A Q & A was proposed to me a few days ago by SB Nation sister site Silver and Black Pride (Raiders) Head Honcho Levi Damien. So I submitted 5 Queries about the Raiders and he did the same. I decided to compile all 10 of them into a post just for you. Hurry, hurry Hut!
Here are my 5 questions to Levi
1. Given the emphasis on a Money player, why has Darren McFadden had such limited production, thus far? Will he be heavily featured against the Broncos?
LD: The Raiders would like you to think that it is simply the offensive line getting down the new blocking scheme and working as a unit. And McFadden’s 113 yard performance last week against the Steelers could be proof they knew what they were talking about. McFadden will be heavily featured in every game this season (if he is healthy for every game, which is unlikely). He is a big part of this offense both as a runner and a receiver. They use him in every situation, even short yardage and goal line packages.
2. How do the Receiving Corps look without Darrius Heyward-Bey and can they stretch our defense without him?
LD: DHB adds a lot of speed to the receiving corps for the Raiders. With him out and Jacoby Ford on IR, the Raiders lose two of the three fastest players on the team. However, it is not DHB who stretches the defense, it’s Denarius Moore. He is the Raiders’ best wide receiver and deep threat. Though in the West Coast Offense they don’t go deep much, he is the best threat to do so. I will say there is a chance that without DHB on the other side to take away some pressure, I could see the Broncos may not allowing Moore to see the ball. The rest of the Raiders receivers are possession receivers who have good hands but not breakaway ability.
3. How confident are you that the Raider Offense can slow down our pass rush?
LD: Marginally. Jared Veldheer is one of the best left tackles in the league. But opposite him at right tackle is Willie Smith and he is very suspect bordering on liability. He has played above his station in relief of Khalif Barnes the past two games which is a pleasant surprise. But facing the likes of Elvis Dumervil and/or Von Miller could bring him back to earth very quickly.
4. There was a big salary purge in Oakland this past offseason to get under the Cap. You guys lost some good players, especially in the Defensive backfield. I really thought Stanford Routt would stay. Is this as big a weakness as the rest of the league believes?
LD: Yes. Plainly put. Not so much the loss of Routt but because his replacement, Ron Bartell, as well as the other starting corner, Shawntae Spencer are both out. Routt wasn’t a good fit for this new defense much like all the other man cover corners who the new Raiders regime shed from the roster. As far as Kamerion Wimbley, Phillip Wheeler takes his place and has played outstanding. He run circles around Wimbley in coverage. Last week against the Steelers he had 11 tackles, 2 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Just an incredible line. The one area he lacks is pass rush. That is the aspect that is sorely lacking from this defense. They have had one sack in each of the first three games. That’s pathetic and isn’t going to win a lot of games. It is a huge concern and the reason the team just signed free agent Andre Carter.
5. How has Carson Palmer progressed in this offense since being acquired last season?
LD: Well, the offense is completely different from last season so he had to start all over once the new offensive coordinator came in. Through the first two games, he looked bad. Not horrendously bad, but bad. He was off-target a lot and couldn’t finish off drives. All that changed last week. He was in complete control of the offense. It was pretty shocking to see just how comfortable he was. He was running the no-huddle offense, changing plays at the line, on target with his throws, and finished four drives including the drive into field goal range to seal the win on a Janikowski kick. And his only interception was because the receiver slipped on the baseball diamond dirt. I will need to see another performance like that to know it isn’t an on again, off again thing, but his mastery of the offense last week was evidence of what he is capable of accomplishing. The key will be consistency.
Here are Levi's 5 Questions and my replies
1. John Fox said that questions about Peyton Manning’s arm strength are "comical". Do you agree with this that there is no reason for concern? What has he done to cause and/or alleviate concerns?
KK: Since I was able to attend all of Training Camp this year, I believe I can make a good statement about this. This was one of the major things everyone would be looking at this season, so of course I have kept an eye on it. I have seen improvement since Training Camp for sure, but I don’t think that he is at 100%. He may never be. Age certainly has to factor into any evaluation. I DO believe he has recovered from the neck surgery and that it won’t get injured again as some believe. The fusion surgery did it’s job. The problem with Peyton was always a nerve issue. That is where the other surgeries came from. Lost feeling and arm weakness. He has regained much of it and I think he will be fine. It;s true that he threw a couple of wounded ducks in Week 2, but those weren’t due to arm strength. Manning hasn’t lost that much velocity and people who have watched his entire career are saying he never threw a tight spiral. I don’t know who much credence that has, but I think there are timing, route running and drops that have to be fixed. The only thing that can fix that is time.
2. How much of an impact do you think the suspension of Joe Mays will have on the defense? Do you think there is a sizable step down to Keith Brooking?
KK: Yes I do. Brooking may have experience on his side, but that side is the other side of the hill, as in "Over the Hill." The Broncos have a Brooking 7 years away from the Pro Bowler he was. We have already seen missed tackles out of him. He plays with heart and has valuable experience to pass on to the younger players, but at this point he’s a stop gap. Joe Mays is a thumper and while he has improved each season, he is still really a 2 Down player. His liability is in pass coverage. To cover that, the Broncos run a lot of Zone.
3. What is the main difference you’ve noticed with the defense between the way Dennis Allen ran it and the way Jack Del Rio runs it? Or has there been a big difference?
KK: I think Dennis used more blitzes personally. We haven’t seen enough to really measure the difference between the two yet though. I think the biggest difference so far, is the personnel they had to work with. Our Defense has changed quite a bit since last season.
4. What are the three biggest strengths of the Bronco team?
KK: Special Teams, Run Blocking and Wide Receivers. That is, if they can hold on to the ball.
5. What are the three biggest weaknesses of this Broncos team?
KK: Linebacker, Safety and Running Back. At Linebacker we are extremely thin, moreso because of the loss of D.J. Williams and Joe Mays suspension for this contest doesn’t help matters. Rookie Danny Trevathan looks like a good draft pick that will pay off sooner rather than later. The book is still out on Nate Irving and we wonder if he will break into the lineup.
Safety because we are young there. Mike Adams was brought in as a veteran presence to let the two young 2nd year guys Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter develop. I believe the two young guys will succeed in the league, but they have been sporadic. Overall, our weakness is through the middle of the Defense, something I have been pining about for many moons.
At Running Back, we have the aging but still studly Willis McGahee. I don’t know how much mileage there is remaining on those tires, but he made it past the 1,000 yard mark last season and came into Camp ripped again. Knowshon Moreno has been an enigma that many Bronco fans have given up on. Between the injury issues and a case of Fumblitis at the worst moments, no one can say what’s coming next with him. To be sure, he should be a great fit in the Manning Offense, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it pans out. Lance Ball is a journeyman type role player that can be a spot starter or adapt wherever you need him. He isn’t the prototypical guy you’d draft to be your starter, but he has a heart and work ethic along with the knowledge to claim a spot on most teams. Rookie Draft pick Ronnie Hillman has yet to see much action because he needs to improve his pass blocking. The coaches are bringing him along slowly. He has good outside running ability and should be a pretty good player for us when he learns his assignments enough to gain everyone’s trust. A Running Back in the Manning Offense better be able to pass block, catch AND run, otherwise they are a liability and Peyton cannot audible out of the run. Since they don’t teach pass blocking to Running Backs in college, this isn’t something new. A few years back, Clinton Portis couldn’t crack the starting lineup until Week 5 because of his lack of blocking skills.