Week 5 brings one of the most anticipated matchups of the season for the Raiders in the desert; Khalil Mack is back. Mack, the big name of 2019’s blockbuster offseason trade, will return to face the team that drafted him #5 overall. The last time Mack met the Raiders was in 2019 in London, and the Raiders won that matchup 24-21. Can they do it again? Here we will take a look at the two position groups that can make or break this game.
Raiders Offensive Line
It’s no secret the Raider’s offense struggled last week. QB Derek Carr threw for a season-low 196 yards, a far cry from his 401-yard average the previous three games. Carr and his receivers weren’t the only ones to struggle, though. The Raiders offensive line had their most brutal match of the season in Week 4.
The Raiders revamped their offensive line this offseason after trading away three of their five linemen from 2020. They replaced these players with free agents and draft picks, including C Andre James, RT Alex Leatherwood, and G Jermaine Eluemunor. After Week 1, the brand-new line was plagued with injuries. G Denzelle Good is out for the season, and G Richie Incognito was placed on IR. The offensive line had to be revamped once again, and their connection suffered because of it.
The Raiders offensive line has committed an enormous number of penalties and allowed entirely too many QB pressures. Last week alone, they allowed 16 pressures and 4 sacks. The line has 13 penalties through four games. Not only have they struggled in pass protection, but they have also hindered the run game. Las Vegas has 322 rushing yards to this point. Their leading rusher this season, RB Peyton Barber, has only 143 rushing yards. This is partially due to an injury to RB1 Josh Jacobs, but primarily due to the offensive line’s inability to block for their rushers.
This week in practice, head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Tom Cable decided to change their first-round draft pick’s position. Instead of playing right tackle, Alex Leatherwood will now start at right guard.
Leatherwood said before the draft, “Some teams like me at tackle, some at guard. It just all depends on what team you’re talking about and their team needs, but I feel like most of them think that I can play anywhere on the offensive line.”
Leatherwood’s confidence in playing guard should serve as a sigh of relief for Raider Nation. That is, if he plays well on Sunday.
As Leatherwood shifts to right guard, Brandon Parker will start at right tackle. Parker started four games for the Raiders last season and appeared in 11 games.
The Chicago Bears bring an aggressive defense, and the Raiders need to get the run game going to beat them in Week 5. That all starts with the offensive line. The new starting lineup needs to come out with a confidence not yet seen this season to be successful.
Last week’s Monday night game in Los Angeles brought about the Raiders first loss of the season and a plethora of injuries. The Raiders had a total of five injuries to players who had to leave the game, and three of them have been ruled out for Sunday’s matchup, most notably starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette.
Mullen exited last week’s game in the first quarter, and the Raiders later revealed it was due to a toe injury. They have not said how long Mullen will be out for, but we know he will not play Sunday vs. the Bears.
Following his injury. Former first-round pick Damon Arnette stepped up in his place. That is, until Arnette was ruled out with a groin injury. These injuries left Casey Hayward, Nate Hobbs, and Amik Robertson to handle cornerback duties for the remainder of the game. With Mullen and Arnette already ruled out for Sunday, the Raiders had to resort to the market to find another cornerback. Las Vegas signed Brandon Facyson off of the Los Angeles Chargers practice squad this week. He is expected to make his Raiders debut in Week 5.
On top of signing Facyson, the Raiders have also designated CB Keisean Nixon to return from injured reserve. Nixon is also expected to make his season debut against the Bears. The Raiders have the manpower to manage their injuries, but are these players up to the challenge?
Against new QB1 and rookie Justin Fields, the Raiders secondary needs to be on top of their game. Former practice squad players and backups need to be ready to make big plays under the leadership of Gus Bradley and veteran Casey Hayward. If these players can show up on Sunday, it will make a world of difference for the Raiders defense.
The Raiders have a chance to get to 4-1 in Week 5. If the reworked offensive line and fill-in cornerbacks step up, the Raiders have a real opportunity to win on Sunday and get their confidence back after their first loss of the season.
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