Identifying the Chargers’ biggest defensive X-Factor vs. Raiders

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The Raiders come into SoFi Stadium as one of the hottest passing offenses in the league, with quarterback Derek Carr playing some of the best football in his career.

Carr is fifth in both yards per passing attempt and air yards per target and leads the league in passing yards. Amid his high production, Las Vegas has four receivers — Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, and Bryan Edwards — over 200 receiving yards.

On the other hand, the Chargers’ defense is seventh in total passing defense, 11th in yards per pass attempt allowed, and has only allowed one opposing player (Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce) to surpass 100 yards receiving yards through three weeks.

Despite how excellent the defense is against the pass, Los Angeles will still have a lot to account for with Carr’s level. And if there is one player who can have a significant impact on it, it’s safety Derwin James.

It is presumed that James will spend most of the game covering Waller, the stud tight end who has hauled in 21 receptions for 249 yards and two touchdowns in four career games against Los Angeles.

While James will have his fair share of snaps lined up across from Waller, the unit will still need to beware of the others capable of taking over, like Ruggs, the second-year speedster who has averaged 95.5 yards per game.

Therefore, James will likely be deployed like he was against the Chiefs. Meaning, he will have his occasional one-on-one matchups in the slot, as well as some of the brute work in the box. But, he will also serve as a deep safety to eliminate crossers and vertical routes too.

Carr might be shredding opposing defenses heading into the matchup. But if there’s a time where he could cool down, it’s this week, as James is capable of taking over the game with his playmaking skills from an array of alignments.