Going into what could be the Jets’ final visit to Oakland before the Raiders leave California for their neighbors to the east, I asked Silver and Black Pride’s Levi Damien five questions on the Raiders.
1) While we know the Raiders are a Super Bowl contender right now, what is the long-term state of the team? Is there still more growth to be done in the years to come, or has their "win now" window opened? If so, how big does that window look?
The 'win now' window is definitely open. For the most part, it looks like it will be open for a few years. Several young foundation players either just received long term extensions or are about to. They still have some areas that need upgrading -- mostly on the defensive side of the ball -- but it's key to note that those needs are becoming more focused which is a sign of a good team. For many years they have had so many needs to address, it was impossible to get them all addressed.
2) Where would you say the Raiders' primary strengths and weaknesses are on offense and defense?
They are strong in nearly all aspects on offense. Adding Jared Cook and Marshawn Lynch upgraded tight end and running back which was crucial. The closest they have to weak areas are right tackle and slot receiver. Marshall Newhouse was decent in the opener, but the jury is still out on whether he is the answer at right tackle. Seth Roberts is a competent slot receiver, but he isn't your stereotypical quick, speedy slot guy, he's more of a possession receiver who can on occasion get behind the defense.
The weakest area on the defense continues to be inside linebacker. Cory James looks like he's improved since his rookie season in 2016, but outside of that, there are major question marks. The team did virtually nothing to address the position in the offseason, signing Jelani Jenkins only to release him in the final cuts and drafting Marquel Lee in the 5th round. Last season the corners and the interior defensive line were also problems, but they looked much improved in the season opener, so we'll see if that can continue.
3) Who is one player on the Raiders the average fan might not know about that plays a crucial role to the team's success?
Khalil Mack. You guys ever heard of him? Oh, ok, then let's go with David Amerson. He's been the team's best cornerback the past couple seasons, so some may know who he is outside of the organization, but he hasn't made any Pro Bowls and the Raiders secondary hasn't been great overall. Many players are 'crucial' to their success, but without Amerson, they'd be in trouble.
4) What were the most notable takeaways from the Tennessee game? Were there any promising breakouts or discouraging signs of decline from any players in particular?
Takeaways for me on offense were Beast Mode is back and shows no signs of slowing down. The defense looked much improved in two of their three major problem areas. They looked much better in the secondary and interior defensive line, but the linebackers still can't cover the tight end.
5) How has the city, team, and fanbase reacted to the impending Las Vegas move?
The team seems happy to be getting record amounts of public money. The city is of course not happy to be losing the team. Both sides are pointing the finger at the other for why they are leaving. In the end it's all about money. Nearly a billion in free money from Nevada was something the NFL and the Raiders were simply not going to turn down.
Reactions from the fans are pretty much across the board. Ranging from giving up on the team altogether, to sticking around hoping they can win another Super Bowl before leaving Oakland, to begrudgingly sticking around despite the move, to enthusiastically anticipating it. The last one is mainly for those fans who live closer to Vegas than they do Oakland. Let's not forget they were in Southern California for 13 years, so there is a considerable holdover of fans still in So Cal, Nevada, and Arizona.
Check out my answers to Silver and Black’s questions here.