Levi Damien: Well, to be accurate, the Raiders defense is ranked 17th in the league in yards allowed and the Chargers are 30th. It is mainly the offense that has let the Raiders down. That being said, missing Branch is tough. The Raiders give up more underneath routes, dump passes, and longer runs without Branch in there. What the Raiders will do is try to take advantage of the Chargers’ weak offensive line with pass rush and blitzes mixed in. The Raiders have had trouble disguising blitzes this season and it’s been a point of emphasis.
I've always been a fan of Rashad Jennings. What was the word on him in training camp and in the preseason? Is there any chance he can take over as the full-time starter?
LD: He is very capable of being the full time starter. In fact, I would say he is a better option than Darren McFadden with the run blocking problems the Raiders have. McFadden is known to go down on first contact and requires open space to do his work. He has rarely gotten that with the Raiders. Jennings shows his value in making something out of nothing by keeping his legs churning and pushing through tackles. That’s what the Raiders need. They aren’t good enough to make up for tackles for loss that McFadden is known to give up.
Now that Matt Flynn is third on the depth chart, and taking up a significant part of the salary cap, are fans upset at Reggie McKenzie for making that trade...or do they still feel like it was necessary because nobody knew what Terrelle Pryor would be before preseason?
LD: Great question. There are those in both camps. Neither is entirely wrong or right. It was necessary to bring in competition for Pryor because he absolutely was not ready and there was no way of knowing at the time if he would ever be. Anyone who says any different is lying. But it is also clear Reggie McKenzie doesn’t have a great eye for talent at quarterback. He traded for Flynn and defended him vehemently for what he said he had seen him do in practice in Green Bay and all Flynn did in practice for the Raiders was look ineffective and underwhelming. He also settled for Tyler Wilson in the draft because the guy he wanted – Matt Barkley – was gone. Both decisions turned out to be horrible ones.
How has rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden looked so far? Any other rookies having good years?
LD: He has looked timid with physical contact and lacking aggression. It could very well be because of his heart injury. He doesn’t jam receivers at the line or made solid, hard tackles. He also has given up a lot of catches as he adjusts to the pro game. Not quite bust worthy so far but not upper half of first round good for sure.
Overall the rookie class has been pretty disappointing. The only player who has begun to show some real promise this season is sixth round tight end, Mychal Rivera aka Naya’s brother. He has worked his way to being the number one tight end with David Ausberry out for the season. But even then, his blocking needs work and he is simply best of one of the worst tight end groups in the NFL.
As someone who was afraid of Tom Cable's team (they went 6-0 against the division!) and then as someone who was afraid of Hue Jackson's ability to put up points with a team full of nobodies.... Tell me why I should fear/respect Dennis Allen as coached of the Oakland Raiders.
LD: I don’t think I can tell you that for certain. But if there were one area that is improved from recent years, it is the play of the defense. He is the first defensive head coach for the Raiders since John Madden. Even the GM is a former defensive player so that is where the strength of his talent evaluation lies. So, it makes sense the defense would be playing above its station considering the rag tag bunch they have put together on a shoestring budget.