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Pick Six: Raiders-Chargers Round 2 features another tough task against Khalil Mack

1. First start for new Chargers QB1

The ball is in Easton Stick's court as he takes over at starting quarterback following Justin Herbert's season-ending finger injury.

Stick has only played in two NFL regular season games, but the 2019 fifth-round pick had an illustrious collegiate career at North Dakota State with a 49-3 career record along with four FCS National Championships. He remains the school's all-time leader in passing yards (8,693) and passing touchdowns (88). In relief for Herbert against the Denver Broncos in Week 14, Stick completed the game 13-24 for 179 pass yds.

"He's a savvy player," Interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce said of Stick. "I think at the end of day, whenever you get a guy who hasn't played a lot in the NFL you don't know what to expect in that first game. But with the short week, I don't think he's going to have the whole playbook, talked about that already. But he has a strong arm, has some athleticism, you've got to be smart. You saw right away that they were able to take shots with him down the field, so they're comfortable with him throwing the ball down the field."

2. Raiders quarterback evaluations

Though Aidan O'Connell remains the starter, Interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce noted that the coaching staff is continuing to make evaluations on any potential changes under center.

O'Connell was named the starter ahead of Week 9's game against the New York Giants, and has a 2-3 record since. Most recently in the shutout loss to the Vikings, O'Connell finished the game 21-of-32 for 171 yards and an interception.

"We're still evaluating," Pierce said Wednesday morning. "If there's a chance to get better, a chance to improve, a chance to put us in position to win, then we have to get all the factors that go into it. I mean, just making decisions based off media, a loss, a bad, ugly performance, that's not how you do things in the National Football League. That's not how you run a business. Maybe other people do that, AP doesn't, and the Raiders aren't going to do that. We're going to do whatever it takes to put ourselves in position to win. And after today, we'll have a better answer this evening."

3. More 'Tae to go around

No matter who is under center, the Raiders have to find a way to get Davante Adams involved – if the receiver is able to suit up. Adams was added to the injury report Wednesday with an illness and has been ruled questionable.

The All-Pro receiver, who currently leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, is averaging nearly 67 receiving yards per game – his lowest total since the 2017 season. Some of that can be chopped up to offensive struggles, but a lot can also be contributed to the extensive coverage Adams sees around the league.

"These defenses are smart, there are a lot of defensive gurus out there who do a lot of different things, exotic coverages, repeating things if you have trouble with it," Adams said. "So, I think that's what we dealt with a lot this past game, not being able to figure it out. They just continue to do things, variations of what was stopping us. Obviously, we have to call more, and we have to throw more. We have to just get more opportunities and the receivers have to go and make it worthwhile. So, we all learned together, obviously, it has to start with the call, and then we have to find a way to execute the play."

Adams had eight catches for 75 yards in the Raiders' Week 4 matchup against the Chargers.

4. Mack Truck

The Raiders offensive line can't allow Khalil Mack to have another game like he did in Week 4.

In Aidan O'Connell's first NFL start, Mack finished the day with six, yes six, sacks – a career single-game high for Mack and the second most in a game in NFL history. The former Raiders pass rusher is currently leading the league in sacks (15) and in games with at least two sacks this season. His 10 career sacks against the Raiders are the most by any player versus a team they formerly played for.

"We're going to have to do more than we did last time," Pierce said Wednesday. "He likes playing against the Raiders, we know that. He has really good games against the Raiders. But I'll tell you what, Jermaine [Eluemunor] has done a really good job for us at right tackle. Last week against Danielle Hunter, he did a good job. And maybe that first matchup didn't go our way. I wasn't part of that gameplan, but I think the focus and the energy and what our O-line and our staff has put together, hopefully it's a plan that works."

5. Finding success on the inside

The emergence of first-round pick Tyree Wilson was visible in Week 14.

It seems Pierce and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham are starting to tap into Wilson's potential by using his versatility to their advantage. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Wilson lined up at defensive tackle on 20 snaps, which is five more snaps at the position than his first 12 games combined. In the process, he set career-highs in pressures (four) and playtime percentage (52 percent).

"[W]hen he got here, the first thing I saw was Justin Tuck, a guy that I played with," Pierce said, describing Wilson's skill set. "And Tuck, his most success was when we moved him inside and moved him around the line of scrimmage up and down. I think you see that if you've watched the last couple of weeks, we've moved him all over the field like you just talked about, and that's to his benefit. He's going to be a really good defensive end in this league."

6. Who's in, who's out?

Following Wednesday's walkthrough for the Las Vegas Raiders, left tackle Kolton Millerhas been ruled out for a second straight game due to a shoulder injury. Center Andre James (ankle) has also been ruled out.

The Raiders could get more depth in the secondary as Brandon Facyson has been a full participant and could be activated to the active roster. This will be his first game this season, missing time on injured reserve due to a shin injury.

On the opposite sideline, the Chargers will be without star receiver Keenan Allen (heel), who leads the team in receiving yards, receptions and receiving touchdowns.

As the Raiders prepare for Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium, view past matchups of the Silver and Black hosting their division rival.

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