We asked Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride five questions about the Raiders heading in to Sunday’s Titans-Raiders clash. Levi also joined Jimmy and Terry on MCM Radio earlier this week and you can check that out here if you haven’t already. Here are his answers:
1. Derek Carr seems to have a national reputation as a "gunslinger" type quarterback, but some of his numbers from 2016 seem to suggest a more measured approach (super low interception rate, slightly below average yards per attempt, and one of the quickest times to release of any QB). Is that something that has evolved with him or was the gunslinger narrative wrong all along?
It's a misnomer, mostly. He doesn't take a lot of chances. At least not anymore. I think part of the reason for the label comes from the fact that Brett Favre is his hero. Hence him choosing the number four. The first time the 'gunslinger' thing came up was against the Seahawks his rookie season. He threw a couple touchdowns in that game, but also threw a couple interceptions. He went after Richard Sherman a couple times. The second time, Sherman jumped the pass and returned it for a touchdown. That's one of those times when a quarterback learns that not fearing guys is great and all, but having a healthy respect is smart. The talk this season under new OC Todd Downing is that Carr will have more freedom to change the play at the line and go for it all when he thinks it's there. So, we'll see if some of that 'gunslinger' mentality shows up.
2. I've seen a lot of different takes on Sean Smith's play last year. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 18th best corner in football, but I've seen a lot of other smart analysts claiming he was very bad. He is now listed as a co-starter with T.J. Carrie on the depth chart. Where do you come down on this? Is he good, or is PFF crazy on this one?
No offense to PFF, but some of their grading systems need some tweaking from time to time. That being said, I also think the Raiders have not played to his strengths. He's a big corner who should be facing big receivers. Lining him up against smaller, quicker receivers is just asking to get burnt. He's just not built for that. The Raiders made coaching changes which suggests they too believe the issue was not all on the defensive backs. I expect Smith will be matched up better this season including covering tight ends from time to time. With Delanie Walker on the other side of the ball, this could be one of those times.
3. The Raiders weakest position group from the outside looking in appears to be linebacker. Would you agree? And if so, do you expect them to do anything special to try to slow down Delanie Walker?
I kinda answered the last part of the question in the previous one. As for the first part, yes, I would agree with that. Inside linebacker in particular. Second year former sixth round picks Cory James looks like the best of the bunch right now and he's questionable for the game with a knee injury. If he can't go, Tyrell Adams could replace him. Adams was a practice squad player who was added to the roster midway through last season as a special teamer. So, yeah, not ideal. The other standout this preseason was Jelani Jenkins and he was placed on on IR with a knee injury of his own. That means rookie fifth round pick Marquel Lee will start and thus far he's shown little that would offer confidence he can hold down the middle linebacker job. It's a mess that I expect the Titans to exploit all day.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson going to Oakland was an interesting offseason signing. With him coming out of the University of Tennessee, lots of fans around here have followed his career. It seems like the Vikings never did quite figure out how to use his skill set. Have the Raiders given any hint on how they plan to use him during camp or in preseason action?
I wouldn't put it all on the Vikings for how they used Patterson. I'd put it mostly on Patterson. He has elite speed, but his lateral quickness is just not there. That means he doesn't run crisp routes and doesn't have high yards per catch numbers. The Vikings tried to get him in space as much as possible to add his lethal kick return abilities to the offense, but being a gadget guy with a limited route tree doesn't translate to a lot of snaps. It also makes his presence on the field rather predictable. It is possible, however, that they send him deep more often. Though without a great double move, they would be hoping he can simply outrun his defender, which he might actually be able to do.
When he initially came to Oakland, the thinking was that he could threaten Seth Roberts as the team's third receiver. That hasn't happened. Patterson doesn't work well out of the slot and that's what the Raiders need with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as the starters out wide. Many people have hoped they might put into the offense some sets that line up Patterson and Crabtree outside with Cooper playing the slot, but if they have that one in the playbook, they've been saving it.
5. How do we stop your offense? Asking for a friend...
Tell your friend to ask for himself... seriously though, I can't really answer that. There isn't a 'take away this aspect and force this other aspect to beat you' situation with this team. They are stacked most everywhere on the offense. The only potential weak spot is right tackle. They signed Marshall Newhouse as a free agent and based on his career, he may not be an upgrade from what the team had before.