NFL: Raiders reportedly to start rookie QB Aidan O’Connell vs. Chargers

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The Las Vegas Raiders have three quarterbacks on their roster, and the most established one won’t be taking the field on Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Jimmy Garoppolo was ruled out on Saturday after spending the week in concussion protocol. Sunday morning, ESPN reported the Raiders (1-2) will turn to rookie Aidan O’Connell to start. He was a fourth-round draft pick in April.

Garoppolo was placed in concussion protocol following a 23-18 loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report before being ruled out one day later.

O’Connell, 25, gets the starting nod over veteran Brian Hoyer.

A fourth-round pick out of Purdue who threw 50 touchdown passes his final two seasons with the Boilermakers, O’Connell will be making his regular-season debut.

Hoyer, 37, has started 40 games in his 15-year NFL career but only three since the 2017 season. He has lost his past 12 starts, previously winning in Week 4 of the 2016 season with the Chicago Bears.

Raiders coach Josh McDaniels didn’t tip his hand about a starter through the week.

“We’re hard at work prepping how we manage that situation as best we can as it progresses through the week,” McDaniels said.

O’Connell apparently will be the one who needs to perform better than Garoppolo has so far. He has thrown five touchdown passes compared to six interceptions, one reason the Raiders are tied for 29th in the NFL in points per game (15.0).

The Chargers (1-2) will try to build off their 28-24 win at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, a victory they nearly gave away after coach Brandon Staley went for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 24-yard line with 1:51 left and clinging to a four-point lead.

The Chargers prevented another agonizing last-minute loss by intercepting a pass in the end zone with under 10 seconds left.

Austin Ekeler, the No. 1 running back for Los Angeles, returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the past two games with an ankle injury. He was listed as doubtful on Friday.

Ekeler’s return would be especially beneficial to the offense after wide receiver Mike Williams (seven catches, 121 yards and a touchdown at Minnesota) went down with a season-ending torn ACL on Sunday.

“Everyone is going to have to elevate their game, and it’s not just the receiving group, it’s going to be that tight end group and running back group, as well,” Staley said. “We’re going to have to work through those adjustments here during the week to get ready for the Raiders.”

Another blow to the Chargers’ offense is the loss of center Corey Linsley to a heart issue. He was placed on the non-football illness list on Saturday and will miss at least four games.

Allen showed he can pick up the slack, catching a team-record 18 passes from Justin Herbert for 215 yards, even throwing a touchdown pass.

Herbert finished 40-of-47 for a career-high 405 yards and three touchdowns against the Vikings. He is a big reason the Chargers rank second in the NFL in total offense per game (416.7).

Regardless of the quarterback, the Raiders also will need running back Josh Jacobs to get on track.

Coming off a training camp holdout, he’s been limited to 108 yards on 45 carries through the first three games (2.4 yards per carry) and has not yet scored a touchdown.

Jacobs rushed for a league-leading 1,653 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last season, averaging 4.9 yards a carry.

The Chargers have been vulnerable on defense this season, mainly against the pass, ranking 31st in the NFL in total defense (450.7 ypg allowed) and 32nd in passing defense (337.0 ypg allowed).

Los Angeles three-time Pro Bowl safety Derwin James Jr. (hamstring) is listed as doubtful. The position could be short-handed as JT Woods (illness) was ruled out and safety Alohi Gilman (heel) is questionable. Woods was placed on the non-football illness list Saturday.

Star pass rusher Joey Bosa (hamstring/toe) was downgraded to doubtful on Saturday, so his availability is in jeopardy. Cornerback Deane Leonard (hamstring) also is doubtful.

For Las Vegas, linebacker Curtis Bolton (knee) was ruled out on Friday’s injury report, while cornerback Nate Hobbs (ankle) was downgraded to out on Saturday. Defensive end Maxx Crosby (knee) was ruled questionable as were defensive end Malcolm Koonce (groin) and safety Roderic Teamer (Achilles).

Also, the Raiders said running back Brandon Bolden didn’t travel with the team due to a personal matter, but he is expected to rejoin the team in Los Angeles and play Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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