Key Matchups To Watch

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Key Matchups: Winning the battle in the trenches and limiting Travis Kelce 

The Oakland Raiders dominated several of their one-on-one matchups against the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

Trent Brown and Kolton Miller rendered the dynamic duo of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller useless, as Derek Carr stood in the pocket unscathed all evening, never once taking a hit. While the offense held their own in the trenches, so did the defense. Rookie Clelin Ferrell was active with his hands, batting down a pass, and coming up with a clutch third-down sack in the fourth quarter. The No. 4 overall pick’s sack was the Raiders’ third of the evening, and a pleasant sight for everyone.

It’s important to celebrate, and the team did indeed, but it was short lived, as they immediately started preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs who come to town this Sunday.

Let’s break down three matchups to keep an eye on.

Lamarcus Joyner vs. Travis Kelce

Signing Lamarcus Joyner this offseason was a priority for Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock. The pair knew the defense had to get faster, smarter, and better at defending tight ends, especially with Travis Kelce in the division.

With Tyreek Hill out for the foreseeable future with an injury, one can imagine that Kelce will see an uptick in targets. The Pro Bowler has been in the upper echelon of tight ends for a years now, and after finishing second among all tight ends in receiving yards last year (1,336), and second in receptions (103) not only is Kelce arguably the best tight end, he’s one of the best receivers in the NFL as well.

At 5’8”, Lamarcus Joyner isn’t the biggest defender on the field, but his speed, technique, and high IQ combine for stellar coverage. Against the Broncos, Joyner limited rookie tight end Noah Fant all game, and took away one of Joe Flacco’s favorite positions to throw to.

When the former Los Angeles Ram faced off against the Chiefs a year ago, Joyner totaled seven tackles, one interception, and two passes defensed; however, Kelce feasted for 10 receptions, 127 yards, and one touchdown. That’s not all on Joyner, as the game was a barn burner and the offenses were surging. Still, I’m sure Joyner would like to prevent Kelce from having a similar stat line. If he can eliminate Patrick Mahomes’ favorite target, it will greatly increase the Raiders chances of success.

Trent Brown and Kolton Miller vs. Frank Clark and Chris Jones

The combination of Trent Brown and Kolton Miller was one of Eddie Paskal’s matchups to watch last week, but I’m going to run it back.

As I mentioned previously, Brown and Miller were able to make two of the best pass rushers in the league essentially useless in Week 1. In Week 2, they’ll face yet another stout pass rush in Frank Clark and Chris Jones, who while on different teams – Clark was recently traded from the Seahawks to the Chiefs – combined for 28.5 sacks last year.

I’ll be the first to admit that after the Raiders signed Trent Brown I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but after a dominant training camp and first regular season game, I no longer have any doubt. Prior to Monday’s game, Von Miller praised Brown as one of the best offensive linemen in the league. I expect Brown to continue being an immovable object on the right side, but I’m interested to see how Kolton Miller plays this week. It was a strong start to 2019 for the second-year player, but I want to see consistency.

Derek Carr vs. Tyrann Mathieu

This is possibly the matchup I’m most excited to watch.

When Carr is given ample time in the pocket, No. 4 can do some special things downfield. No one knocks Carr’s talent, it’s just been a matter of consistency. After a 2018 season that saw the Raiders signal-caller suffer a career-high in sacks, he went untouched in Week 1 against a stout Broncos pass rush. Keeping him upright against Denver resulted in some incredible throws, including a play-action 43-yard rainbow to Tyrell Williams streaking downfield.

Tyrann Mathieu is an experienced, athletic safety who’s never had a season without an interception. Even with time in the pocket, Carr is going to find it hard to slip passes by Mathieu. I’m interested to see where Mathieu lines up as well, whether that’s on Darren Waller, or if he hedges Tyrell Williams to try and takeaway the deep ball.

I’m excited to see the results from some of Carr’s audibles.

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