Inside scoop on the Panthers’ Week 1 opponents with a Raiders expert

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Derek Carr
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Derek Carr /

We spoke to our friend Brad Weiss from Just Blog Baby for the inside scoop on what to expect from Carolina Panthers’ Week 1 opponents on Sunday.

The Carolina Panthers are getting ready to take the field in a competitive environment for the first time since Week 17 of the 2019 season.

This has been a turbulent wait for fans across the country due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 health concerns that put the campaign in serious jeopardy once upon a time. Thankfully, we can now look forward to the next few months. But it promises to have plenty of twists and turns for the Carolina Panthers during the first year of their rebuild.

The Carolina Panthers need to start well against the Raiders.

New head coach Matt Rhule knows the size of the task awaiting him and the roster he has put together. The Carolina Panthers are virtually unrecognizable from the set-up that finished 2019 with a 5-11 record and although things might get worse before they get better, the decision-makers may have laid the foundations for a successful future.

First up for the Panthers are the Las Vegas Raiders in a pivotal Week 1 clash at Bank of America Stadium. The atmosphere will be far different thanks to no fans in the stands and Carolina’s lack of depth is coming to the fore thanks to their decision to put free-agent signing Eli Apple on injured/reserve this week.

There are also doubts surrounding the health of tight end Ian Thomas and offensive lineman Dennis Daley. If the Panthers are without this duo on top of their No. 2 cornerback, then it is only going to complicate matters in their pursuit of getting off on the right foot in 2020.

We caught up with Brad Weiss, site expert at Just Blog Baby, for the inside scoop on the Raiders’ busy offseason and what sort of challenge the Panthers should expect.

How are the Raiders shaping up after a busy offseason?

The Raiders had a very productive offseason, fixing a ton of holes on their roster, and bringing back some key players for the 2020 season. There is a lot of experience on this roster, including Derek Carr, who is entering his seventh season as the starter. Carr returns his whole offensive line, and elite weapons in Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller, and finally has some consistency within the coaching staff.

The defense has been revamped as well, especially at linebacker, where the team brought in guys who can actually cover. Overall, this is a Raiders team that should improve from their seven-win season in 2019, and possibly challenge for a playoff spot. They have the vets in the right spot, and a solid coaching staff, while remaining relatively healthy this summer.

Overall, this is the best complete roster we have seen in a long time.

How can Derek Carr prove his doubters wrong in 2020?

Since Jon Gruden took over as head coach, Derek Carr actually has put together pretty solid numbers. He has thrown for 4,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and last year, completed over 70 percent of his passes. The big knock on Carr is his career record, but he has never had consistency within the coaching staff, and his weapons seem to change every single year.

All he has to do to prove the doubters wrong is win games because most teams would take the kind of statistical production he brings. He also needs to take more shots downfield, which I believe he will do with the additions of Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards. Finally, he has to start making more plays with his legs, because he is a lot more athletic than he shows on tape, and in his near MVP season in 2016, he made more than enough plays with his feet that put the team in a position to win.

What are the Raiders expecting from Henry Ruggs III during his rookie year?

There is a big difference between what the Raiders are actually expecting from Ruggs, and what the fan base is expecting from Ruggs. Stepping in as the WR1 as a rookie is hard for any player, especially one without a true veteran presence behind him.

He would have had that if Tyrell Williams was not placed on injured reserve last week, but now he leads a group that includes fellow rookie Bryan Edwards and second-year slot man Hunter Renfrow. That puts way more pressure on him, and he will likely draw the top corner every week.

Still, he has the talent to inch close to the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie, and it will all depend on whether or not Carr utilized his skill set to the full potential. This is a guy with blazing speed, and the team has to draw up plays that allow him to work deep this season. If they do that, he could have the best season from a wideout in team history, but I would take anywhere between 800 to 1,000 yards as a rookie for sure.

What are the Raiders’ expectations for the season?

The expectations are that this team is going to take the next step forward and actually make it to the playoffs. Remember, this is a team that has only been to the playoffs once since the 2002 NFL season, and Derek Carr broke his leg late in the season to ruin any chance they had to make some noise. Last year, they had a three-win improvement over the season before, and a nine or ten win season could get them into the AFC playoffs, especially now that it is expanding to seven teams per side.

Everything hinges on Carr, as they rebuilt the defense, have consistency in the coaching staff, and have added incredible weapons around him. If the Raiders get the Carr we saw back in 2016, this could be a very special team, but they will also have to navigate an AFC West division that saw everyone get better this offseason. For the first year in Vegas, playoffs have to be the expectation.

What is your prediction for the game against the Carolina Panthers?

Your readers will not like my prediction, but I actually like the Raiders to win this one by the score of 28-24. I feel like a first-time NFL head coach in Matt Rhule needed a preseason to get himself acclimated to the pro game, especially making in-game adjustments. In Jon Gruden, the Raiders have a head coach who has won a Super Bowl, and I feel that could be the difference in this one.

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Of course, the Carolina Panthers have the magnificent Christan McCaffrey in the backfield, and he is a guy who is going to give our new-look defense fits. Sure, he could go nuts in this game, and single-handedly beat Las Vegas, but I feel there are too many other questions marks on the roster right now. If the Raiders can pound it with Josh Jacobs, and Carr hits on some big plays up to, they should be able to come away with a rare road victory in the season opener.