John Gennaro: What do you make of the stories about Dennis Allen being on the hot seat and Mark Davis picking up where his father left off? I thought the Raiders culture was supposed to have changed.
Levi Damien: There have been reports both ways on this. Mark Davis himself spoke and preached patience with Reggie McKenzie and the coaching staff so it's hard to say where they will go. But even if Allen was to be fired, you can't really say ‘same old Raiders'. He has gone 8-22 and is likely to lose the final two games as well. Plenty of teams would fire a coach for two seasons in which they had four wins. The only thing that could save him is the state of the Raiders in general. The question is simply if the Raiders' folly can be blamed solely on the low salary and the patchwork rebuild or if some better coaching could have made this team more competitive. There is room for both sides of the argument.
JG: Outside of the games against the Colts and Chargers earlier this year, the Raiders defense has given up a ton of points in the rest of their games. What is wrong with the Oakland D?
LD: It's predictable. Offenses read them like a book. What was working for a while there, is no longer working. Philip Rivers spoke of the Raiders defense confusing him. There is no confusion on the part of the other team any more. Even when they don't know what's coming, they know what to do afterward. The Chiefs simply used the screen pass and it worked like gangbusters. Raiders coaches like to say it's tackling but that's only part of it. The players aren't in position to make the play in most cases, then other players try to compensate for that and it only makes things worse. It's a complete mess now and Rivers should have no trouble taking whatever he wants Sunday.
JG: If it were up to you, who would be the Raiders starting QB in 2014 Week 1 and why?
LD: That's a tough question because there will be at least one quarterback added to this roster who will be a solid competitor for the starting job. We won't know who the best option will be until that player is either drafted or signed as a free agent. Right now, it would be Matt McGloin, without question. McGloin took the job this season and if the team drafts a quarterback (again), that player would have to play well enough in camp to take it from him.
JG: Which young Raiders player has had their breakout season this year?
LD: Most the young players on this team are rookies so they can't really ‘break out' per se. Rod Streater is on pace for a 1000 plus season but he was showing his talents last season. So, for those reasons I would go with Andre Holmes. He was with the Cowboys for a couple seasons and had just two catches in that time. They cut him, the Patriots picked him up and then cut him before he even practiced with the team. The Raiders signed him in the off-season and he looked really good in camp but was headed for a 4-game suspension to start the season. Denarius Moore went out with a shoulder injury and opened the door for Holmes who was named the starter in Moore's stead. He has 17 catches for 322 yards and a touchdown with just three starts this season. Last week he made the Sportscenter top 10 with a crazy leaping one-handed grab. He is a big target who will win just about any jump ball thrown his way.
JG: Outside of the fact that it's a rivalry, do the Raiders have any reason to win this game? Wouldn't losing it be better for the long-term future of the team because it would improve draft position?
LD: They would love to play spoiler. If they win, it could knock the Chargers out of the playoffs depending on what the Ravens and Dolphins do this weekend. For a losing team like the Raiders, that would be deeply satisfying. It could also help the coaches and a lot of players to keep their jobs. For many of these players, a higher draft pick means nothing because they are probably not going to be back. The Raiders signed a lot of guys to one-year deals who are trying to earn long term contracts. Whether that be for the Raiders or another team, these last two games are their last chance to audition for that lucrative deal they are hoping for.
JG: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Levi.