Editor’s note: We welcome in contributor Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride — our sister site covering the Oakland Raiders — for “Five questions with the enemy” as we head into the Week 2 matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Raiders set to take place Sunday at 3:05 p.m. Arrowhead Time.
1) What was the most surprising thing you saw in the Raiders’ Monday Night Football win over the Denver Broncos?
The ability for the Raiders to keep Von Miller and Bradley Chubb from getting to Derek Carr. It was mostly a product of the game plan and Derek Carr getting the ball out quickly, but it was impressive none the less. Carr was sacked 51 times last season and likewise, some of that was his own fault. Much of it was also the abysmal play of the tackles which caused him to be antsy in the pocket. Carr was poised and comfortable back there on Monday night and his tackles gave him enough protection to allow him to make a few passes past 20 yards as well – something he did almost never last season.
2) Is there still belief among the Oakland fan base that Derek Carr could get back to the MVP candidate he was in 2016? How did he look this training camp and Week 1 in your eyes?
Many believe that. Mostly because when he was an MVP candidate in 2016, it was the only other time he had the same offensive coordinator two seasons in a row. So, naturally, the thinking is that the other years were the issue and when Carr is familiar with a system, he can be one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Carr always looks great in camp. He has a live arm and is as accurate a quarterback as you’ll find. His issue has always been pocket presence. When he isn’t comfortable, everything breaks down. His mechanics go out the window and he makes bad decisions. Another thing he had in 2016 was arguably the best offensive line in football. If he doesn’t fear he is going to get lit up every play, he can wow you, just as he did with a few of his throws Monday night.
3) Who is the offensive skill-position player to watch for the Raiders on Sunday? Why?
There are a few to choose from, but I will give you Darren Waller. Mainly because the Chiefs have one of the best in the league in Travis Kelce. Waller is a special talent who many were introduced to on this year’s Hard Knocks. His career hasn’t taken off because of substance abuse, which should tell you something about the kind of abilities he has that he keeps getting another shot. He will give the Chiefs defense a lot to think about Sunday because he can be a mismatch like some of the best tight ends in the league.
4) The Raiders lost rookie safety and Hard Knocks darling Johnathan Abram for the season this week. How big of an impact could that have on the defense, and who is your best bet to replace him?
It will be a loss, but hard to say how significant. He had a great opener even after he was injured. He suffered the injury in the first quarter and was still flying around hitting guys (even hit his own teammate Gareon Conley and knocked him out of the game). There are two potential replacements for Abram – Curtis Riley or Erik Harris. Riley started for the Giants last season and Harris started for the Raiders. It was Riley who came in for Abram for a handful of plays last week and the coaching staff has seemed to like him quite a bit, so I think he will get the nod. Harris showed well late last season, so he could make his way onto the field some as well.
5) With all the recent craziness surrounding Antonio Brown, people have forgotten about the Raiders trading Khalil Mack away to the Chicago Bears last offseason. Is the pass rush back where it needs to be since that trade? Why or why not?
No, it isn’t. Fans are pretty happy about Benson Mayowa getting two sacks in the opener and the Raiders getting three as a team. But that’s one game. I don’t think there’s any question the Raiders pass rush will be better than last season, but that is not saying much. They were dead last in sacks last season (13) by a wide margin. So much so that they could have doubled their 2018 sack total and STILL have the fewest sacks in the league. There still isn’t the speed around the edge the Raiders had with Mack. But Arden Key has grown physically and mentally and they added Mayowa and rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. A far cry from the empty cabinet they fielded last season.
Bonus: score prediction
You don’t play much more efficient on offense than the Raiders did last Monday and still, the Broncos were able to hang around in the second half, twice pulling to within one score. That was with Joe Flacco stinking up the joint. The best the Raiders can hope for is a shootout. Chiefs 35, Raiders 27