Half of Las Vegas’ 22 starters Sunday against the Chargers will be different from when these teams concluded the 2021-22 regular season against each other in January.
The Raiders also will have a new coaching staff led by Josh McDaniels.
The Chargers will look different too, including one player who started that game Jan. 9 in Las Vegas. Safety Derwin James Jr. arrived at the team’s facility this week with a very obvious haircut, his short dreadlocks replaced by a smooth buzz.
“I just wanted to get it a little cleaner,” James explained Wednesday. “I want to go back to the real DJ3.”
James also will debut his new jersey number Sunday after switching from the No. 33 he wore his first four years in the NFL to the No. 3 he wore at Florida State. James said college was the last time his hair was this short.
“I feel amazing,” he said. “I’m healthy, ready to go. … I can’t wait to go. It’s like the first day of school.”
The Chargers and Raiders produced epic theater in their most recent meeting. Daniel Carlson kicked a 47-yard field goal as overtime expired for a 35-32 Las Vegas victory.
The outcome — on a Sunday night in the league’s final regular-season game — kept the Chargers out of the playoffs when they would have qualified with nothing worse than a tie.
The Raiders moved on to the postseason only to lose the next weekend at Cincinnati.
Still, both teams have undergone significant changes in the eight months since. Six of the Chargers who started that 2021 finale are no longer with the team. They have 22 new players on their 53-man roster.
“I think those of us who were at that game, that was as tough of a deal as you’re going to face as a competitor,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “But there’s just a lot that’s happened since then.
“Competition is about moving forward and being ready for what’s right in front of you. That’s what we’ve been working hard at all offseason, all of training camp, getting ready for this week.”
The Chargers open the season with a demanding short stretch. After facing Las Vegas, they will travel to Kansas City for another AFC West game just four days later.
Jackson not practicing
Cornerback J.C. Jackson did not practice as he continues to recover from a surgical procedure on his right ankle.
Staley said Jackson was out of his walking boot and did some running Tuesday. He called the veteran defender “day to day,” before adding that “things are very positive.”
Jackson’s surgery was Aug. 23, the Chargers announcing afterward that he’d return in two to four weeks. Wednesday marked two weeks and one day.
Given the timeline, the expectation has been that Jackson probably will be unavailable for Week 1. But Staley said he thought a final decision on Jackson’s status would not be made until Sunday.
There were at least two reports Wednesday that Jackson was expected to sit out the game against the Raiders. If Jackson is out, Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. will be the Chargers’ top outside cornerbacks, with Bryce Callahan in the slot.
“The real positive is that we’ve played with everybody in the secondary,” Staley said. “We know exactly how to use them. I think that’s the exciting thing. For us as coaches, that’s the comforting thing.”
The additions for Las Vegas since last season include receiver Davante Adams, an All-Pro the last two seasons. Adams is the type of wideout the Chargers potentially could assign to Jackson for the majority of snaps.
James and quarterback Justin Herbert were among the eight players voted by their teammates to be captains for the season.
The others included edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, wide receiver Keenan Allen, running back Austin Ekeler and center Corey Linsley.
Mack and Joseph-Day both joined the Chargers in the offseason.
“Super thankful for the guys here, just embracing me and welcoming me,” Joseph-Day said. “For sure, I’m not going to let them down.”
Tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring) was limited in practice. … The Raiders had no players listed on their initial injury report.