In 2018, the Oakland Raiders schedule does not do them any favors. Granted, the slate may appear easy, there is a danger ahead. Coming off a season where a 6-10 signaled the end for Jack Del Rio, the Raiders renovated much of the roster this spring. While questions remain about how the team will function as a unit, the team has a direction. The schedule provides Oakland challenges from beginning to end. First, stopping opposing running games could go far in determining the team’s fate. With that said, maybe retaining Jelly Ellis could pay off.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Without a doubt, Gurley is the best running back in the NFL. Under Sean McVay, Gurley elevated his game to new heights in 2017. Rushing for 1303 yards and thirteen touchdowns, he flourished in an offense that displayed his ability to get loose in the open field. In addition, Gurley snared 64 catches and 6 receiving scores. Immediately, he will test the Raiders ability to remain gap disciplined and challenge open field tackling.
The March of Pain
From November 11 to December 16th, the Raiders face five explosive running back. If they can control the line of scrimmage for three of these games, that could be enough to secure a victory.
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- Melvin Gordon (Chargers) At this point in the schedule, this meeting marks the second time in five weeks the Chargers and Oakland cross paths. Gordon’s slashing style bothered previous Oakland defenses. Gordon enjoys his highest divisional ypc against the Silver and Black (4.22)
- David Johnson (Cardinals) Regardless of which quarter lines up under center, Johnson’s versatility gives a defense fits. However, coming off a season-ending wrist injury, mystery remains. Yet, with the ball in his hands, Johnson gets to the perimeter in a hurry. Depending on who wins the third linebacker job, they must contend with a back with the ability to go the distance on every snap.
- Kareem Hunt (Chiefs) The 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year battered the Raiders. His 43 carries in two games shows the Chiefs’ disrespect of the Oakland run defense. In that case, the DT additions seem smart.Hunt changes gears in traffic and will shake the first tackler. Under Paul Guenther Oakland needs to swarm and corral him. If Hunt gets to the outside, expect chunk yardage. With a young passer in Mahomes, the Chiefs depend on Hunt. In that case, stopping Hunt goes far.
- Le’Veon Bell (Steelers) In an era of multi-talented backs, Bell’s skillset could stand far above them all. Granted others can operate in the passing game, Bell attacks defenses different. For instance, he can line up on the outside and run crisp routes, forcing a change in coverage strategy. In the backfield, no other back possesses such patience. That is to say, Bell waits for his blocks, changing his gait and timing to match each situation. Within that offense, Bell could break 100 yards rushing and receiving.
- Joe Mixon (Bengals) Now that Jeremy Hill left for New England, Mixon becomes the lead back in Cincy. His blend of speed mixed with power will challenge the Raiders. While he will split carries with Giovani Bernard at times, expect him to be the fourth-quarter hammer. In addition to long speed, Mixon owns a fair stiff-arm in traffic.
In essence, these backs will test Paul Guenther’s scheme, the players’ discipline, and resolve. On the outside, the schedule may appear easy, but, in the trenches, these backs will not lay down for the Raiders.