After losing three straight games, the Raiders are eager to get rolling again. Specifically, they’re eager to pound the football on the ground against the Chargers Sunday and reclaim their physical, winning personality.
The Chargers, in fact, could be the Raiders’ perfect opponent Sunday.
While the site of the game remains in doubt – the bad air quality from Northern California’s raging fires could force the game to be played elsewhere – one thing is certain, and that is that the Los Angeles Chargers have the NFL’s worst run defense.
The Chargers (1-4) are surrendering 161.2 yards per game on the ground and an average of 5 yards per carry.
The 2-3 Raiders, who were sixth in the NFL in rushing in 2016, would love to get their offense rolling again by running the football well against the Chargers and establishing an early rhythm. That, in turn, could open up the passing game and get Oakland’s dormant offense humming once more.
Quarterback Derek Carr – who appears to be ready to return Sunday after a back injury three weeks ago – said he saw the Raiders do some good things on the ground in a loss to Baltimore last week, and believes the trio of Marshawn Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington is on the verge of busting some big runs against the Chargers.
“Watching the run plays from the Baltimore game, you can see like, oh, man, we’re doing some really good things,” Carr told Matt Schneidman of the Bay Area News Group. “Then you can see a couple (plays) where man, we’re a hair away. We’re just a right step away or a footwork away or a quarterback boot away. I think a couple in the Denver (game) were, man, if my boot was better or if I could hold the backside guy.
“I always see those kind of things, too, where maybe it’d be a bigger play. We see some good stuff, but we also see some five-, six-, seven-yarders that could be 12-, 15-, 20-yarders.”
Richard, who leads the Raiders with an average of 5.3 yards per carry, says Oakland wants to get back to dominating with its running attack. It’s time, he says.
“We want to run the ball,” Richard told Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “The mindset of this team is we need to run the ball. That’s part of our identity.”
Against Baltimore last week, Oakland’s run game had a little spark, averaging 4.3 yards per attempt. So, Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing believes the Raiders may be ready to have a breakout day against the Chargers Sunday.
“We’re excited about the way that’s trending,” said Downing.
If the game stays at O.co Coliseum, kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. Oddsmakers have made the Raiders two-point favorites.