INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Justin Herbert still can’t shake the bitter memory of last season’s 35-32 overtime loss to the Raiders that knocked his Los Angeles Chargers out of a postseason spot and clinched a playoff berth for the winners.
The Chargers don’t have to wait long for their chance to avenge a loss that came in their regular-season finale. They host the Raiders on Sunday in the opener for both teams (1:25 p.m., KLAS).
Each team has made sweeping changes since that Jan. 9 meeting at Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders hired Dave Ziegler as general manager, Josh McDaniels as coach and have 24 new players. The Chargers have 22 new players, including six on defense.
“Personally, I’ve been thinking about this one for the past six or seven months, however long it’s been. I know that everyone else has as well,” Herbert said. “For everyone to show up during OTAs, I thought that was huge growth for our team. We believe in each other just like the front office believes in us.”
Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard field goal as time expired in overtime made the Raiders the fourth seed in the playoffs and eliminated the Chargers. A tie would have clinched a berth for Los Angeles.
One of the Chargers’ major moves was adding Khalil Mack, the ex-Raider pass-rushing specialist. They also signed cornerback J.C. Jackson, whose status is questionable after having ankle surgery two weeks ago.
Mack was the fourth overall pick in 2014 and spent four seasons with the Raiders before being traded to Chicago in 2018. He and Joey Bosa are expected to form one of the top pass-rushing duos in the league. The two have combined for 115 1/2 sacks since 2016.
Bosa’s eight sacks against Carr are his most against a quarterback. Mack has one sack against Carr in two previous matchups.
McDaniels said his staff has watched that Jan. 9 game. He’s not sure how much will be similar when the teams face off on Sunday.
“We’ve watched that game, we’ve seen it. As you know, the scheme on their end may be a little bit more similar to that game than ours will be,” said McDaniels, who is a head coach again for the first time since 2010 with Denver. “I think there’s been so much change relative to the personnel on both sides. They have a new team, we have a new team, like there is every year.”
The one thing that hasn’t changed is the quarterbacks. Herbert has set records for most yards passing and touchdowns by a player in his first two seasons.
Herbert’s 9,350 yards passing and 69 touchdown passes are both the most by a player in his first two seasons.
Carr has not thrown an interception in six of his last seven games against the Chargers; he threw for multiple TDs in both meetings last season.
“I’m just excited to start the season. There’s no certain expectation of this or that. I mean, we just expect to play good football, sound football,” Carr said. “Trust our rules, all those things, and try and do as right as possible and see where that takes us. I’m definitely excited to get out there with our guys.”
The biggest question for the Raiders’ offense comes on the line. With Carr throwing to a talented trio of pass catchers, including Adams, tight end Darren Waller and receiver Hunter Renfrow, the major task is finding time for the QB to throw.
Except for Kolton Miller at left tackle, every spot on the line is a question mark.
Jermaine Eluemunor will play right tackle after Brandon Parker got hurt and 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood was released. Lester Cotton could be making his first start at right guard, while center Andre James and left guard John Simpson return after mediocre seasons. Rookie Dylan Parham could also get a shot.
Carr is taking a practical approach to the challenges of his line, especially when it comes to the Chargers sending out Mack and Bosa. No matter what, Carr said, it’s his job to move the offense.
“You’ve got to block two of the best rushers, and that’s not even including the inside guys who are unbelievable,” Carr said of the Chargers’ defense. “That’s a tall task for anybody. Hats off to the Chargers. They’re loaded everywhere, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”