All the talk leading up to the Las Vegas Raiders’ season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers is mostly surrounding the debut of the Derek Carr and Davante Adams connection on offense. Nevertheless, the debut of the full-strength defense led by new coordinator Patrick Graham cannot be overlooked. The performance of this unit will truly dictate the ceiling of the Silver and Black in 2022. With that being said, let’s take a look at who we should watch out for in Week 1.
Raiders News Today: 3 X-Factors On Defense Worth Monitoring
Bilal Nichols, DT
The offseason was so long that it became easy to forget that the first big signing made by this new front office was former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols. Nichols missed most of camp and took zero snaps in the preseason. However, Nichols will still be relied upon from Day 1 to provide a long-needed interior rush for the Raiders’ front seven. At only 25 years old, Dave Ziegler and Co. hope to catch Nichols at the beginning of his prime. It’s a prime that could kick off against the Chargers on Sunday.
Rock Ya-Sin, CB
As a fan of Rock Ya-Sin since his days at Temple, I was all for his acquisition from the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. Now he will start opposite Nate Hobbs to begin the season in a major divisional matchup. The Chargers have an awesome duo on the outside in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and an up-and-coming third receiver in Joshua Palmer. With Hobbs most likely rotating from outside in base to inside the nickel, Ya-Sin will see a healthy amount of Allen and Williams. The veteran corner will need to limit mistakes and penalties to help limit the chances for the LA offense.
Johnathan Abram, S
Don’t hurt anyone in a Raiders jersey. That’s it. That’s the whole thesis.
But in all seriousness, Abram seems to be focused on a more box-based role in this new defensive scheme. Luckily for Abram, that plays to many of his strengths. However, the former first-round pick’s chances of avoiding coverage the entire game are slim to none. Abram needs to play clean, mistake-free football because, as much as he can be a pain in the neck, the Raiders do not have options to replace him if he were to go down.
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*Top Photo: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri