The Oakland Raiders haven’t achieved the desired offensive balance that true playoff contenders sustain each week, but the one aspect they do best is protecting the quarterback. The offensive line has allowed only nine sacks in five games this season.
Consequently, Sunday’s contest will be a real test for the resurgent San Diego Chargers pass rush to see if they can put consistent pressure on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and force him into mistakes.
The sudden improvement of the offensive line play has been a big reason why the Raiders are one of the surprise teams for 2015. The front office wanted to add an experienced leader that would solidify the unit, so they went out and signed top-tier free agent center Rodney Hudson this past offseason.
Hudson has been nothing short of being spectacular, as he taught an inexperienced group to recognize and communicate better where the blitz is coming. The lesson taught is executing as one unit helps to diffuse the pass rush more quickly. Carr has been pressured only 43 times out of 127 passes attempted, as the Raiders pass-blocking efficiency is currently ranked fifth in the NFL.
The Chargers pass rush has been non-existent to start (1 sack in the first three games) the season, but the defense has rebounded nicely with 10 sacks in the last three games. A good effort on Sunday against one of the league’s best pass-blocking offensive lines will go a long way toward showing the Chargers defense is slowly turning the page to respectability.
To crack the great wall, the defense must sustain a consistent pass rush, and that means pressure from every angle along the front line. They don’t necessary need to record sacks, but rather improve the amount of pressure in the pocket and make Carr uncomfortable throwing the football all game long. Charger fans hope Cory Liuget, Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu have all RSVPd for the party in the Raiders backfield this Sunday.
Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano must cleverly disguise their blitz schemes by changing the front seven formations. It’s important the interior defensive linemen line up in different spots along the line of scrimmage, as this will help create pass-blocking mismatches and a clear lane to the quarterback.
Carr is a very talented, young quarterback, but if the defense cannot pressure him out of the pocket then he’ll make them pay with more deep pass attempts. The Chargers cannot afford to have him spread the football around and gain added confidence. Winning the control of the line of scrimmage will be crucial for them to win this week.