With a young and untried secondary, should the Las Vegas Raiders be weary of the Los Angeles Chargers wide receivers?
The AFC West will prove to be quite the challenge for a young Raiders defense. Other than 2019 rookie standout Trayvon Mullen, the lack of experience should be concerning. Isaiah Johnson is coming back for a sophomore campaign. Unfortunately, he saw limited action due to injuries in 2019. Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden decided to go all-in on the cornerback position in April, picking up both Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson in the draft but also adding veteran Prince Amukamara. The question is whether all of this is enough entering Gruden’s third year at the helm.
Before the Raiders can even think about the playoffs they have to take care of the AFC West. The Denver Broncos have two potential Pro Bowlers the Silver and Black must account for. As for the Chargers, they’re a mix of familiar faces along with some rookie additions of their own.
Familiar Faces For Chargers and Raiders
Leading the Chargers once again will be the reliable Pro Bowler, Keenan Allen. The second option for quarterback Tyrod Taylor will be Mike Williams who’s coming off his first 1,000-yard season in 2019. Even more impressive for Williams is that he accomplished this with only 49 receptions. Allen was no slouch, he’s totaled 303 passes on his over the last three years. He got off to a hot start last season, totaling 29 catches, 404 receiving yards, and scoring three times. Raider Nation often likes to disregard the Chargers but the young Raiders secondary can’t afford to overlook these two veterans.
The New Kids on the Block
The Chargers also added their own rookie reinforcements back in April. First off was a fifth-round pick in Joe Reed by way of the University of Virginia. Also, former Ohio State star K.J. Hill, who’s the school’s all-time leading receiver, was added in the seventh round. Reed figures to not only be a headache for the Raiders in the passing game but also on special teams. At Virginia, Reed returned two kickoffs to the house in 2019 and is the school’s all-time leader in kick return yardage with 3,042. Hill for his part, appeared in 50 games during his collegiate career and ended it with 201 catches, 2,332 receiving yards, and reached the end zone 20 times.
Whether this evenly balanced unit will cause problems for the Raiders depends on a few factors. First off, will defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s scheme begin to pay dividends after two years of ineptitude? He now has talent at every level from the defensive line to the backfield. Alas, there’s a pandemic going on right now. There’s a likelihood that the pandemic will hinder the development of the rookies that otherwise would’ve contributed right away such as Arnette and Robertson. Lastly, will the Raiders really insist on keeping Lamarcus Joyner in the slot? He was clearly a liability last year and against these receivers in the slot, he’ll likely continue to get burned.
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*Top Photo: Thomas R. Cordova/Daily News SCNG
*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference