Jon Gruden's return to coaching has been much ballyhooed since he inked his long-term deal with the Raiders back in January.
But as exciting as it is to have one of the league's most well-known personalties back in the game, it does present a unique challenge for Oakland's first opponent in 2018.
Because Gruden hasn't called a play since 2008 — and has spent the last decade meeting with coaches and players in production meetings for ESPN's Monday Night Football — it's very unclear what the Raiders' offense might look like. Sure, Oakland ran plays in the preseason. But with Gruden known as an offensive guru, it's highly likely that the team will come out with a few wrinkles on Monday.
"You know, it's tough, but the coaches know better than us what Jon Gruden likes to do — just the Raiders organization," safety John Johnson said. "So they're trying to prepare us best as we can, but we don't have very much to go off of. I think the first 15 plays of that game will tell the story — we just got to go from there."
While there have been jokes that Gruden wants to take the game back to 1998, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said he knows that's not going to be the case. One factor in that area is former Rams quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, who moved up to the Bay Area this offseason to become the Raiders offensive coordinator.
"'Olly' was here. The offensive coordinator was here, so they're up-to-date on everything and he's up-to-date on everything, even though [Gruden's] been out of football," Phillips said. "They'll have a complicated offense that'll try to take advantage of defenses. He'll audible, I mean that's what he did before. He's a quarterback guru. He'll have the quarterback all over the place that he feels like are good against whatever looks we give him so. I expect all that from him."
If the Rams' defense does have an edge, it's that the unit has members who are familiar with the Raiders' offensive personnel because they played or coached in the AFC West. Phillips is one of them, serving as Denver's defensive coordinator from 2015-2016. Cornerback Marcus Peters is another, having played for Kansas City from 2015-2017. And cornerback Aqib Talib played for the Broncos from 2014-2017.
All that adds up to knowing certain tendencies about Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and tight end Jared Cook.
"They are giving us all pointers — a lot of pointers — even just on the guys that they have, not even scheme-wise, but just the players themselves," Johnson said. "They're helping us out a lot."
"You kinda know what he likes to throw, how quick — what kind of receiver Amari Cooper is, know what kind of receiver Cook is as a tight end — but at the same time, we don't know what they're going to run," Talib said. "We've got a slight idea, but we really don't know what they're going to come out and run. It's going to be different than it was in the past."
Despite all the unfamiliarity and uncertainty, Los Angeles' defense is feeling prepared for Week 1.
"Yeah, I think we'll be ready to go," Talib said. "Still polishing up the game plan, but I think by Monday night we'll be ready to go."
Check out the top shots from the second day of Rams practice during Week 1.