The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, so it’s time for some more questions with the enemy. Today we talked to Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride, and he was kind enough to answer all of our Raiders questions.
1. How good is Derek Carr? Is he the future of the Raiders franchise?
He's very good. Not only has he consistently shown improvement in each of his three seasons, but he has shown the ability to put the team on his shoulders and bring them back. Several times this season, he has taken the offense in the final two minutes and drove them for the win. A good compare/contrast -- which we did last week with the Raiders playing the Jaguars-- is Blake Bortles. Mainly because they were taken in the same draft, a round apart. But also because both improved greatly from their first season to their second. But Bortles this season has proven what happens when you don't continue to work on mechanics while Carr has proven the opposite. Carr having the same coaching staff and receiving corps from last year to this has helped him greatly as well. So too has the offensive line offering great protection, which has helped with his confidence. The Raiders look to have their first original drafted franchise quarterback since Ken Stabler. That's not hyperbole, it's just reality.
2. The Raiders have just nine sacks on the season. Is the pass-rush really that bad, or should the Bucs still be wary of the Raiders defensive line?
It's been that bad. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are still players to be wary of, but with no interior pass rush to speak of, it's easier for teams to neutralize the damage they are able to impose. The key to that could be Mario Edwards Jr, but he is on partial season IR and isn't eligible to return until after this week. Stacy McGee had provided some interior pass rush but he is officially out with an ankle injury. It's a good time for the Buccaneers to face this Dline.
3. The Raiders drafted safety Karl Joseph in the first round in what was a somewhat surprising move. How has he looked so far?
He took a few games to acclimate, but has played fairly well recently. He does well covering tight ends and can cover wide receivers as well in a pinch. The ability to cover tight ends should be a given, but the Raiders have struggled with that in recent seasons, so it's kind of a big deal.
4. Have the Raiders turned the corner? Are they finally back to being consistent contenders? And will we see a replay of Super Bowl XXXVII in the near future?
I'm not going to punch their ticket just yet, but there is a lot of reason for optimism. The defense thus far has been porous but opportunistic. They are dead last in points allowed, but second in the league in takeaways (13). Even with the yards they give up as well as the over 26 points per game, they are still 5-2. Of course that is a shaky way to go about an entire season, but it's always been about the Raiders weathering the storm. They are on their third middle linebacker this season, not because they lost a starter to injury, but because they have been trying to find the right guy. It appears as though they may have found their guy in Perry Riley Jr. Three of the four starters in the secondary and two of the three linebackers are new this year, so gelling was needed. Add that Mario Edwards Jr and possibly Aldon Smith will be added to the roster in a couple weeks and things are looking up for this group.
As far as a replay of Super Bowl XXXVII, obviously the question was just an excuse to bring it up. But it's cool, I'll tackle it. Unless the Raiders trade Jack Del Rio to the Bucs, let Bill Musgrave take over while using the same playbook, then have a panic attack trying to change the plays the night before the game, Rodney Hudson develops a disorder and goes off his meds, and the Buccaneers can somehow have their first non-losing season in six years, or win their first playoff game since that Super Bowl, I don't see a replay occurring, no.
5. Can you name one player on offense who Bucs fans haven't heard of but will show up in this game? On defense?
Since you all have probably heard of Central Florida alum Latavius Murray, I'll so with his backup DeAndre Washington. He is the primary change-of-pace back behind Murray. You can figure he will have at least one nice little run. He usually does. As a bonus I would say to watch for Jalen Richard as well. Both are scat backs and will receive carries. Though Richard see more touches as a receiver and return man.
I'll go back to an earlier question about the defensive line and mention someone I didn't mention -- Denico Autry. With Stacy McGee out and Edwards not back yet, he is the closest thing the Raiders have to getting some interior pass rush. He usually can get some pressure form the inside and the Raiders will need to get something from him more than ever with McGee out.