Top 5 storylines to watch in Raiders-Jaguars Week 7 matchup
On the road again
The Raiders spent three weeks at home, their longest stretch in the East Bay this season. They split a pair of AFC West games before preparing to head on the road again. This time, they aren’t coming back for a while. They’ll stay in Florida between games against Jacksonville and Tampa Bay to avoid going between coasts in consecutive weeks. The Raiders are a perfect 3-0 on the road this year, and hope to continue that unbeaten streak after a difficult Week 6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
5. Del Rio’s homecoming
Jack Del Rio was Jaguars head coach for nearly nine years, from 2003 until he was fired during the 2011 season. He hasn’t been back to Jacksonville since in a professional capacity. That run will end Sunday, when Del Rio returns to his old stomping grounds. He was the last coach to lead Jacksonville to the playoffs, and now brings a Raiders team with high hopes into an important showdown.
4. Battle of 2014 draft class
Blake Bortles was the first quarterback drafted in 2014. Derek Carr was the fourth. Jacksonville took Bortles No. 3 overall, and the Raiders selected Carr at No. 36. It’s clear that Carr’s the most advanced, productive quarterback from this draft class. Bortles has a big arm, though he throws a lot of picks and takes a fair share of sacks. Carr avoids those issues and leads an offense cruising through six games.
Bortles and Carr became friends during the pre-draft process, and keep up with each other’s career. Carr typically makes teams regret passing on him. That could happen again in Jacksonville if he outshines someone selected before him.
3. Jaguars playing with pace
Jacksonville’s offense has struggled early this season, with Bortles regressing some after a solid 2015 season. The Jaguars switched to a no-huddle attack late in last week's win at Chicago that sparked his performance. The Jaguars are expected to use that strategy against the Raiders, who struggled when the Falcons used that tactic in Week 2. It forces a defense to make decisions faster, without much time to make reads and communicate what to do. That has been an area of weakness in the Raiders defense.
2. Can run game get back on track?
The Raiders run game was rolling early in the year. It’s slowed over the past three games, especially with Latavius Murray missing the last two with turf toe. Murray is expected to return against Jacksonville – assuming, of course, he doesn’t have a setback – which should give the run game a jolt. The Raiders were able to commit to the run earlier this season and were efficient with Murray spearheading a rotation including DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Getting back to that will be key to forming a balanced, unpredictable attack.
1. Defense being tested
The Raiders defense has taken some heat this week after another disappointing performance. The NFL’s worst defense allowed more yards in chunks, especially on the ground against an AFC West rival. Edge rusher Khalil Mack said opponents are testing the Raiders defensive discipline and capitalizing on poor reads and poor tackling. Teams will keep testing the Raiders defense until they show they can fix those issues.
Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. says the Raiders have the right scheme and personnel to succeed, assuming of course they can execute consistency for the first time all year.