Raiders @ Titans: Q and A With Golden Gate Sports


It’s just over 24 hours until the Oakland Raiders take the field at Nissan Stadium for a week 12 matchup with the Tennessee Titans. The Raiders will be trying to break a three-game skid against the 2-7 Titans who are looking for their first win at home in over a year.

We got a chance to catch up with Kevin Saito, who is the editor at Golden Gate Sports for a question and answer session regarding the Silver and Black. Be sure to visit their site for my responses to GGS questions regarding Marcus Mariota and your Tennessee Titans.


How has the hiring of Jack Del Rio been received around Raider Nation, and what has he done to change the culture in Oakland?


Raider Nation has embraced Del Rio unlike any coach we’ve had since the days of Chucky — aka Jon Gruden. He seems to embody that Raider mystique. We all know his background and his love of the Raiders that goes back a long time. So getting to have somebody as steeped in Raider history as Del Rio is, along with his work ethic and attitude has already endeared him to the fans. He is perfectly suited to coach this team.

There is already a big change in Oakland’s culture. He has a no-nonsense, blue collar, team first attitude. Everybody is accountable for their actions and their play. Ask Sio Moore — Moore was a fan favorite and really became an emotional leader on the defensive side of the ball. But there was a perception that he wasn’t putting the work in and that he wasn’t getting it, that he wasn’t necessarily buying into what Del Rio and his coaches were selling and not giving himself up for the team. Moore is now in Indy. Del Rio demands hard work, demands a team first attitude, and demands that the guys leave it all out on the field. And the team has responded to him in a positive way.

The Raiders may have a ways to go yet before they get to the top of the mountain, but for the first time in a really long time, there is the sense that they WILL get there. It’s a matter of when, not if any longer.


What do you think has caused this three-game losing streak by the Raiders after such a great start to the season?


I think that the losing streak is a combination of different things. Throwing out the Pittsburgh game simply because that was a defensive nightmare from the start, but the offense still played really well. but over the last two games (Minnesota and Detroit), I believe that the biggest culprit has been OC Bill Musgrave and some terrible play calling. His schemes have been incredibly vanilla, incredibly predictable, and he hasn’t put his team in a position to have success.

Yes, the players bear some responsibility — they have not executed as well as they should have. But when Musgrave opens the Detroit game with two runs into the middle of the line and follows that up with a short pass — it’s maddening. And not surprising that Oakland’s offense struggled.

What makes it even more crazy making is that when the Raiders played the Jets, Musgrave went right after Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie — arguably, one of the better CB tandems in the league. But Carr was airing it out and was killing it. The Raiders obliterated the Jets. But against the Lions? Vanilla and conservative with very few deep balls thrown.

So my biggest culprit for this three game skid is Musgrave’s play calling. He’s done a poor job of putting the offense in position to find a rhythm and have some success.


What do the Raiders need to do during the offseason that would turn them back into a contender in 2016 for a division title and maybe a playoff run?


The biggest thing they will need to do this offseason is address the absolute train wreck that is the secondary.Oakland is currently 30th in the NFL in pass defense and are giving up nearly 300 yards a game through the air. They’ve done a better job in the last two weeks, holding Minnesota to like 140 yards and the Lions to 266, but they still need to improve quite a lot.

One of the best things they can do is part ways with DJ Hayden. He’s not panning out and he is a bust as a first round pick. He just hasn’t developed and is more of a liability in the secondary than anything. TJ Carrie has the skills to be a good corner, but he still has some room to develop and improve.

For Oakland to turn the corner and become a legit contender in 2016, they need to fix their porous secondary. Whether through the draft of free agency, the Raiders need to find a lockdown corner to play opposite Carrie.


Have we seen the best of Derek Carr, or can he join Kenny Stabler and Jim Plunkett as one of the greats?


I think we’re barely scratching the surface of what Carr can do — or how good he can be. We’re nowhere near his ceiling. He has tremendous arm strength, has very solid accuracy, and the athleticism to keep plays alive with his legs. This offense is more explosive than it has been in more than a decade.

And with a young receiver like Amari Cooper to grow with — along with a vet like Michael Crabtree — helping him grow and flourish, the sky really is the limit for Carr.

He has some room to improve yet. He still makes bad decisions at times, tries to do too much, and trusts his arm a wee bit too much from time to time and thinks he can make any play, but those are issues that will smooth out with time and experience.

Carr has the ability to be one of the Raider greats. And I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll be mentioning Carr’s name alongside the likes of Stabler and Plunkett.

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What do you think the Raiders need to do to shut down Marcus Mariota on Sunday?


One of the things the Raiders will need to do is limit his effectiveness with his legs. He hasn’t run very much this season, but he’s effective when he does. They are going to need to be careful to make sure they don’t overpursue him and keep him contained. They can’t afford to let him slip through their fingers when he’s on the move.

But the biggest key to shutting down Mariota, will be taking away his biggest weapon — Delanie Walker and Tennessee’s TE group. Walker, Fasano, and Stevens account for just about half of Mariota’s offensive numbers. Walker himself has just about twice the number of receptions as number two on Tennessee’s receiving list That’s a lot of production from just three players.

If the Raiders can manage to take away those players he depends upon most, they’ll give themselves a great chance of succeeding. If they follow the pattern they have this year — which is letting opposing tight ends burn them bad — they’ll be in big trouble.


Who wins this game, why and what is the final score?


I think this is the game the Raiders get themselves back on track. Del Rio has called out his coaches (his very pointed remarks about Musgrave’s play calling in his Monday presser) and has challenged his players to step up. Every game for the remainder of the season is a playoff game and I think Del Rio is going to have this team playing with that sort of intensity. I think they’ll be ready to play.

And when the Raiders are at their offensive best, they are really difficult to stop. They shredded the Jets when New York had one of the top ranked pass defenses in the league. Tennessee has the third ranked pass defense right now, but I expect to see Musgrave really trying to take it to them — and having some success doing so. The Raiders have weapons all over the place and I don’t see the Titans being able to cover them all.

And defensively, for all of the problems the Raiders have, I don’t think the Titans have enough weapons. Their running game isn’t terrific and their passing game is limited. If the Raiders can take away Delanie Walker, Mariota is going to struggle. And if Mariota struggles, the offense as a whole will struggle.

Raiders 31 Titans 17