15 December 2011
Preparing for Sunday's game, I did a Q and A with Levi Damien of Bloguin's Oakland Raiders blog, Thoughts from the Dark Side. Levi's answers to my questions are below, and click here to read my answers at TFDS.
TWFE: The Raiders fans base has a Ndamukong Suh-like reputation, especially the infamous Black Hole. Is the reputation deserved, or overblown, much like Suh's dirty player rep?
Thoughts from the Dark Side: As far as Suh is concerned, being a dirty player is not a reputation. Reputation suggests it is assumed. It is a fact he is a dirty player. We have seen it. But overblown? Maybe. That is what the media does in today’s age of instant information and 24 hour news outlets.
The Black Hole is a hostile environment to be sure. The entirety of O.co coliseum is a hostile environment for that matter. I can’t speak to how dirty they may be but I will say that the fan of the opposing team would have to be a complete idiot to sit in that section. And to wear the other team’s colors may not have a death wish but certainly a serious injury wish.
TWFE: Al Davis built the Raiders franchise from nothing, but had become a running joke over the past decade. How has the death of the Raiders owner and NFL icon affected the fans and team?
TFDS: Well, like any iconic figure, the fans and everyone else recognized his contributions to the game of football.
There were a lot of extremely angry fans with relation to Al Davis due to his unwillingness to bring in a general manager. And many questioned his draft picks and inflated free agent contracts. But no one ever questioned his will to win. And before most criticism of him, came some variation of the words “Al Davis has been integral to the game of football as we know it…”
This season, the death of Al Davis has brought the fans together to honor his memory. It is a fan base that has had to defend him from a lot of disrespect and hatred from other fans. So a lot of fans, while enjoying the many well-deserved tributes in the media, feel like other fans and media outlets have not earned the right. It is like being part of a close family. Only Raider Nation is allowed to criticize him and therefore only Raider Nation can truly honor him.
TWFE: Former head coach Tom Cable's anger management issues had been a bit of a joke around league. Has rookie head coach Hue Jackson been an improvement over the fired Cable?
TFDS: In some ways he has. In other ways not as much. Cable was a no nonsense, blue collar guy and it was a quality his players greatly respected. That is why there were so many angry players when Cable was fired. But outside of that quality, he was not really an NFL head coach. The position is demanding enough as it is without him taking on duties like offensive coordinator for which he was not suited.
Hue Jackson has a lot of frills and you can tell he relishes the stage that being an NFL head coach gives him. He wears suits that you might see an NBA draft pick wearing as he takes the stage to hold up his new team jersey. And his demeanor is that of a politician.
He is a master at talking for a long time without really saying anything. He has moved up the ranks as a hot young coach and he has the swagger to go with it. He is a smart coach and I suspect once he has a season under his belt, he will put his feet back on the ground.
TWFE: Middle linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested 2 weeks ago on firearms charges. After losing 2 games in a row, putting the playoffs at risk, some blame McClain for the slump. Is it deserved, or are there underlying factors for the last 2 losses?
TFDS: He is part of it but you can’t rest the blame solely on his shoulders. Much of the blame goes to the coaching staff. The entire defense has taken a step back under defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. The defense is confused and I think they lack a lot of confidence. Hue Jackson didn’t handle the McClain situation well. He talked to McClain, believed every word Rolando said and let him play a few days later in Miami. The message was sent that discipline is not a priority.
The one thing this defense lacks more than anything is discipline. They miss assignments almost constantly and several different Raider defenders have uttered the phrase “do your job” in the past two weeks. I have my hunch that Aaron Curry may be the player to whom that statement is mostly directed, but he is by no means alone in that.
TWFE: Carson Palmer had "retired" from the NFL...or more correctly, retired from the Bengals. The Raiders sold out a big part of their future to trade for Palmer, a 2012 1st round pick and a conditional 2013 2nd round (or a 1st, depending upon a playoff win) selection. Palmer has started the last 6 games, going 3-3. His stats are middling, at best (throwing 4 picks against the Packers didn't help). Has Palmer met your expectations, or were you hoping for more from the former Pro Bowler?
TFDS: He has played well for the most part. If you remove his first two games when he was still getting settled, and of course that disaster last week, he had four pretty good games.
The loss in Miami was not on him. The Dolphins have a good defense and they were a matchup nightmare for the Raiders. Palmer had no time to throw and the running game was stuffed as well. The Raiders paid too much for Palmer, there is no doubt. But they really had no choice in the matter. The injury to Jason Campbell happened just days prior to the trade deadline and Palmer was the only proven guy out there. If they hadn’t gotten him, they would have had zero chance at the playoffs this season. Kyle Boller couldn’t even handle the starting job for one half against the Chiefs and Terrelle Pryor is a rookie who had just come off suspension.
They overpaid to try and save their season and got a top tier quarterback who is still relatively young in the process. Whattya do eh?
More evil thoughts from a Raiders fan are after the jump...
TWFE: Darren McFadden had a breakout season in 2010, and was track for an even better 2011. But he was sidelined with a foot injury in week 7. There are conflicting reports as to the severity of the injury. Is he still expected back this season, and how have the Raiders fared in replacing their 1000 yard rusher?
TFDS: McFadden is expected back this season. I had this week pegged for his return and that could still happen although he didn’t practice on Wednesday.
Michael Bush has been very good. He is a workhorse who, unlike McFadden, can take a lot of punishment and rarely gets injured. He is a starting quality running back in the mold of Brandon Jacobs of the Giants. And like Jacobs with Ahmed Bradshaw, Bush is an even more dangerous weapon when McFadden is healthy. McFadden is the speed guy who can take it the distance and once the defense is winded, Bush knocks that wind out of them. It doesn’t work nearly as well without McFadden, though.
TWFE: Obviously, Lions fans are familiar with players like Palmer and McClain. Are there any under the radar players who could make an impact on Sunday?
TFDS: Denarius Moore is the Raiders’ rookie sensation. He was injured the past few weeks but he was back at practice this week and is expected to play. He is one of the fastest players in the NFL and has shockingly good hands. When he was healthy, he was Carson Palmer’s favorite target. With Darrius Heyward-Bey dropping four passes last week, I expect Palmer will see Moore as a sight for sore eyes.
TWFE: What were your expectations for this season? Are the Raiders on track to meet or exceed them?
TFDS: I predicted 8-8 before the season and at the halfway point I had them finishing 9-7. They are 7-6 now so, yeah they are right on track to meet my expectations.
TWFE: What's your prediction for Lions @ Raiders?
TFDS: Speaking of predictions, one of the losses I had for the Raiders was this game. Both teams have faltered lately. The Lions won last week but had to desperately hang on against the lowly Vikings. On the other hand, the Raiders were blown out by the Dolphins and Packers in successive weeks and both teams were up 34-0 in the third quarter. I don’t expect much different from the Raiders in this game.
Lions 31, Raiders 23
My thanks go out to Levi and Thoughts from the Dark Side. I have to admit this Raiders fan isn't quite as evil as the media you would have you believe!
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