Not too long ago, the Las Vegas Raiders were 3-0 and riding high on a wave of optimism. After a demoralizing loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night, Las Vegas is faced with a bevy of questions ahead of their home game against the Chicago Bears later today.
Can the O-line protect Derek Carr?
The play of Vegas’s offensive line against the Chargers was, well, offensive. Alex Leatherwood was out of his league against Joey Bosa and the interior line was overwhelmed with pressure from the Chargers. Changes have been made, with Leatherwood moving inside to right guard and Brandon Parker taking over at right tackle. However, none of that will do anything for center Andre James, who has been awful this season in replacing Rodney Hudson.
The Bears have some fearsome defensive linemen on their squad including Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. If the Raiders can keep Carr upright, it will go a long way towards a Raider victory.
Who will play at cornerback?
The Raiders had a rash of injuries in the secondary against the Chargers, and Damon Arnette and Trayvon Mullen will both be out against Chicago. Nate Hobbs and Casey Hayward should be good to go, and Keisean Nixon and Amik Robertson figure to get extended playing time.
Luckily, the Raiders are playing the Bears, who have 609 passing yards over four games, including a grand total of one passing yard last week. If ever there were a week the Raiders could afford to miss some corners, it’s today.
That’s not to say the Bears lack weapons. They have David Montgomery at running back, and their receivers are Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and the speedy Marquise Goodwin. If the Bears could game-plan a functional offense, they’d be dangerous. The Raiders can’t let up and let these guys get behind them.
Will the Raiders be able to start faster?
Slow starts have plagued the Raiders offense this season, even in the three games they’ve won. They were down 14-0 to both Baltimore and Miami before winning in overtime. Even against the Steelers they were sluggish at the outset. That caught up to them against the Bolts, who went up early and never looked back.
Two things have contributed primarily to the slow starts. First, the Raiders have not been able to run the ball well due to Josh Jacobs’ foot injury and the offensive line lacking push. Secondly, that same offensive line has been unable to grant Carr enough time to find open receivers. The defense has often been porous in the first quarter as well.
With any luck, the changes along the line will solve the first two problems. The Bears’ general ineptitude on offense will take care of the last problem. If that doesn’t happen, another slow start could lead to an embarrassing loss for the Raiders today.
*Top Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun