The Rams occupy a new space today as the favored team, something they haven't dealt with since week one. The test is as much about the Rams themselves as it is the underdog Raiders.
To figure out just who the Raiders are and how they got to a 1-10 record, I linked up with Levi Damien from Silver And Black Pride, SB Nation's community for fans of the Oakland Raiders.
Set the stage for me. Why are yall where you are? Is the record a fair indication of the state of the roster?
As they say, you are what your record says you are. Though there are some layers to that. They have had the toughest schedule in the NFL which has contributed to it. Early in the season it was the defense that couldn’t seem to hold it down. Lately it’s been the offense that has been pathetic. Heading into last week’s win, they had easily the worst run game in the NFL and were on pace to have the lowest rushing totals in the modern era.
That being said, the defense has really stepped up lately. So, based on that part of the question, the 1-10 record does not accurately show how well they are playing. This defense is not playing right now like a 1-10 team defense. If they had played like this earlier in the season, they would have pulled out a couple more wins at least. They just needed to gel and find what worked. It appears they have found that.
Has Derek Carr done enough to earn a third year? Is there any way you guys bail on him after just one? Are the offensive struggles more indicative of a talent deficiency on the rest of the depth chart along the line and at WR, or is Carr part of the problem at least as a rookie?
A third year? Let’s focus on the second year. While anything can happen over the final five games, barring a complete meltdown, he has earned his shot at being the Raiders’ quarterback next season. The answer to your question is all of the above. The offensive issues start with the offensive line and the running game, include the lack of a true number one receiver, and include some poor decision making by Carr.
The line got a boost last week with Latavius Murray coming in and actually making the most out of the gap he was given. I’m sure they feel a bit redeemed after having most of the blame fall on them through the first ten games. James Jones is the closest this team has had to a number one receiver, but while he is incredibly dependable, he is not an elite receiver. He is a very good possession receiver. Carr has said he has complete faith in his receivers to make a play on the ball, but he has not been given any reason to feel that way. He watched film of his brother throwing to Andre Johnson all those years in Houston and Derek has no such receiver in his offense.
More on the Raiders
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Defensively, there's a lot to like about the Raiders. What are the soft spots? Where or how are teams finding success against you guys when they have the ball?
Much of the season it has been the defensive line that has been the weakness. Teams have run on the Raiders with great success. They have stepped up the past couple weeks, as has the linebackers and they’ve done well to stop Ryan Mathews and Jamaal Charles.
Where they still need work is in zone coverage on short and intermediate routes. There is too often large areas where a receiver – whether it be a running back out of backfield, a tight end, or a wide receiver – can make his way into that area and sit for a wide open catch. Some of that is middle linebacker Miles Burris in coverage. He usually sits too deep in an attempt to keep anything from getting behind him and then can’t react fast enough to get back to make a play on the ball.
We've got a couple of weeks left for both of our teams to sort out some things, but what would you say the primary needs are for yall? Have Carr and Khalil Mack put their positions to rest? What other surprises came about for you guys in 2014 that have you looking elsewhere for the 2015 NFL Draft?
There are still many needs, just as there were last off-season. Among them are wide receiver, defensive end, running back, defensive tackle, middle linebacker, offensive guard, tight end, and safety.
Carr and Mack (with Sio Moore) have the position of quarterback and outside linebacker as no longer desperately needed positions.
The surprise on this team is T.J. Carrie. The seventh round pick has been a revelation. He has answered a need at three positions – cornerback, kick return, and punt returner. The team drafted Keith McGill in the fourth round and would like to see him develop as well. Suddenly, even if Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers leave after one season with the Raiders, they are set up pretty well with D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie as the starting corners.
So you guys are the only other team I look at that's been lost in the wilderness with us for a decade. We've got our route planned. How do yall get back on track? Is Sparano in the mix beyond this season or do you guys have to find a new captain for the ship?
Mark Davis would like a big name hiring for next season. It makes it a slim possibility Sparano returns. Though, if the team continues playing the rest of the season the way they did last week, his return is not out of the question.
They again have a lot of money to spend this off-season in free agency. They had more flops in free agency last year than success stories, so the plan is to spend their money a bit more wisely. Number one priority is to actually KEEP their own good players whose contracts are up. That could require a change at general manager to get it done. Then, of course, continue to build through the draft.
Thanks to Levi for the time.