The 30-year-old Ronnie Brown, who has not taken more than 20 carries in a game since November 28, 2010, will be the main back for San Diego. Ryan Mathews is out with a broken clavicle he suffered in the preseason.
While San Diego will be depleted in their backfield, Oakland is eager to see how the offense will perform with Palmer and Darren McFadden finally playing together.
Palmer made his Raiders debut October 23 of last season, in a game where McFadden had only two carries before being sidelined for the remainder of the season with a foot injury.
Now with a healthy McFadden, and Palmer comfortable in the Raiders offense, the duo should be a lethal combo.
Palmer is not the elite, Pro Bowl quarterback he once was, but with the help of McFadden, he has the potential to put up numbers Oakland has not seen since the days of Rich Gannon more than a decade ago.
However, this will rely on the play of McFadden.
McFadden is a top-five ball carrier in the NFL—when healthy. The fifth-year back has not played a full season in his NFL career. In 2010 McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns in only 13 games, and last year was on pace to exceed that. Before his foot injury, McFadden had posted 614 yards and four touchdowns in only seven games.
For Palmer to have success in the passing game, McFadden will have to force the Chargers to stack the box. If they do this, Oakland's speedy receivers will only have to beat single coverage, and play-action will be extra effective.
One step is all Darrius Heyward-Bey or Denarius Moore to outrun their coverage.
McFadden's role becomes even more important with the departure of Michael Bush to the Chicago Bears. Bush was a reliable No. 2 back for the Raiders last year, but now the names behind McFadden on the depth chart are Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson.
Goodson is a little more proven than Jones, but neither provides the safety net that Bush once was. McFadden is the most important player on the Raider's offense, and it is essential that he stays healthy this season.
In games that McFadden ran for either 100 yards or a TD, the Raiders have posted a 9-3 record. In multi-TD games for the University of Arkansas product, Oakland is 3-1.
The offense will go as McFadden goes Monday night. They are a much improved team with a presence of an elite ground game.
Expect to see McFadden embrace his the addition to his workload, and for the Raiders to walk away from their Week 1 Monday night matchup with a victory.
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