Blogging The Boys: The Cowboys and Raiders seem to be having similar seasons. High expectations coming in, middle of the pack results, and playoff chances hanging by a thread. How would you describe the Raiders season overall?
Silver And Black Pride: Discombobulated. Changing offensive coordinators looks to be a big mistake. Derek Carr has regressed to looking like a rookie again, whether it be the new OC or PTSD from his broken fibula late last season. The defense is simply the same as it was last year minus the turnovers. They didn't add anyone in free agency and their draft has contributed approximately nothing so far. It's the offense that's changed. The defense gives up a lot of points and the offense can't score them. Simple as that.
BTB: Evaluate Derek Carr's performance this year. Where does he stand among NFL quarterbacks?
As I said, he has regressed. You have to think it has something to do with the OC change, mainly because he showed major strides between year 2 and 3 because he had the same staff in place. Now it's like he's back to square one. He plays scared, which was his big knock coming out of college. Except now he doesn't take off and run it either. He isn't standing tall in the pocket, he isn't pushing the ball down the field, and his deep balls often fall short, possibly from the transverse fracture he suffered in his back, but more likely because of mechanics i.e. not stepping into his throws. All this is fixable, of course. He has had his moments this season, but not many. He has to find his comfort zone again and that is something that happens over the offseason. I'd put him in the upper half of the league's QB's, somewhere between 10-15 at least if/until we see him shake this off.
BTB: The Raiders offensive line had been compared a lot to the Cowboys o-line as among the best. How have they been this year?
SABP: They are a power blocking line that is now being asked to do more zone. Donald Penn held out for a new contract and is having his worst season as a Raider at the age of 34. The interior has done well in pass protection -- especially Rodney Hudson who never gives up sacks -- but has not been good in run blocking, which is kinda their primary job on the inside. And Marshall Newhouse hasn't been an upgrade from what they had before at right tackle.
BTB: How did you feel about the team firing Ken Norton, Jr.? Has the defense responded at all since that time?
SABP: I agree with it. Although it came about 11 months late. He should've been let go after last season and they should have either hired Wade Phillips or just gave John Pagano the job in the first place. The pass rushers have responded, especially Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, and Denico Autry. They have 11.0 sacks between them the past three games since Pagano took over defensive play calling duties. Not much else has changed. Although they did finally get an interception. They had set a new NFL all time record with no interceptions through ten games. They had the new record in week seven and each week after they added to it. They have had two interceptions since Norton was fired. The first one literally fell into the lap of middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman while he was on the turf. It was his deflection though, so he earned it.
BTB: If you were the Cowboys coaches, what would be your game plan for Dallas to get a win.
SABP: Send pressure and take away the short stuff. If Carr sees the D dialing up pressure, he will go for the short read. They keep saying they're going to "let it rip" but Carr's deep balls are consistently short, so it may not matter. As far as attacking the defense, your best bet is to throw it around. They have been literally been making even the most mediocre opposing quarterbacks look elite this season. Cole Beasley should do well in this one as the Raiders have not had the answer for smaller, quicker receivers.
Thanks for the knowledge, Silver And Black Pride.