Tonight kicks off the Monday night football doubleheader. Following the Lions-Jets game, coverage will begin for the Rams-Raiders game.
The game will be airing on ESPN at 10:20 PM as the Oakland Raiders will begin their season by hosting the Los Angeles Rams at the Oakland Coliseum.
Currently, the Rams look like an insanely talented team after signing Aaron Donald to a contract extension and acquiring players like Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib via free agency. However, the Rams lost Tremaine Johnson, and Sammy Watkins in free agency while also losing Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn.
The Raiders are in the same boat this season. Recently trading star linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears put a major hole in their defense. However, the Raiders are optimistic that someone such as rookie Arden Key or veteran Bruce Irvin will be able to step up and fill the hole in the defense. The Raiders also got some help on offense with the signing of wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was recently with the Green Bay Packers.
Both teams have changed quite a bit since the last time we saw them just a season ago, which means tonight matchup is all the more interesting to watch.
Los Angeles Rams:
Offensively, Todd Gurley will have enough firepower to ignite this team. Gurley has had a monster career as a member of the Rams and that will only continue. During his rookie season, Gurley ran for 1,106 yards and was named Rookie of the Year. Since then we have seen Gurley be one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league. Gurley currently has 3,296 rushing yards and 1,303 receiving yards which puts him in the conversation with players such as David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott. Gurley has the speed, strength and lateral quickness to fight for extra yardage and make big plays downfield.
Defensively, newcomer Ndamukong Suh could have a big night for LA. Suh has an excellent blend of power and explosiveness. His size is ideal for defending a run play but he also carries enough strength to shed the block and attack the quarterback in the pocket. Suh has some of the fastest hands as a defensive tackle which allows him to disengage against the run. Throughout his career with Miami and Detroit, Suh has proven to be a highly productive player on the defensive line and that will only continue in LA.
Tonight dark horse for the Rams will be quarterback Jared Goff. Goff has proven to be a consistent quarterback during his short time in LA. His ability to make big plays either deep or on the run allows him to quietly help the offense in tight situations. Given how comfortable he has been with his protection, his offensive line allows him to quickly scan the entire field to make a play. Goff also has the size to avoid lineman and linebackers when trying to make short passes. He has above average anticipation skills and the ability to target an open receiver rather than throw in a tight window.
Offensively, Derek Carr could improve this season but it all starts with tonight’s performance. Carr has shown fans throughout his career that his athleticism is one of his strong suits. His ability to quickly move his feet to evade pressure and escape downfield is impressive. Carr has also shown off his arm strength. Newly acquired wide receiver Jordy Nelson that could come in handy this season. Nelson has impressive ball security and will be interesting to watch how he performs this season with new head coach John Gruden. A proven leader on the field and shows incredible strength while also being highly competitive.
Defensively, Arden Key will have a big night with the recent departure of linebacker Khalil Mack. Key has terrific flexibility throughout his body and can quickly shed blocks to find his way to the quarterback. Key also has the ability to throw off blocks due to movements and upper body motions. His quick change of direction has proven to be impressive in college and should carry over into his career with the Raiders. Key has the ideal length to grab hold of running backs as they attempt to avoid the tackle.
Tonight’s dark horse for the Raiders will be wide receiver, Amari Cooper. Cooper had a rough 2017 season due to an increased number of dropped passes. However, Cooper has shown how important his receiving ability is to the Raiders in the past. Throughout his career, Cooper has hauled in 203 receptions for 2,903 yards and 18 touchdowns since 2015. Cooper has the ability to maintain top speed throughout his entire route. His vision is impressive as he can quickly adjust to avoid big contact hits after making the catch. He has terrific catch radius and he has shown his ability to track the ball and burst into the end zone.