The Oakland Raiders’ offense is ready for prime time. The Washington Redskins’ offense hopes it will be.
With their passing attack led by Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree and running game by Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders have the NFL’s fourth-ranked offense and are looking to continue their best start since their 2002 Super Bowl season.
Oakland’s high-octane offense is the envy of the league, including the Redskins, who would love to emulate that kind of balance when they face the Raiders on Sunday night.
“There’s nothing they’re not doing well,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “They can throw it, they can run it. They have a big, powerful offensive line. They have a couple tight ends that can come in and maul you. They have great play actions and their receivers can get down the field. And Derek does an unbelievable job at giving them opportunity balls and they come down with the majority of them.”
Carr has thrown for 492 yards and five touchdowns — three to Crabtree — and no interceptions, while Lynch has 121 yards and a score and fellow running back Jalen Richard is averaging over 7 yards a carry. Oakland’s loaded offense is also converting more than 54 percent of its third-down opportunities, which could be a difference-maker against a banged-up Washington defense that has struggled in that department.
“With the way we’re able to pick up blitzes, we’re able to hit go-routes for touchdowns, we’re able to push the ball on deep,” said Carr, who has completed 75 percent of his passes. “When we hit this field, it’ll be full speed. It’ll be all out, everything they’ve got.”
After committing to the ground game in a 27-20 victory at the Los Angeles Rams, the Redskins want to get Kirk Cousins passing like he did last year when he threw for 4,917 yards. Developing chemistry with Gruden the play-caller and new receivers such as former Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor has contributed to the slow growth, but Cousins thinks the passing game is close to thriving.
“I know for me these last couple seasons we’ve gotten stronger as the year has gone on offensively and have gotten an identity and kind of gotten a better understanding of what we do well and how to make that work week in and week out,” Cousins said. “Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks.”
After facing the Titans and Jets, Raiders safety Karl Joseph called the Redskins the most dynamic offense Oakland has seen so far.
Some things to watch when the Raiders visit the Redskins:
SWISS ARMY KNIVES: This should be a showdown of multidimensional threats: Oakland’s Cordarrelle Patterson, who’s proving he can be more than an elite kick returner, and Washington’s Chris Thompson, who’s far more than a third-down back. Patterson is the active leader in kick return average, has two catches for 8 yards and ran for a 43-yard touchdown last week.
“He can play running back, receiver, tight end, he can play it all,” Carr said. “To have a guy like that, you don’t want to say Swiss Army knife because he does them all really well. He’s not just OK at some things. He’s really good at all of them.”
Thompson has three of the Redskins’ four offensive touchdowns.
“My role is to get 10-15 touches a game catching and receiving and making the best of it, and as a third-down back that’s what I have to do,” Thompson said.
REUNION GAME: Raiders cornerback David Amerson returns to Washington for the first time since being waived by the Redskins early in 2015. Amerson was a second-round pick by Washington in 2013 and had a rough second season when he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 73.6 percent of passes at him with 10 TDs, according to Pro Football Focus. He was cut early the next season and revived his career in Oakland, earning a $38 million, four-year contract extension in 2016.
MIX-AND-MATCH: Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky rotates through 17 regulars on defense, particularly along the line. Second-year lineman Matt Ioannidis started against the Rams, and the Redskins are expecting to use him often Sunday night in all situations.
“He’s just gotten himself in bigger, stronger shape,” Gruden said. “Moving him to end full-time has helped him, kind of keeping him out of the nose guard position for now I think has been beneficial to him.”
BLITZING SAFETY: Joseph spent plenty of time in the offensive backfield last week. Joseph blitzed six times against the Jets, forcing Josh McCown into one sack and getting one of his own when he also forced a turnover. That was a rare play for the Raiders, who hadn’t had a sack from a defensive back since D.J. Hayden got one on Nov. 1, 2015.
“I should have definitely got more sacks than I did, I feel like I should have had three but you know I was happy to make that play,” he said.
RUN, RUN REDSKINS: Left tackle Trent Williams knows he’ll have to deal with Khalil Mack, but would love it if the Redskins ran the ball as much as they did in Los Angeles. It could also help contain Carr and the Raiders’ offense.
“We have to possess the ball,” Williams said. “We’ve got to find a way to slow down their pass rushers and also keep the ball out of their hands.”
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Oakland, California, contributed.