For this week’s edition of “5 Questions” we got my colleague and good friend Cam Mellor to answer all of our inquiries about the Las Vegas Raiders ahead of this weekend’s intra-divisional tilt. If you want to read their article where I answer their set of questions, you can check it out once it drops on Silver & Black Pride.
Let’s dive right in.
1.) Derek Carr has been surprisingly efficient so far this season with 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. What’s been key to his safe level of play thus far?
Well you just said it, the key to his success has been his relatively safe level of play. It almost mirrors a bit of his play from 2019 where he was making the smart decisions, the right decisions and understanding that a throwaway is much, much better than a forced throw into coverage. It may not be sexy or as exciting, and he’s certainly left a ton of plays on the table early, but the fact that we’re trending to another season of single-digit interception totals and certainly more than 20 touchdown passes is refreshing.
2.) Last year, the Raiders offense seemed to run completely through Josh Jacobs and their ground game. Is Jacobs performing at the same level this year or has the rushing attack taken a step back?
I’d say Jacobs has certainly been less effective as a runner on a per-down basis this year and that’s concerning in Year 2 for him. The rushing attack has likely taken a hit due to injuries on the offensive line as a whole, but the offensive line has certainly carved up some major running lanes at times and Jacobs doesn’t seem to be exploiting them as well this year as he did a year prior. He’ll likely score more touchdowns on the ground than he did a year ago, but the more important factor will be that he’s rushing for far less yards per carry than even an average back, and that’s concerning for his future with the team if that keeps up.
3.) Defensively, the Raiders don’t seem to be where they want. The pass rush doesn’t seem as aggressive as last year when Maxx Crosby went for double-digit takedowns as a rookie. The secondary also looks a bit shaky. How does that side of the ball look to fare against Justin Herbert and his explosive passing?
Defensively, the Raiders have had their moments in 2020. There has been some good (looking right at ya big Maurice Hurst). And there has been some bad (looking right at ya entire secondary). The coverage unit overall has been a disaster and they can’t seem to stop anyone or make any plays on the ball, opposite Trayvon Mullen. Couple that with the fact that no one has been able to consistently rush the passer well, and you’ve got a mess defensively. Maybe a bounce-back weekend is in store, however, against that Chargers pass-blocking unit.
4.) If you were the offensive and defensive coordinator for the Chargers, how would you attack this Raiders team?
Offensively, I’m going downfield and I’m testing the cornerbacks on the outside early, often and in the quick-passing game. There have been far too many lapses on this Raiders defense to not test them often in the downfield passing attack. Defensively, I’m bracketing a healthy Henry Ruggs. He’s shown that he can beat just about anyone in the NFL off the line of scrimmage and is certainly faster than anyone on the field when he steps foot out there. Another week and another chance for Carr and Ruggs to get their timing and rhythm down, which means bad things for any defensive back in one-on-one coverage, so I’m throwing someone over the top to make sure he doesn’t beat me deep.
5.) Give us a short summary of how you think the game will go on Sunday and top it off with a final score prediction
This Sunday goes as we’ve seen prior: Carr comes out firing downfield shots and the running game comes out decent in their scripted offense to start the game. The defense has their lapses and Herbert connects for 300 yards in the air, easily. Carr and Ruggs, however, connect on their own deep shot after their chemistry has gotten a bit better and Darren Waller provides an open big target over the middle for a late, game-clinching drive that keeps the ball out of Herbert’s hands and keeps the Raiders defense off the field, both points providing to a 31-27 victory.