Host of former Chargers lead revamped Raiders defense into LA for primetime showdown

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This season, the Raiders defense has a feel to it that is entirely unfamiliar to many of us; it’s actually a strength. The most underrated addition to this team this offseason was the hiring of Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator. He brought a new scheme, a new attitude, and a few new faces with him. It has made all the difference.

With any new coordinator, it can be important to have a few veterans who are familiar with his scheme. It helps the entire defense to have someone among the ranks who is well-versed in the terminology and assignments.

Bradley brought a familiar face with him to fill multiple positions on every level of the defense. Along the defensive line, there’s Darius Philon, Damion Square, and Yannick Ngakoue. In the linebacking corps, there’s Denzel Perryman and KJ Wright. And in the secondary, there’s Casey Hayward and Roderic Teamer.

Being that Bradley spent the past four years coaching the defense for the Chargers, most of those players come over from Los Angeles.

In particular Perryman, Hayward, Philon, Square, and Teamer will all make their first trips back to Los Angeles to face their former team as a member of the opposition.

Perryman, despite joining the team just a few weeks ago, is the Raiders’ leading tackler. As you might expect, he is downplaying the significance of facing the team with whom he spent the first six years of his NFL career.

“You just treat it like a normal football game,” said Perryman. “If you go out there and try to make it bigger than it is, you kind of lose focus on the big picture which is playing football. Nah, it’s not a big deal.”

Whether it’s a big deal or not, it will undoubtedly be a unique experience for many of these guys.

Prior to joining the Raiders, Perryman, Philon, and Teamer had never played for any other NFL team than the Chargers.

Hayward spent the first four years of his career in Green Bay before spending the past five years with the Chargers. While he did eventually face the Packers, it was four years after he left and he never took the field at Lambeau as part of the opposing team. So, this will be a new experience for him.

In practical purposes, there is a lot of familiarity with the players on the Chargers. Not only was Gus Bradley the DC for the Chargers the past four years, but several members of his staff were there with him including linebackers coach Richard Smith and defensive backs coach Ron Milus.

“Well, you have a good feel for the personnel,” Gus Bradley said of facing the Chargers.

But while there is some familiarity for Bradley with the Chargers personnel, there is also familiarity with the other direction, not only with the former Chargers on the Raiders’ defense but Bradley’s scheme. Something Bradley admits the Raiders must be aware of.

In that regard, the Chargers may have a bit of an advantage. There is new coaching staff there and with offensive coordinator Joe Lambardi not having held that position in five years, finding tape can be a challenge.

“We’re having a hard time with this one honestly because they have a new staff,” Jon Gruden said of preparing for the Chargers. “You end up watching more Ram tape than you do Charger tape. You end up watching New Orleans Saints tape to see where the origins of some of these plays are coming from. So, it will be a challenge for us. They’re a mystery. They are a very talented, well-coached team, but it will be a mystery. It will be a tough game for us.”

For those unfamiliar, new head coach Brandon Staley was the DC with the Rams last season and Lombardi spent the past five seasons as the QB coach in New Orleans.

Four of the five former Chargers defenders on the Raiders defense can lean on their experience last season facing Herbert in practice every day (Philon was out of football the past two seasons). Hayward in particular will see a couple of very familiar faces lining up across from him in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

This should be fun to watch.

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