Originally published on SBReport.net on Sept. 8, 2012
Well Raider fans, the time is finally upcoming. After seeing the hiring of a new general manager, another coaching overhaul, a relatively mild draft with few high picks, implementation of new schemes and personnel change, the first game is almost upon us.
All of these events, and more, have occurred since the Raiders fell to the San Diego Chargers 38-26 last New Year's Day in Oakland, causing the Silver & Black to miss the playoffs.
The Raiders have a chance at redemption as they take on the Chargers on Monday Night at O.Co Coliseum to begin the season.
But the Raiders aren't the only AFC West team in California to experience much change in the offseason. The Chargers saw some change to their team as well.
Starting quarterback Phillip Rivers is left without wide receiver Vincent Jackson who became a big play receiver and a favorite of Rivers. The Chargers signed former Saints wideout Robert Meachem to replace Jackson, who signed with the Buccaneers during the free agency period. Meachem has appeared to be out of sync with Rivers during preseason, hauling in just one reception for seven yards in four preseason games started.
Monday's game provides the first real look at the Raiders new defensive unit that has two new starting cornerbacks, two new starting linebackers, and a healthy Matt Shaughnessy.
Cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer will have their hands full with Rivers and the wide receivers, but the Raiders safeties will have to keep tight end Antonio Gates in check. Gates, a former basketball player, appears to be healthy again and sure to be a favorite target of Rivers again, especially with the departure of Jackson.
Expect defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to attack the Chargers left tackle position, where they are expected to start an un-drafted rookie Mike Harris with Jared Gaither out to recurring back problems.
Defensively, the Raiders will benefit by facing a depleted Chargers rushing attack with an injured Ryan Mathews limited for the game, and the departure of fullback/running back Mike Tolbert to free agency. The 30-year-old Ronnie Brown will likely get the start in the place of Mathews.
The Raiders have yet to see a complete offensive unit this preseason but finally get wide receiver Denarius Moore back to the field after missing the preseason with a hamstring injury. Moore played arguably his best two games last season against the Chargers, hauling in a total of eight receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
Starting quarterback Carson Palmer will need to keep his decision making on point as the Raiders can't afford to give Rivers and the Chargers offense extra possessions.
The regular season also marks the chance for offensive coordinator Greg Knapp to unleash his star weapon Darren McFadden. McFadden has remained limited in the preseason with his touches as the Raiders didn't want to risk injury. Even while limited, Run DMC has showed his explosiveness both in the rushing attack and receiving the ball. McFadden will surely be the focal point of the Raiders offense, especially against a Chargers team that ranked in the middle of the pack when it came to defending the rush last season, giving up 116.5 yards per game last season
The Raiders offensive line will need to remain cohesive against a Chargers defense that features a strong linebacker corps and a strong pass rusher in rookie Melvin Ingram. The offensive line showed some struggle adjusting to their new zone-blocking scheme in the preseason and will need to play improved to give Palmer enough time and open up holes for McFadden.
Oakland has not fared well against the Chargers on Monday Night Football, losing their last two contests on Monday Night against San Diego.
The game has been announced a sell out, allowing local media to air the game.
Fans are encouraged to get into the stadium early as the Raiders have lined up a live performance by self-proclaimed "Raider Nation President" Ice Cube, along with a couple of other surprises for their fans.
Oakland hopes to begin the season 1-0 just as they did last season when they defeated the Denver Broncos on Monday Night in Denver.
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