The Oakland Raiders are heading to south Florida this weekend to play the Miami Dolphins. What better way to get to know the Raiders, and what we as fans should expect to see, than to turn to someone who follows the Raiders religiously. I turned to Levi Damien from Silver And Black Pride, SB Nation's Raiders blog, to get a better sense of this game.
Kevin Nogle (KN): The Raiders are going from the late Monday night opener to a 1pm east coast game. Are there concerns among the fans about the short week and travel? Did the team do anything different to prepare for the week?
Levi Damien (LD): The main concern has always been the east coast trip. Although, I am sure there is a bit of a concern from the team about the short week as well. It is hard to tell exactly what the team may be doing differently with the short week but short weeks are always cause for some shuffling of a weekly routine. They typically practice around 11am and that didn't change this week even though the game will be occurring at 10am Pacific. If we see them sluggish to start the game, one could point to that as a possible cause.
KN: How has Carson Palmer been this preseason/Week 1? Is he fully in control of the offense after being thrust into it mid way through last season?
LD: He threw a few interceptions in the preseason and it looked to be a concern coming into the regular season. However, against the Chargers in week one, he barely threw the ball past 20 yards with most passes going to the running backs and tight ends. Evidence of this is Darren McFadden getting a career high 13 receptions and McFadden being more than half the Raiders offense (33 of 64 plays going to McFadden). The result of all the short passes was no interceptions. On one hand he appears in control of the offense and on another hand he still looks like he has a ways to go.
On Monday, he didn't look confident enough in his long game to even attempt too many of them. He would make a read, or perhaps two if the offensive line gave him any time at all, and then check down. On the other hand, the Chargers were making a concerted effort to take away anything downfield so he took was he was given. He has chemistry with McFadden, that is evident, but it remains to be seen if he can run a balanced attack.
KN: The number one receiver for the Raiders seems to be Darren McFadden (13 receptions last week). Are any other receivers healthy and/or ready to step up?
LD: Denarius Moore was healthy last week but was held out because he had only one week in practice. He will be in the lineup this week and represents the Raiders best/only true deep threat. Rookie standout, Juron Criner, was also not playing last week and it gave the Raiders just three healthy wide receivers, one of whom was Dereke Hagan (Dolphins are familiar), who had joined the team just a week earlier. Having five wide receivers now along with an actual deep threat in Moore should open things up for the entire receiving corps and take the burden off of McFadden.
KN: McFadden carried the ball 15 times against the Chargers, but only racked up 32 yards, with a team rushing total of 45 yards. With Palmer throwing the ball 46 times, is this a sign of the Raiders abandoning the run in favor of a more pass heavy offense, or was it the Chargers' defense stuffing the box and forcing Palmer to throw?
LD: I would lean toward the latter. The Chargers were sending their linebackers as rushers a lot of the time while other times dropping them into deep coverage. They were routinely leaving the short pass open for the taking. They were banking on the Raiders not being able to consistently maintain drives and they were right. I wouldn't expect the runs to be abandoned all the time although against the Dolphins, it might be the same story. They have a pretty good defensive front and the Raiders may opt to steer clear of it.
KN: What is the best way to attack the Raiders' offense? Defense?
LD: Wouldn't you like to know! Just kidding. The offensive scheme is new, so it can be hard to know how to best attack them. Although, the Chargers showed that sending pressure from all sides works enough of the time to stall drives. Attacking the defense is easiest through the air. The cornerbacks were suspect before and now they've lost their supposed number one, Ron Bartell, with a broken shoulder blade. They will be vulnerable in the secondary for that reason. The Chargers couldn't get anything going on the ground last week but when they wanted to move the ball, Rivers took to the air and got what he wanted.
A big thank you to Levi for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck to both teams this week, and hopefully the Dolphins will be able to pull off the victory.
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