HENDERSON, Nev. — The Las Vegas Raiders will be without four defensive starters for their crucial Thursday night home game against the Los Angeles Chargers, a less-than-optimal start for new interim defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Defensive end Clelin Ferrell (shoulder), linebacker Nicholas Morrow (concussion), cornerback Damon Arnette (concussion) and safety Johnathan Abram (concussion) will all sit out, Raiders coach Jon Gruden announced Wednesday.
With rookie receiver Henry Ruggs on the reserve/COVID-19 list, four of the Raiders’ five first-round picks over the past two years will be unavailable for Las Vegas (7-6) as it tries to keep alive its flagging playoff hopes against the Chargers (4-9). The fifth first-rounder, running back Josh Jacobs, is dealing with an injured right ankle.
“We’ve just got to have guys step up,” Gruden said. “Carl Nassib will come back in the lineup [at defensive end]. I’m sure he’ll play good. We’re anxious to see [safety] Dallin Leavitt play. [Defensive back] Daryl Worley‘s back; he’s been a quick study.
“So, it’s the next-man-up mentality. I know you’ve heard it a lot from me and a lot of coaches in this league, but that’s the truth.”
Marinelli, who replaced the fired Paul Guenther, said Tuesday he wanted to see “discipline” from his defense.
“Knowing exactly what we’re doing,” Marinelli said. “… I want to see great energy and great tackling. And gang tackling. Guys are hustling to the ball, and I think when you see that, they enjoy it. And I just want to see that part of it — that we really enjoy this game. And you can’t enjoy it, just one or two guys; it’s got to be a team defense.
“And defense is about team — quick fast and physical. Quick, fast and physical. That’s what I keep preaching, and we’ll see.”
Getting a pass rush going against Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and keeping him in the pocket is paramount for the Raiders. Herbert passed for 326 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 24 yards against the Raiders in Las Vegas’ 31-26 win in Inglewood, California, on Nov. 8.
“Everybody responds well to Rod,” Gruden said of Marinelli, who was elevated from defensive line coach. “They have before. It’s not like he’s a new guy coming in here. He gets the correct response, a lot of respect. I think people trust him. He’ll do a good job. It will be a tall order for him, obviously, in our defense, but I know we’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ve got a lot of respect for the Chargers.
“We’re not going to go in the tank. We’re going to stay strong mentally here, and we’re going to keep getting better and better and better and do the best we can every single time out.”
Marinelli, 71, brushed aside questions about his age and if he wanted to have the defensive coordinator job in Las Vegas beyond this season.
“All I do is work right now,” he said. “Me coaching, people bring this age up. … I want to see them step in my shoes and have my juice, OK? And I love it, so I don’t ever look past it right there. I just want to go do a great job right now, and our job is to help these men. That’s my job. That’s what we lock in at and go.”