Blogging The Boys: How have the issues around the move affected the franchise, if at all? How has it affected the fans?
Silver And Black Pride: So far, the affect seems to be balancing out between fans who have given up on the team and fans who are more excited about it. The reactions range across the spectrum. There are those who flat out walked away, those who are still feeling things out, those begrudgingly remain fans, those who are simply fans regardless of their locale, those who are happy about the move, and new fans. Games are still selling out in Oakland and Currently they have 50K PSL deposits for the new stadium with more than half of those coming from those outside of Nevada.
It's a unique situation to say the least and I don't think there's another team that could get away with it. The Raiders have a large fan base in Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona, most of whom are happy about the move; many of whom became fans in the early '80s and remained fans after the team returned to Oakland in the mid '90s. It's not like the Rams leaving for St Louis and then returning to LA. In both of those instances, the team was practically in another country. But make no mistake, these moves are heartbreaking for a lot of people. It has been extremely divisive and turned fans against each other in many instances. The Raiders and the NFL have chased the money with absolutely no regard for the fans now three times in a year (Rams, Chargers, Raiders).
BTB: Talk about what Marshawn Lynch brings to the team, both on and off the field.
SABP: Marshawn is beloved by his teammates and the Oakland community. As Jack Del Rio said it, he brings passion. Marshawn is incredibly passionate, enigmatic, and charismatic. And that's just off the field and as a proud part of the Oakland community. On the field, he brings that same Beast Mode mentality. In one run last week he showed all the burst and cutting ability you had come to expect from him as an All Pro running back in Seattle over the years. He has supreme instincts and now has arguably the best interior offensive line in football in front of him (arguably only with the Cowboys' line). My expectations for him are to approach 1200 yards with 10 touchdowns this season.
BTB: We've heard the Raiders defense is really struggling so far, can you enlighten us on that and whether it's a huge concern for the season?
SABP: It's a huge concern. They have yet to show any signs of improvement from last season. In some ways they actually look worse. There was absolutely no attempt to upgrade the defense in free agency, opting to use the draft for that. They selected defensive players with their first three picks and four of their first five. Their top two picks have been injured, and both are defensive backs, so the secondary still looks horrendous. Middle linebacker has been a huge concern and they didn't address it until the 5th round. Marquel Lee had been working with the first team in the middle, but after a rough preseason opener, he was demoted, with second year former 6th rounder Cory James taking over the middle linebacker job. The only rookie who has shown flashes and could start is third round pick Eddie Vanderdoes. If he can provide some interior pass rush, that would certainly help. The Raiders had the worst interior pass rush last season and have shown virtually none this offseason either.
BTB: Give us your scouts breakdown of Derek Carr. What is he really good at and what do you want to see him improve on?
SABP: He's good at getting the ball out quickly. That also at times can be where he needs improvement. He is determined not to take sacks. When Jared Cook came aboard this offseason, he said Carr reminded him in some ways of Aaron Rodgers. But the one area they differ greatly is in Rodgers' willingness to take sacks in order to stay in the pocket looking for an open man. That works for Rodgers, because it pays off enough to make up for those sacks. That's not to say that would work for Carr or most any other quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers, but it could be good to see a bit more of that quality in Carr.
Keep in mind, that's nitpicking. Carr is his own man. What he tends more than a lot of quarterbacks is either go for it all or check it down. And there isn't any hesitation in his decision. If he thinks his receiver will break open or can win a jump ball situation, he's going for it. If not, go for the short pass, hope for some YAC and live to fight another down. It works for him and he was able to lead the Raiders on 7 comeback drives and 5 game-winning touchdown passes last season doing it. He has also shown great strides from one season to the next, so it's quite possible that the areas opposing defenses think they can take advantage of his weakness, won't end up working. All the great quarterbacks have to stay ahead of those who would study their tendencies and exploit his weaknesses.
BTB: How much can we we expect to see the starters in the game, and who are a few players we should watch for?
SABP: Most of the starters will play into the third quarter to get them one preseason game in which they make halftime adjustments and try to implement them in the second half, then call it a day. Expect to see Marshawn less than that. He saw one series last week, carrying the ball twice. I'd expect a bit more work from him, but not much. On the flip side, the first team secondary will likely see the most extended time. That has been the case in the first two games as they have needed the most work as they attempt to work on improving their communication.
There are the obvious stars to watch for like Carr and Khalil Mack. Here are a few other players to watch for.