mediocrity.

Speaking of Gordon, the star running back was carted off the field last week against the Panthers. After trying to recover a lose ball, Gordon went down in what looked to be a rather ghastly injury to his leg. The good news for Charger fans is that the injury was “only” a knee and hip sprain. The good news for Raiders fans is that Gordon is highly unlikely to suit up against the Raiders this week.

As a result, the Chargers run game will lean on Kenneth Farrow. Gordon has averaged 24 carries a game this season, and Farrow will likely get the same treatment from play calling if his workload sans Gordon last week is anything to go by. One of Farrow’s strengths is in the passing game, as he excelled in that role in College. Look for the Chargers to find ways to involve Farrow in the air, perhaps similar to how Danny Woodhead has traditionally operated in the Chargers offense.

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Gordon being ruled out certainly helps the Raiders defense. But with Ken Norton Jr’s men allowing 120.2 rush yards a game and 4.7 yards a carry this season, Farrow could be in store for a big day. Farrow’s a short, stocky back, and isn’t nearly as fast as Gordon. Therefore, the Raiders (especially the linebackers) will have to be physical in their assignments, especially in the gaps up front, if they want to put even more pressure on Rivers and the passing game.

The Chargers passing game, like their offense, is again a tale of two cities. As mentioned earlier, Rivers has thrown an impressive 27 touchdowns for 3,500 yards, with a very unimpressive 17 interceptions. Tyrell Williams has been Rivers go to receiver this year, with 55 grabs for 900 yards and 6 touchdowns. Yet Williams is 36th in the NFL for receptions amongst Wide Receivers. Additionally, father time himself Antonio Gates has only put up 388 yards this year, with 5 touchdowns.

The bottom line for the Chargers will be Rivers’ play against the Raiders. Yes Farrow could be in store for a big day, but remember that he’s a back that’s arguably better in the passing game than the run. Because of this strength, for Farrow to be at his best, Rivers will need to be as well. Rivers is coming off an outing against the Panthers where he threw three interceptions, was sacked 5 times and fumbled twice. Ouch.

With Starting Guard Orlando Franklin a 50/50 chance to make the starting lineup on Sunday, the Raiders front seven have to be licking their chops at the chance to get after Rivers. The only downside for the Raiders in the pass rush heading into Sunday has to be the continuous absence of Aldon Smith. Otherwise, Mack, Irvin and Co. could be in for a heck of an afternoon against the Chargers offense. With 17 interceptions to his name as well, if the Raiders successfully pressure Rivers in the pocket, picks could be a plenty as well.

Now let’s examine the defense:

DT: Corey Liuget

NT: Damion Square

DE: Joey Bosa

OLB: Melvin Ingram

ILB: Corey Toomer

ILB: Denzel Perryman

OLB: Kyle Emanuel

CB: Craig Mager

SS: Jahleel Addae

FS: Dwight Lowery

CB: Casey Hayward

Starting with their strength, the Chargers defense ranks 7th in the league against the run. Murray was absent for the Raiders clash against the chargers in week 5, and the duo of Washington and Richard combined for a total of 54 yards from 17 carries. Credit where credit is due to the Chargers defense, but even with Murray available this time around, Bill Musgrave will most likely dial up the pass.

The Chargers rank 25th and against the pass and 26th in red zone offense, so the Raiders will certainly lean on Carr. Coming off a disappointing outing last week, Sunday’s matchup could be just the bounce back Carr needs. Earlier in the season Carr threw 2 touchdowns for over 300 yards. Cooper as well took off for 138 yards receiving and a touchdown. The Raiders game plan should be pass heavy, with plenty of post routes and fades against a Chargers secondary that struggles inside their own 20.

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The one bright spot on defense for the Chargers has been Joey Bosa. He has been dominant in his rookie season, recording his first career sack on Derek Carr. Bosa will play Sunday despite what appeared to be a troubling neck injury against the Panthers. The Raiders offensive line will need to be aware of Bosa at all times, with Carr saying on Wednesday:

"“They do a great job of moving him around. They put him in different spots, move him at different positions. We’ll have our hands full.”"

The other two lineman for the Chargers, Liuget and Square haven’t exactly been stellar, or even above average. Liuget has no sacks on the year and Square has 0.5. The Chargers front will rely heavily on Bosa, especially with Carr likely to drop back for more than 30 passes. This time round, the Raiders offense will be aware of the threat of the Ohio State alum. If Hudson and Co. can locate and account for him on passing plays, Carr will be well positioned to light up the Chargers secondary.

As always though, we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see how the Silver and Black fare against an all too familiar foe.

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