Making Friends with the Enemy: Oakland Raiders

MF_RaidersThis week the 3-5 Eagles will be taking on the 3-4 Raiders at The Coliseum and for the first time (Ideally of many) we’re introducing a new segment called Making Friends with the Enemy.

The idea is that we’ll bring in someone every week who is a fan of the opposing team to give us some perspective on how they see the game.

For this week, we’ve had the pleasure of asking Jason Speir—an equally obsessed Raiders fan—to enlighten us on the happenings in the Black Hole. Jason goes into the future of the team, a Houston in California, and, of course, the upcoming Eagles game. So strap on your eyepatch and get ready to plunder some knowledge!

 

The Oakland Raiders were a struggling franchise under Al Davis the last few years. How has the team philosophy changed since then and what is the perception in Oakland of their future?

Al Davis was a great man that accomplished a lot for the Oakland Raiders and the NFL, but in his later years he often made mistakes when it came to personnel decisions. He had an infatuation with world-class athletes, valuing speed and other combine measurable ahead of character issues and football skills. He also valued former first round draft picks very highly and had a lot of “scholarship” players, guys that were overpaid, underperforming and immune to their lackluster performances on the field. Al Davis, and the Oakland Raiders franchise, were trapped in the past.

Once Reggie McKenzie took over, things changed drastically and the operation of the Oakland Raiders became a lot more modernized. Reggie cut a lot of the overpaid, underperforming players like Stanford Routt, Tommy Kelly, Michael Huff and Rolando McClain. Former starters on a perpetually poor defense that have struggled finding roles on other teams since. Reggie replaced these players with guys that love the game, work hard every day and put the team first. With so much dead money in terminated contracts, Reggie signed most free agents to one year prove-it deals which have been very effective. The players and their agents know the Oakland Raiders have upwards of $69 million in salary cap space next year to reward their on-field performance. This is the opposite of how Al Davis operated; free agents were signed to massive guaranteed contracts without proving anything.

Reggie McKenzie comes from the Green Bay Packers and worked underneath Ted Thompson for many years so a similar approach to personnel will be seen with the Oakland Raiders. Reggie wants to build a team through the draft, sign free agents to one year prove-it deals and resign his best in-house players. Even with $69 million in salary cap space next year, don’t expect Reggie to sign a lot of big names to bigger contracts. He will take a more conservative approach and resign the players that played well this year while leaving himself some flexibility in the future and look to add new players through the draft. As Raider Nation is fond of saying, In Reggie We Trust.

One factor to the team’s success this year has been Terrelle Pryor making plays with his feet. How confident are you in his ability to be a quality NFL passer?

Terrelle Pryor can do things that no other quarterback can do, as seen with his record-setting 93 yard TD rush against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but he still needs to improve his passing. The first thing to consider when it comes to Pryor as a passer is the improvement he has made already. Pryor started Week 17 against the San Diego Chargers last year where he completed 46.4% of his passes for an average of 5.4 yards. Now, with six starts in 2013 he has completed 63.1% of his passes for an average of 7.3 yards. He is not where he needs to be as an NFL passer right now, however his improvement has been considerable in the last ten months. He is a very hard worker, has the confidence of his teammates and has the drive to be great so as long as he continues improving like he has, complemented with his rare rushing ability, he could become the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.

Who is the best player on the Raiders that we’ve likely never heard of?

Lamarr Houston, in his 4th season out of Texas, is developing into an All-Pro Defensive End. He is anchoring a vastly improved defense that has not allowed a rush longer than 19 yards this season, the best in the NFL (although I should mention the Philadelphia Eagles are second with a longest rush of only 24 yards). Lamarr is a very versatile defensive lineman, strong holding the edge against the rush and good rushing the passer where he has 4 sacks so far.

The Oakland Raiders have had one of the worst rush defenses in the league the past ten years however this year they are close to a Top 5 rushing defense, in large part because of the dominant play of Lamarr Houston.

The Raiders unfortunately share a division with the Chiefs (8-0) and Broncos (7-1). Which team do you like more?

The Kansas City Chiefs have been the biggest surprise of the division winning a lot of close games with their impressive defense and Jamal Charles on offense but the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, even with their one loss, are operating an offense the likes of which we haven’t seen since the New England Patriots in 2007.

It will be exciting to see these two teams clash but if I had to pick one team to beat the other in what will likely be a great playoff matchup, I would choose Peyton Manning over Alex Smith. Von Miller coming back after a six week suspension is a tremendous gain for that defense and will help their pass rush and their defense protect the leads that Peyton and company give them.

What should we expect the Raiders to do offensively against the Eagles on Sunday?

The Philadelphia Eagles defense has been stout against the rush this season but they have been one of the worst in the league against the pass. Obviously the Eagles are aware of Terrelle’s rushing ability after watching film from last Sunday and will be preparing for some option rushes so I would expect Oakland to try and exploit some mismatches down the field in the passing game. Terrelle is effective throwing on the run off play action so I would anticipate them moving Terrelle around in the pocket and looking for some deep strikes, likely to Denarius Moore.

What is the best way to attack the Raiders defense?

The Oakland Raiders as mentioned before have a much improved rushing defense although their secondary, led by Charles Woodson, is not exactly a weak point either. LeSean McCoy is a tremendous weapon so getting him involved early and often would be a good start. Screen passes and passes to the flat for McCoy would be a good way to get him the ball in space. Desean Jackson has been having a great season as well so attacking deep and testing Oakland’s safeties would be another worthwhile strategy.

What do you see as a key matchup for the game?

Oakland’s Wide Receivers vs. Philadelphia’s Secondary: As mentioned before, Philadelphia has been vulnerable against the pass this year however Oakland hasn’t been very successful passing the ball either. I think that whichever team wins this match up will go a long ways towards winning the game.

With the Eagles struggling, are people in Oakland expecting a win and what do you predict as the final score?

Oakland fans expect to win even when they no reason to but with the Eagles struggling and Oakland at home trying to establish a winning streak, I would have to say yes. Oakland’s defense is playing really well right now and I think they make the difference in this one. A loss would be disappointing for either teams at this point as they both are trying to stay relevant in their divisions.

Final scores are nearly impossible to predict but I’ll say,

Oakland 24 – Philadelphia 17

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Posted on November 1, 2013, in Eagles, Guest Articles, Posts, Vince Quinn and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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