It remains uncertain if Derek Carr will return at quarterback for the Raiders Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Chargers.
Carr, who is trying to rebound from a fracture in his back suffered three weeks ago, returned to practice this week but hasn’t been cleared to start. Backup EJ Manuel would get the call again if head coach Jack Del Rio decides to take a cautious route with Carr.
But no matter who plays quarterback for the Raiders Sunday, the Raiders offensive line will need to do a better job of pass protection.
Last season, the Raiders gave up just 18 sacks, the fewest in the NFL. Through five games in 2017, Oakland has surrendered 12.
Now the Raiders’ line is tasked with containing Chargers’ pass rushers, who have gotten to opposing quarterbacks 17 times, the third-highest total in the league. Linebacker Melvin Ingram leads with 7½ sacks, followed by defensive end Joey Bosa (4½) and defensive end Chris McCain (3).
Plus, the Raiders’ pass protection must patch up its weak spots against opponents’ blitzes. During Oakland’s three-game losing streak, blitzes have been very effective against the Raiders’ quarterbacks. As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted this week, Carr was terrific against blitzes the first two weeks as the team went 2-0. Carr completed 71.4 percent of his throws with two touchdowns and no interceptions when blitzed. Over the past three games, Carr and Manuel have combined to complete 40 percent of throws without a TD and an interception against the blitz.
Right guard Gabe Jackson should be back in the lineup Sunday for the Raiders vs. the Chargers, which should help. But head coach Jack Del Rio said this week the offensive line must do a better job in both the passing and running games. The offense just isn't clicking, and the blocking is a big part of that.
“Our offensive line gave up some sacks,” Del Rio told Gutierrez. “We generated some run game, but I don’t think we’re playing quite to the level that we expect. That’s at the core of what we’re going to be.”
The 2-3 Raiders and 1-4 Chargers are set to play Sunday at 1:25 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum.