Raiders hope D-coordinator change helps vs. Chargers
After seeing his defense gashed for 200 rushing yards in back-to-back games, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is turning to defensive line coach Rod Marinelli for a quick fix.
Make that a very quick fix.
The Raiders (7-6), currently on the outside looking in as the ninth seed in the crowded seven-team AFC playoff race, can ill afford another slip-up heading into Thursday night’s home game with the Los Angeles Chargers (4-9).
The 71-year-old Marinelli replaces Paul Guenther, who was fired as defensive coordinator shortly after Sunday’s 44-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, on an interim basis. He inherits a 30th-ranked defense that is bruised and battered and could be without four key performers when it takes the field against a Chargers team that Las Vegas narrowly defeated in their first meeting on Nov. 8 in Inglewood, Calif., 31-26.
How narrow was it? It initially appeared Los Angeles had won that contest on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert to tight end Donald Parham Jr. on the final play of the game. However, the score was eventually overturned when a replay review showed the ball hit the ground as Parham came down on the sideline chalk before establishing full control.
Safety Johnathan Abram (concussion), cornerback Damon Arnette (concussion), linebacker Nick Morrow (concussion) and defensive end Clelin Ferrell (shoulder) all missed practice for Las Vegas on Tuesday, while defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (calf) was limited. Another starting safety, Jeff Heath, went on injured reserve last week with a concussion. Veteran defensive end Vic Beasley was activated from the practice squad, and defensive end Takk McKinley (groin), who failed a pair of physicals before signing with the Raiders on Nov. 23, was designated for return to try and plug some of the holes on a defense that is yielding 30.1 points per game.
“It’s a great challenge,” Marinelli said Tuesday. “I want to see great energy and talent. And gang-tackling.”
The Chargers are well aware of the Raiders’ coaching change.
“No doubt it could make them more dangerous,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “But I think there’s only so much you can do in a short week.”
Meanwhile, the Raiders’ offense also got bad news when starting wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, hero of the team’s dramatic 31-28 victory over the New York Jets in Week 13, was placed on the COVID-19 list Tuesday afternoon and ruled out for the game. Running back Josh Jacobs, hampered by an ankle injury in recent weeks, also was limited.
The Chargers, a game behind third-place Denver (5-8) in the AFC West, come off a 20-17 victory over Atlanta on Sunday, as Michael Badgley connected on a 43-yard field goal as time expired for the winning points. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert completed 36 of 44 passes for 243 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while producing the first game-winning, fourth-quarter drive of his career.
Three Chargers — offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion), corner Chris Harris Jr. (foot) and linebacker Denzel Perryman (back) — missed practice because of injury Tuesday, but Herbert, who needs just three more touchdown passes to surpass Baker Mayfield (27 in 2018) for the most ever by a rookie, said he was “feeling pretty good” after getting sacked once and hit three times by the Falcons.
“The offensive line did a great job blocking,” Herbert said. “I didn’t get hit nearly at all. … It’s a quick turnaround. These couple of days are very important in terms of watching films, getting your bodies back — hot tub, ice tub, stretching — so that come Thursday, we’re ready to play.”
The Raiders have won the last three meetings between the teams and lead the all-time series, 65-54-2.
–Field Level Media