After an offseason full of uncertainty, the NFL is a few days away from happening. The Las Vegas Raiders will take on the Carolina Panthers in Week 1. Entering his third year with the team, head coach Jon Gruden is making sure they’re ready for their season opener.
The Raiders will face a young Panthers team in Week 1
The Raiders, just like every other NFL team, have to prepare for the regular season without the luxury of Organized Team Activities and with a modified training camp. Moreover, they had to go through extensive testing every day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Things were definitely out of ordinary and likely taxing. Not only did they had to prepare for their opponents, but they also had to do it with limited resources. Things such as Zoom meetings became the norm instead of a luxury or an oddity.
In the end, the Raiders’ Week 1 matchup is around the corner, and they will face the Panthers, who hired Matt Rhule out of Baylor to be their head coach. They also have a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater after they decided to part ways with Cam Newton this offseason. Although this Carolina squad has plenty of youth and inexperience (like the Silver and Black), they possess, arguably, the most dynamic running back in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey.
Gruden will have a tough task trying to neutralize Carolina’s “No. 22”
Gruden is aware of how lethal McCaffrey is when he has the ball in his hands. Even though he’s really good at running the pigskin, he’s equally adept at catching it. The Raiders head coach gave the 2019 First-Team All-Pro some praise in his latest press conference.
Gruden acknowledged McCaffrey can play all kinds of roles and the Raiders must account for him on every single snap. The coach also pointed out that running backs with McCaffrey’s skill set are becoming the norm.
You gotta know who you’re dealing with. He’s a great tailback, he can function in a two-back set, he’s a great receiver out of the backfield. He’s a versatile weapon, he’s a guy you can put in a slot. He can run option routes and seam routes and he’s got a wide array of skills that you got to account for. We’ll see a guy like that, Alvin Kamara next week. Most of the teams in pro football are finding guys like this and Carolina arguably has the very best so we got to know where 22 is, that’s for sure.
McCaffrey isn’t the only Panthers players that could pose a threat to the Raiders
McCaffrey is probably the Panthers must valuable player. That doesn’t mean they should take Bridgewater lightly. Last season, the quarterback completed 133 passes for 1,384 yards, nine touchdowns, and just two interceptions in five games for the New Orleans Saints. Gruden believes that he can do some serious damage if the Raiders give him enough time to throw.
We’ve been watching [the] Saints offense to get ready for the Carolina offense so it’s been a challenge. We know Teddy’s a good player, he’s a good leader, he’s going to give us all we want. You’re not going to fool him very often and he’s an accurate passer if you give him time.
Bridgewater has had an inconsistent NFL career. However, he surely benefited from the time he spent learning from Drew Brees back in New Orleans and his numbers last year could be a taste of what’s next to come. He will be throwing to D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, who are solid wide receivers and could give the Raiders young cornerbacks fits.
Although the Raiders seem like the better team on paper, they had better not underestimate the Panthers. Bridgewater and his wide receivers could do some serious damage if the Silver and Black pay too much attention to McCaffrey.
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