Headed into the 2017 season, the only thing anyone was talking about when it came to the Los Angeles Rams was: how are they going to score?
Well, scoring didn't end up being an issue for the Rams, as first-year Head Coach Sean McVay turned what was the lowest-scoring team in 2016 into the highest-scoring team in 2017, as he catered to his explosive running back Todd Gurley. For years now, the Rams defense has been in the top half of defenses around the league, but in 2018 they're making it a priority to mirror the success of the offense.
The Rams went out and acquired two Pro Bowl corners this offseason, both of whom the Raiders are quite familiar with. The team traded for former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, and signed former Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. Each have earned the right to be dubbed two of the best at their position, and the Raiders offense will have a tough task ahead of them when the two sides collide on Monday Night Football.
Monday afternoon, Derek Carr met with reporters and shared what it'll be like to face Peters and Talib, two players he knows all too well.
"Going back in my notes a lot," Carr said regarding his preparation. "I've played Aqib [Talib]. I've played Marcus [Peters]. Talked to them both. They know how I feel about them. I think they're two of the best corners in the NFL."
Carr also went into detail about the Rams' stout defensive front.
"[Ndamukong] Suh, I talked to him, obviously," Carr explained. Aaron [Donald], we came out at the same time. I've talked to these guys. They're all great players. They have a great team, great defense. Great challenge they present us. Then [defensive coordinator] Coach [Wade] Phillips calling it. I've gone against him a number of times. He does his stuff, man, and he's really good at it. It's going to be a good challenge for us. I can sit here and talk good things about all those guys. They know how I feel about them, they're great players."
The Rams defense in 2017 was 13th best against the pass, limiting opposing quarterbacks to 217 yards per game, and forced 18 interceptions, which was tied for sixth with the Los Angeles Chargers. After adding two premier talents at the cornerback position, one would imagine those numbers to improve. While Monday night's game will be a battle, veteran receivers like Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper are ready for the competition.
"They brought in a lot of guys, they made some changes," Nelson told reporters earlier this week. "And they probably have high expectations for some of the players they brought over to solidify that defense. We look forward to the challenge."
The Rams may have added Peters and Talib, but the Raiders offense has some weapons of its own. Nelson and Carr have demonstrated through training camp their connection, and even though it may take a couple games in the regular season for the two to truly show their chemistry, I have no doubt the addition of No. 82 will help the offense flourish.
With former Raider Michael Crabtree now in Baltimore with the Ravens, Amari Cooper is ready to step into his role as Carr's go-to target. Head Coach Jon Gruden has said for months now that his mission is to make Cooper a focal point on offense, and No. 89 will undoubtedly have one of his toughest tests fresh out of the gate. One thing that favors Cooper is his familiarity with both Peters and Talib, considering he's gone toe-to-toe with them twice a year for the past three years now. It's that familiarity Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson thinks will play in the offense's favor.
"I think it certainly helps. I think experience [plays a role]," Olson said Thursday. "I think you'd ask any player that had a chance to go against another player in the league that having that experience of going up against them would play to their advantage. We've had a chance. They've seen both of these guys, [Marcus] Peters and Talib, in the division. They've had a chance to go against them. Again, they're looking forward to the challenge."
On one of the biggest stages in sports, the Raiders will face one of the toughest opponents on national television. It's the Week 1 finale, and the drama couldn't be heightened any more, what else could you ask for?