When the Raiders open the 2018 season, they will face a hungry Rams team. FPC Raiders editor Andrew Kelly gives us a look inside.
In light of the Mack trade, where do you see the Rams attacking the Raiders on the defensive line?
I see the Rams attacking the Raiders defensive line early and often. With the loss of Khalil Mack combined with Gurley’s lack of action in the preseason (not a single rep), I think the Rams will see this as an opportunity for their workhorse to get his legs underneath him coming into the 2018 season.
Where do you see rookie running back John Kelly affecting the game?
I kept question one short because I wanted to touch deeply on John Kelly and his impact in the run game. Also, Kelly’s addition to the roster and his flashes of big play potential in the preseason have set the Rams up to preserve Gurley much more this season than last season. I would expect to see Kelly getting a lot of work intermittently throughout the games in rushing and pass-blocking situations. However, I still think Gurley will get a lot of the action in the screen game because of his ability to break loose better than Kelly will. Also, look for the Rams to give Gurley plenty of rest. In that case, the Rams will rely on Kelly to chew the clock away if the Rams build a large lead.
Jared Goff faces Paul Guenther’s defense. Where do you envision his positives and negatives?
Paul Guenther’s defense is known for its creative blitzes, especially on third down. I believe that this bodes well for Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who was one of the most efficient passers both on third down and against the blitz last season. However, with Goff’s lack of work this preseason (also getting zero snaps) I would not be surprised to see these blitzes rattle him in the early going on the game until he is able to get comfortable in the pocket again. He has not been a live quarterback since last January; things are very different for Goff at practice.
On Wade Phillips:
If I am Wade Phillips I would do everything to get Aaron Donald lined up across from Kolton Miller. Miller has certainly not proved himself in camp. If Donald is able to get a one-on-one against a rookie in his first NFL start, he could make some game-changing plays.
How can the Raiders learn from the Rams?
I think the Raiders’ biggest failure was not resigning Khalil Mack. I understand that Mack’s price was steep. Also, he may have been very difficult in the negotiation process. However, it seems as though his price was not too pricey for the Raiders. In addition, if you look at the early going of the Rams building process, they often drafted the best available players. They rarely reached for the players in the draft. The Raiders did the exact opposite by reaching up to pick Miller. They can improve this season by clarifying many things on their roster. What do they have in Jordy Nelson? How good can Amari Cooper be in this offense? They need to figure out what they have so that they can fill their holes in free agency and avoid a total rebuild.
My prediction for Monday night’s game is a very tightly contested game out of the gates. The Rams did not play any of their offensive starters for the entire preseason. Plus, they did not play any defensive starters for more than two series. While most fans believe that a team that made the playoffs a season ago has somehow earned the right to not play in the preseason, I disagree. However, I do think the Rams find the way against an underpowered Raiders team. As a result, they earn a comfortable win by the end of the fourth quarter. I expect big games out of Aaron Donald, Marcus Peters (covering Amari Cooper). Also Todd Gurley will handle the lion’s share of the Rams offense.