The Miami Dolphins will host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in a game that could see the Dolphins move to 3-0 for the first time since a 3-0 start to the 2013 season. The Raiders are looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since they started 2014 0-10.
To get a closer look at the Raiders, I turned to Levi Damien from SB Nation’s Raiders team site, Silver and Black Pride, for some information.
1. I’ll make the first question fairly simple. Khalil Mack?
He wanted to be paid market value. Initially reports had him asking for $22 million while the Raiders were offering $20 million and Jon Gruden didn’t even talk to Mack after their initial conversations back in January/February, so there was no relationship there. When Aaron Donald signed for $22.5 million, Mack’s price went up to $23.5 million. Jon Gruden panicked thinking Mack’s holdout might go into the season (I don’t think it would have) and was of the mind that now was the only chance he had to get two first round picks (while also sending the Bears a second round pick because...reasons) for Mack so he traded him. Even though he could have made him play his fifth year option and had two chances after that to franchise tag him. Nope, send your best player packing in his prime with no one to replace him. Genius.
2. How - other than Mack - has the Jon Gruden experience been this summer and into the first part of the season?
It got off to a great start. In fact, I would say for the most part it seemed great right up until the trade happened. He is fiery and is able to motivate his players with a mixture of toughness and humor. And he was good at the podium too, with plenty to offer without being too cagey, presumably from all his years in the booth. There was an energy in training camp I hadn’t felt before. There wasn’t a lot of excitement as a spectator, but you could tell the players were excited. It was highly competitive between Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther who is basically the head coach of the defense. Though the defense was losing most of those battles because they don’t have nearly the talent on the defensive side of the ball. Much of that wore off a few weeks ago and it’s been tougher at the podium with that giant elephant in the room that is addressed just about every press conference, especially with the 0-2 start along with the complete lack of a pass rush.
3. The 2018 season has not started out the way Raiders fans would have hoped. Sitting at 0-2 on the season, 21st in the league in total offense, 28th in scoring offense, 22nd in total defense, 31st in rush defense, 32nd in pressure rate, and 24th in points allowed, the Raiders appear to have struggles in several places. Is that an accurate assessment, and where do you think the Dolphins will find the most success against the Raiders?
Wow, that’s quite a question. Let’s just say that if the first two games are any indication, the Dolphins will find the most success in the second half. The Raiders have outscored opponents 25-10 in the first half and been outscored 43-7 in the second half. They had a 13-10 lead on the Rams in the opener only to have the Rams run off 23 unanswered points in a route. They were shutting out the Broncos 12-0 in the first half only to lose 20-19 on a last second field goal. They’re just collapsing. Much of that is on the defensive side, but the offense holds some blame as well. They’ve been very conservative and therefore anything short of perfection means stalled drives.
As far as where to attack, you mentioned a couple. The defensive line is a wreck. They get no pressure and can’t stop the run either. The interior line is without Justin Ellis and PJ Hall who started the season, so they had to sign a couple free agents in Johnathan Hankins and Clinton McDonald to fill in on short notice. Hard to hold up through a full game when your entire defensive line is a question mark.
4. The Dolphins defensive line has been able to generate pressure this year, but the star defensive ends, Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, have only one total sack so far. Can Dolphins fans expect that stat to continue to sit at one, or should Miami be able to exploit the offensive line and get to Carr?
The best thing the Raiders did last week to keep pressure off of Carr was to do a lot of quick passes. They opened up the offense a little bit for dropbacks and deep passes and it sounds like they will continue to do so. If that’s the case, that would figure to make for more sack opportunities. Donald Penn was moved to right tackle after spending his entire career at left tackle and he has looked out of place. He gave up a couple sacks and run stuffs to Von Miller last week and wasn’t great in the opener either. On the left side is Kolton Miller who held up well in pass blocking, but was pretty bad in run blocking. And again, if Carr is asked to to more 5 and 7-step drops, the rusher on his side could have a chance to get home.
5. We are still early enough in the year that there are new players on each roster that fans outside of that base do not yet know. Who is the breakout player Dolphins fans should watch for the Raiders?
The secondary mostly. The team’s 2017 top pick Gareon Conley is healthy after basically missing his entire rookie season with a shin injury. Newly signed Rashaan Melvin has looked pretty good. Former special teams player Erik Harris could start this week. He has been the best looking safety in a very suspect group overall. One more player I will say to keep an eye on is rookie defensive end Arden Key. If the pass rush is going to ever offer anything, it will be because he gets it going. He had an outstanding training camp, but has been finding his way over the first two games. He said he was nervous for the season opener and seemed to settle in some last week. If he continues that trend, he could do something.