It’s time to hit the road.
After opening the season with back-to-back home games, the Oakland Raiders are taking their talents all across this great country – and England – before returning home for a Week 9 clash with the Detroit Lions.
First up for Head Coach Jon Gruden’s team is a date with the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium that will likely set the tone for how the rest of the road trip will go.
Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PT; here are six things you need to watch once the action gets underway.
1. Can the Raiders limit Dalvin Cook?
Statistically speaking, through two weeks, the Vikings’ offense hasn’t blown the doors off the NFL, but one thing they’ve done really well is the run the ball.
In fact, with an average of 185.0 rushing yards per game, only the Baltimore Ravens have accrued more yards on the ground through two weeks than the Vikings, and to be fair, with Dalvin Cook leading the charge, it’s no wonder that Kevin Stefanski’s unit has found that success in the early goings of 2019.
Cook is an absolute monster – his league-leading 265 yards are evidence of that – but for back-to-back weeks, the Raiders’ defensive line has been stellar at stopping the run and making the opposition one dimensional.
Something has to give, one way or another, Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium, and I’m excited to see which team ends up winning the line of scrimmage.
2. How does the Raiders’ offensive line look?
It sure looks like we’re poised for some changes along the offensive line headed into Week 3.
Through the first two games, the Silver and Black have trotted out the lineup of Kolton Miller, Jordan Devey, Rodney Hudson, Denzelle Good, and Trent Brown – from left to right – and honestly, the group has performed pretty admirably through two weeks.
That said, with the official return of Richie Incognito, conventional wisdom suggests he would once again hold down the left guard spot, and with big Trent Brown dealing with a nagging knee injury, his status for Sunday is up in the air as well.
Continuity is the name of the game when it comes to success up front, and with the possibility of some new faces inserted along the line, I’ll be curious to see how the group fares against a stout Minnesota Vikings defense.
3. Which wide receivers rise to the occasion?
Through two games, Tyrell Williams has looked every bit the prototypical No. 1 wide receiver, but behind him, the rest of the position group is still working itself out.
To put it in a perspective, think about this; Williams leads the Raiders with 151 receiving yards, but No. 16 excluded, no wideout on the roster has more than 43 yards.
It’s important to note that tight end Darren Waller has become a legitimate receiving threat – with 133 receiving yards in his own right – but the fact remains, that going forward, the Silver and Black will need to get a little more production from the collective of their wide receivers.
It sure looks like speedster J.J. Nelson will make his regular season debut Sunday afternoon in Minnesota, could he provide that spark and stretch the field like he did throughout the preseason?
4. Who’s the return man?
Trevor Davis, is it time to complete the revolution?
After making his practice debut in Silver and Black on Thursday, I wonder if we’ll see the former California Golden Bear returning kicks Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Particularly with Dwayne “Gucci” Harris clearly less than 100 percent, it stands to reason that the Silver and Black acquired the speedy Davis to step in and fill the void left by their usual return man.
Both Jalen Richard and Hunter Renfrow have history returning kicks and punts, but I have a feeling that we’ll see No. 12 back deep to handle that duty come Sunday.
Davis has found his fair share of success filling that role throughout his short career, let’s see if he can replicate that type of production with the Raiders.
5. Will Josh Jacobs hit the century mark?
Will Sunday be the first time that the Raiders’ rookie running back hits the 100-yard mark?
Mr. Jacobs came oh so close last weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs, finishing his second regular season game with 99 rushing yards, but keep an eye on No. 28 to see if he can hit triple digits for the first time in his young career against the Vikings.
In the early goings of 2019, the Raiders’ offense has – shocker – shown to be the most effective when it’s dynamic and balanced in its attack. Getting Jacobs rolling should be paramount each week, and I think that on the road, in a hostile environment, keeping possession – and the crowd out of it – will be crucial to flying home with a W.
Feed Josh Jacobs, the man has been famished through two weeks, and I don’t think that appetite is going anywhere.
6. Will Benson Maywoa hit the trifecta?
A simple question here; can Benson Mayowa record a sack in his third consecutive game?
Since returning to the Bay Area, the veteran defensive end has been the team’s most effective rusher, and with 3.5 sacks already under his belt, Mayowa has nearly reached the Raiders’ individual high from 2018.
If the Raiders can continually get pressure on Kirk Cousins, it would be a net positive for the entirety of the defense, but keep an eye on No. 91 especially – he’s had a great start to 2019, and I’m excited to see if he can keep that positive momentum rolling.
Check out photos from Alameda, Calif. as the Raiders hit the field for another day of practice before their matchup against the Vikings.