It’s that time of the week where we sit down and talk about this week’s opponent with the folks that run their site on the SB Nation NFL network. This week’s opponent, the Oakland Raiders, will be making their only trip to U.S. Bank Stadium as the “Oakland” Raiders on Sunday when they take on your Minnesota Vikings. They’ll be moving to Las Vegas for the start of the 2020 season, and I’ll tell you. . .I drove past their new stadium last month when I was in Vegas for a few days of vacation, and it’s going to be one impressive place.
But enough about Vegas, as we still have to focus on Oakland. I sent some questions to Levi Damien, the lead blogger over at Silver and Black Pride, about Jon Gruden’s crew. Here are his responses to the questions I sent his way. When he posts my responses to the questions he sent me, I’ll link them here and share them on the front page. With that, here we go!
1) With all of the Antonio Brown drama now firmly in the rear-view mirror, how has the team gone on with things in the wake of all that happened there?
Less talented and less dramatic. Much like the Patriots are feeling today, the Raiders were glad to be rid of the circus. Unfortunately, his presence was detrimental to the team. He cost them a third and fifth round pick and kept them from using a high pick on a receiver in the draft. With him they had one of the better looking receiving corps in the league. Without him they have one of the worst. It’s that simple. You lose an All-Pro and a couple of backups step up to try and take his place as a starter. And they weren’t just backups because AB was on the team. They’re simply backup quality. The only way the Raiders would have been better off is if they hadn’t ‘won’ the AB sweepstakes in the first place.
2) Jon Gruden is in the second year of the monster 10-year contract he signed to come back to coaching last year. Do you think that he and new GM Mike Mayock are doing a good job thus far? How much of that 10-year contract do you think Gruden is actually on the Raiders sideline for?
Some things are going well, others are not. The biggest mistakes this team has made all surround trades that Gruden made. That means several draft day trades last year, none of which worked out to the Raiders advantage, including sending third round pick to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant, and then of course the AB trade this offseason. They just traded a sixth rounder for a marginal kick returner who is supposed to be able to play wide receiver, but hasn’t done much of that either. So far this year’s draft with Mayock in house looks better than last year’s draft when Gruden was calling all the shots.
3) The big name that we’ve been tracking on the injury report for the Raiders this week is left tackle Trent Brown, who sat out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Do you think he plays on Sunday, and if not how does that potentially limit the Raiders’ offense?
He’ll play. He returned to practice Friday and was a full participant. Gruden says Brown has a sore knee, so it looks like for the most part he just has those two days off so as to give the knee some rest. But, just for the sake of argument, should he not play, it would either be Brandon Parker or David Sharpe to get the start. Either of them is a considerable step down from Brown. In my view, Parker would be more of a drop-off, but the coaches seem to disagree with that. Parker gave up 14.0 sacks in 12 starts last season and he gave up another one last week in one quarter of relief when Brown left the game. If he comes in at any point, the Vikings pass rushers will smell blood in the water.
4) Who is one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball for the Raiders that could play a role in deciding Sunday’s game, in your opinion?
If you didn’t watch Hard Knocks this year Darren Waller will fly under the radar for you. He is a physical specimen with great catching ability. He is their second best receiver on the team behind Tyrell Williams. Benson Mayowa has never been looked at as a star in this league. He was signed way late in free agency, which is a surprise for even a decent pass rusher. And yet, he was second in the NFL in sacks (3.5) after week two. He got in on two sacks and a forced fumble in both of the team’s games this season so far.
5) The Raiders played their first two games this season at home. With this being the final season in Oakland before the team moves to Las Vegas, how has the fan support been to this point? What do you think of the move as a Raiders fan?
Fan support has been pretty steady, actually. They doesn’t seem to be a letdown in the fans in Oakland as they watch the team live while they still can. Oakland is where they belong. The fans there deserve to keep their team and I feel terrible for them. Many of them may continue to be fans after they leave, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. For a lot of them it’s the second time they’ve had the team taken from them. The Raiders needed a new stadium, there’s no question. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been in Oakland.
Thanks again to Levi for taking the time to answer my questions. We’ll have more on this game as we get closer to Sunday afternoon’s kickoff.