It’s finally time for regular season football.
After an offseason that seems never ending, the Oakland Raiders will kick off legitimate game action Monday night against the Denver Broncos.
With both squads coming off disappointing seasons a year ago, the primetime affair is sure to be a highly competitive one, and throw in the extra juice of Week 1 and the fact that it’s a division matchup, and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum will be rocking on September 9.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m.; here are six things to watch once action underway.
1. How do the tackles hold up?
The Broncos have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, and you best believe they’re going to come after Derek Carr Monday night.
The tandem of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller tallied north of 26 sacks a year ago, and with Chubb expected to be even better in Year Two, the Raiders tackles will have their hands filled in primetime.
But, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden re-tooled the Silver and Black’s offensive line this offseason for games just like this, most noticeably adding big Trent Brown to the mix, to lock things down on the right side.
It’s no secret that Carr was hit more last year than anyone would have liked, but with a bigger, stronger – and most importantly healthy – Kolton Miller protecting his blindside, and Brown on the other, if all goes to plan, No. 4 will have ample time to operate from the pocket.
That said, the pair of Raiders tackles will have a big challenge in front of them – literally – with the Broncos; how they hold up will play a key role in who comes out the victor in Week 1.
2. Next man up
It’s been a weird few days for the Silver and Black.
The bizarre off-the-field behavior from Antonio Brown reached its conclusion Saturday morning, when the team cut ties with the All-Pro wide receiver.
And while the timing of parting with Brown is less than ideal, the fact remains that come Monday night, the Raiders will start two wide receivers out wide, and those two players will have to perform against a tough Broncos secondary.
Tyrell Williams and the other four wideouts currently on the roster – Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson, Hunter Renfrow and Dwayne Harris – will have to put together a big night if the Silver and Black want to start the season 1-0, but with Chris Harris Jr. and the rest of the Broncos DBs, that might be a little easier said than done.
Also, he might not talk a lot – like a receiver that previously wore the Silver and Black – but Williams was a legit stud throughout training camp and is a No. 1 option in his own right.
It’s such a tired cliché, but it really does hold true in this sense, the Broncos aren’t going to care that the Raiders are down a wide receiver.
3. How do the young guys fare?
There are currently 11 rookies on the Raiders’ 53-man roster, and there’s a legitimate chance that all of them contribute Monday night against the Broncos.
While the rookie triumvirate of Jonathan Abram, Clelin Ferrell, and Josh Jacobs will understandably get the most attention in the season opener, don’t forget about A.J. Cole, Maxx Crosby, and Alec Ingold, just to name a few other guys who are poised to get a good amount of run against the Broncos.
The youth movement is in full swing in Oakland, and while the Silver and Black still no doubt have a strong nucleus of veteran players, the future of this team belongs to the young guys.
Nobody expects the 11 rookies to be perfect Monday night, but I am excited to see how they respond to their first real taste of the NFL.
4. Will the quarterback aka Joe Flacco go down behind the line of scrimmage?
I promise this is the last time we’ll mention it, but… The Raiders had a really hard time getting after the quarterback in 2018.
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock addressed that area in a big way this offseason, and with Clelin Ferrell, and Maxx Crosby headlining essentially a brand new group of edge rushers, there’s a renewed sense of hope that Brenston Buckner’s group can really effect the game in a positive way starting Monday night.
Joe Flacco does a lot of things well – you don’t stay in the NFL for over a decade if you’re not good – but getting out of the pocket and making plays with his feet probably isn’t listed among his strong suits.
If the Raiders edge rushers can win their one-on-one matchups against the Broncos, Monday night at the OACC could be unkind to Mr. Flacco, and if that was the case, it would help to make the Denver offense one-dimensional, which would spell nothing but good things for Paul Guenther’s defense.
5. How does the interior line respond?
We talked about the Raiders tackles – Trent Brown and Kolton Miller – a little bit earlier, so now it’s time to focus on the guys to their left and right.
Without the services of Gabe Jackson (injury) and Richie Incognito (suspension), it sounds like Jordan Devey and Denzelle Good will get the first crack at the two starting guard spots for Jon Gruden’s offense.
Big Rodney Hudson will remain the anchor of the offensive line, but I’ll be interested to see how Devey and Good hold up against a really stout Broncos defensive line.
Both those guys are veteran players, so we know the moment won’t be too big for them Monday night, but nevertheless, watching how they perform will be something to keep an eye on.
Establishing a tone at the line of scrimmage is paramount to victory, let’s see if the Raiders can do just that.
6. The environment
It’s been a wild few days, no doubt about that, but one thing I do know is the OACC is going to be wild Monday night.
The season opener is always a time for celebration, but throw in the fact that it’s on primetime against a division rival, and you have all the fixings for an absolutely bonkers atmosphere.
The Silver and Black haven’t played at home in nearly a month, so I know that Raider Nation is going to be fired up to welcome their boys back home, and hey, maybe cheer a little louder than you normally would for the starting wide receivers once they’re announced.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 PM – welcome to the regular season.
In preparation for the Raiders home opener against the Denver Broncos, take a look back at their past matchups through the years. Historical content is presented by Tequila Corralejo.