Levi from Silver And Black Pride was kind enough to answer five of my questions about the Raiders.
1. I guess we should start with Derek Carr. What led to the decision to start the rookie? How much was it Carr playing well, and how much was based on what Matt Schaub couldn't do? How scaled back will the playbook be?
It was a bit more about what Carr could do than what Schaub could not do. Dennis Allen was ready to take a chance that Schaub could be the starter heading into the season, but Carr has shown he is ready now. He was 12-years old when his brother David entered the NFL so he was well ahead of the curve coming in. It was my thinking that the Raiders would give Schaub until the bye week (4 games) to show his stuff before they consider a quarterback change. His elbow soreness combined with how well Carr played in the preseason finale against the Seahawsk, jumpstarted that decision.
2. Plenty of people were hoping Khalil Mack would slip into range where the Jets could trade up for him back in May. What are the early returns?
He looks great. He really does. Everything he showed on tape from college has shown up in the last two preseason games. He has great instincts for rushing the passer and plays very well against screen passes – something that has bitten the Raiders over the years.
3. With Mack, Justin Tuck, and Lamarr Woodley the Raiders have a number of versatile pass rushers. How do these pieces fit? Where should we expect to see them on early downs? On passing downs?
Tuck and Woodley aren’t going to move around much. They will mostly stay at home or rush the passer with only the occasional drop into coverage. Mack will be used much like Sio Moore was last season. He will do a good bit of spying the running back out of the backfield whether against the run or in coverage on early downs but be activated to rush the passer a bit more than your typical 4-3 outside linebacker (because the Raiders utilize some 3-4 sets), especially on third and long.
4. Take us through the changes on the offensive line for the Raiders in the offseason and then the preseason.
The line looks considerably different from last year. Left tackle Jared Veldheer is a big loss. He is replaced by Donald Penn who was released by the Buccaneers this off-season and thus far has had some issues. The starter at left guard was Khalif Barnes through training camp but with the injury and poor play of last year’s second round pick, Menelik Watson, Barnes has moved to right tackle and rookie third round pick Gabe Jackson takes over at left guard. Center is the one positions that remains the same, with Stefen Wisniewski as the guy there. Right guard was the injury prone Mike Brisiel. The Raiders brought in Jets former starting right tackle Austin Howard and moved him inside to right guard. Overall, these changes should improve things – namely along the interior line.
5. How confident are you if the game comes down to special teams?
Far more confident than in years past. Last year Sebastian Janikowski had trust issues with new holder, Marquette King and it caused Seabass to have his worst season as a pro (21-30). In addition, King started last season with one of the worst touchback percentages in the NFL. His directional punts improved tremendously by the end of last season and have remained consistent this preseason.
In the return game, TJ Carrie looks very good. He had two big punt returns the preseason (50, 45) and appears to offer return abilities this team hasn’t seen since Jacoby Ford’s rookie season in 2010. Kick returns are currently being handled by second year running back, Latavius Murray. Nothing special there.