In this continuing segment, “Ask an Oakland Raiders Fan,” Just Blog Baby had the pleasure of being contacted by Fernando Maestas. As a matter of fact, Fernando has been in contact with JBB for some time, and readers can recall the “Call to Arms” articles. He was the one who contacted me to ask for our help, and I feel he is responsible for the great support that Raider Nation has been showing the uniform voting process. Since Fernando has been a pivotal contributor to the JBB site, I felt it was my responsibility as a writer to get his take on the questions I have been posing to Raider Nation. Furthermore, I felt it was necessary for the Nation to get to know him as well.
Fernando is a season ticket owner and his real estate is in section 113. He was born on July 4, 1977, Al Davis’s birthday, and he was born the same year the Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in the Super Bowl. His other favorite team is the New York Yankees, who also won the World Series that year. Another person he shares a birthday with is New York Yankees owner George Stienbrenner. He feels he was destined to love sports. Fernando doesn’t hate on teams, but he gets hated on for his team loyalty. In any case, Fernando truly believes that the Raiders will return to glory again. Fernando’s dedication and devotion to the Silver and Black is only shadowed by his undying desire to unite the Raider Nation against its haters.
Fernando answered the following questions for me, and these were his responses:
1. How well do you think the Oakland Raiders will perform in 2013? Discuss.
Answer- “First, I think the 2013-2014 Oakland Raiders are going to surprise everyone, I really do. Before I give you a WIN/LOSS record, I must explain how this team is better today than it was last year and the years of the past.”
“Justification is everything and I think it’s what Raider Nation needs right now going into Training Camp. First, everyone knows the ‘War is won in the trenches” and I’ll tell you what, the trenches in Oakland are deep! On the offensive side of the ball we are looking at LT Veldheer, LG Bergstrom, C Wiz, RG Brisiel, RT either Barnes or rookie Watson and we also have Lucas Nix who is absolutely stout and can play both sides of center as well. This is a good Line! I know the Raiders aren’t getting love on TV but let’s face it, TV is full of guys that don’t want to be wrong and the Raiders are an easy bet to fail after a dismal 2012 that was plagued by injuries. The good thing is that Offensive line was not.”
“The Raiders did lose Barnes early in the season in which we all realized how good he was when we tried to fit in another RT and couldn’t do it. Barnes is a Raider, a proven starter, mature, healthy and had a really nice last few games in 2012. If for whatever reason Watson all of a sudden starts over a healthy Barnes, it will be a good thing. However; it means we successfully upgraded at RT early through the draft and Barnes can play at G! Win, win!”
“Now, let’s go ahead and start to throw in “Factors”. Other than Brisiel, last years line was made up of power scheme blockers… straight downhill guys. Although I think the OL did a good job in the transition to ZBS, there was not one RB that was able to figure out his timing to make the necessary cut up before being swallowed by the back side that naturally collapses in the ZBS. Hey, it’s not for everyone and the proof is in the pudding. Dmac’s main ingredient for his pudding was never a ZBS, in fact, he never ran in it before in his life. His main ingredient is made up of Power, in your face downhill running and to compliment that style Oakland brings in Tony Sporano!”
“Not only is Sporano a veteran coach, he is also a successful players coach when it comes to blocking discipline by design. With a PBS, the 2013 Raiders will be very fast downhill which will display a very strong play action suitable for any QB! This is a power scheme in place that is ran with power backs and Reggie knows it will take the right players!”
“The formula? This year, Oakland has the biggest and fastest RB coral in the AFC! We got Dmac who stands 6’2, 210lbs and runs a 4.3 40, Jennings at 6’1, 231lbs, 4.5 and Rookie RB Murray standing an astonishing 6’3, 220lbs who also runs a 4.35! Another RB that needs to be talked about is Undrafted rookie Deonte Williams who is 5’10, 210, a 4.5 40 and runs like a bull. Can you smell running game yet? Did I mention we have Sporano coaching the offensive line? That also means we are poised to run the wild hog, wildcat as well as read options. With players such as DMac and Pryor, the options are there.”
“Pryor lovers be aware that regardless if Pryor starts or not, plays are being designed for him and we have to understand this is a new regime that may even play Pryor at other spots or at specific times in games. I see a top 10 running game from the Raiders ranking as high as 1 or 2.”
“Keep an eye out for Darren McFadden to show what he can do after successfully rehabbing through a Lisfranc injury. NFL keeps talking about DMac being hurt all the time but figure in that he played his entire rookie season with turf toe; no one even does that today. Last year, he had a lisfranc fracture which is a tear where your big toe connects to the mid portion of the foot “in laymen’s terms” and is finally healthy. I’m good with it! Lisfranc injuries are fully rehab-able and it’s nothing like an Achilles, ACL, MCL, Groin, or Hamstring tear. The only bad thing about the Lisfranc injury is that it does take time. I truly don’t see Dmac as being made of glass. I see him as made of steel that players are afraid of. He had a couple of foot injuries that are not career threatening and I think his type of injury should be talked about more on NFL network before they start throwing around that he is made of glass especially since he has yet to suffer any big injuries or concussions. Big year for Oakland’s running game in 2013.”
“The offensive line in pass protection is solid. Even with a heavy footed Palmer, the Raiders only gave up 26 sacks the entire year; that’s half the sacks Aaron Rogers was sacked and only 5 more sacks than the OL in Denver in which is supposed to be the best in the NFL. For all starting QBs that at least took 300 snaps, Palmer was ranked 3rd for the least amount of sacks; Eli Manning was only sacked 19 times and Payton 21. That’s protection, especially if you figure in that Palmer dropped back more than 560 times! That’s simply amazing! Palmer was also #10 ranked passer last year in yards and Oakland’s receiving corp was ranked 8th overall at seasons end! I think if you are any QB coming into Oakland, you can expect to strike thick rich black gold! Carson gets some love here but think about it… 8th ranked! In the NFL! This year’s passing game will be as good as the QB play however and I really do think it will be based off a successful run game first but it will mature in 2013.”
“The NFL ranks us 32 of 32 and that is just a safe bet as they worry more of being right in their top 10 rankings… Either way, if you are not ranked in the top 10, you are not going to make it. So we are in the melting pot of mediocre expectations… who cares! What I see is a true NFL QB competition for the future of this franchise, something we have never seen here in Oakland. I also see a better WR corp than last year. For success to happen in the passing game, and understanding that Matt Flynn is the QB right now, the right cast has to be put out on the field. The Raiders are full of speed and hands that was over shadowed by last year’s big contract tryout of DHB. DHB was the #1 starter more impart because his contract afforded him to be given the chance to be elite and it never happened. What we saw last year was double team DHB and put a lock down CB on Moore or Streater. That means he was never the #1 receiver regardless of the depth chart. Who would you have put your shut down CB on? … Not DHB.”
“Now steps in 1) Streater 2) Moore 3) Ford 4) Vernon 5) Butler 6) Criner 7) McGuffie… all high reward playmakers! Cribbs will be here too but listed as a PR/KR. Matt Flynn is a smart player that goes through his reads and never eyeballs targets. Flynn also uses pump-fakes correctly and is very accurate inside 20 yards. There are several options at QB, but a lot has to happen to beat out Flynn who has more starts in the NFL than any of the 4 QBs in Oakland. I see a successful Flynn in this offense even though it may not always rely on the deep ball. Think more yards after catch.”
“Tyler Wilson will need to be looked at through preseason and is damn good, but he only has 4 preseason games to prove he has studied enough of this offense to be a successful NFL QB. Wilson is strong at all facets of the game and will have a chance and can’t be counted out.”
“With Pryor, I like Pryor and like I said, he will play this year, but I think he has to show improvements in his mechanics before he is under Center. I think The Raiders will have a top 20 passing attack anywhere from 14-20 respectably.”
“On the defensive side of the trenches, I see a stable of tamed beasts, unlike years of past where we dominated the Penalty game in the trenches. This year’s overhauled DL is just what the doctor ordered. Seymour, Kelly and Bryant were always killing defensive stands with penalties and for what? Yeah, I like the hurt the guy in front of you mentality, but it gets you nowhere in today’s NFL. All three were supposed to be pressure guys and never lived up to it most of the time. They were so far in the pocket that they couldn’t stop a nose bleed.”
“Now, Reggie brings in Run stoppers in Vance Walker, Pat Sims, and Stacy McGee to help out Bilukidi. These guys may not get all the sacks fans want to see, but they will stop the run with the best of them. Look for most of the pass rushing coming from the outsides in Houston, Carter, Hunter, rookie Sio Moore, rookie David Bass, and Miles Burris! Burnett, Maiava, and Roach will be drop back guys on passing blitzes primarily.”
“I love the LBs we have right now behind Miles Burris. I understand that there are some new LBs in town, but Burris is a stud that gets no recognition here. He was in the top ranks as one of the top tackling LB in the entire NFL but gets no love. I see another year where he proves the world wrong once again and alongside him will be Burnett, Roach, and Moore as starters. Looks good so far? Factor in McClain being let go which is in addition by subtraction as we can say he was a defensive draft bust, or good for nothing around here. He coins the phrase “if we win, I will give an interview”.
“The secondary moves speak for themselves in bringing in ex-pro bowler Mike Jenkins, Super Bowl Champion Tracy Porter, and drafting the best CB on Mike Mayock’s list in the 2013 draft in DJ Hayden. After that, you have to factor in Hanson, Adams, Chekwa and Ross in the nickel which looks better than most NFL secondary’s today.”
“The biggest transition being made was getting Woodson back in the Silver and Black. First of all, Usama Young gets no love at all even though he is a Super bowl winning FS that has started everywhere he has played. He would no doubt start on most NFL teams and I am sure we will get a strong dose of Young in an effective way as he is a very good depth piece to have. Oakland Safeties are deep every way you look at it now with the addition of Woodson. Behind the starters Oakland now has, Young and Reggie Smith (who could both start on another team right now) are Ross and Adams who can also play either of the Safety spots effectively well but lack PT.”
“The glue to this team is going to be the two Safeties in Branch and Woodson, and at many critical times, we will get to see something solidify from this glue. In the Raiders, Look at one of the top run supporting tackling safety tandems in the NFL, not to mention one of the fastest. If this Safety tandem doesn’t get you hyped, I don’t know what will. I think we are easily looking at a top 10 ranked defense from this squad anywhere from 6-10.”
“Special teams look good! Seabass is great and I think Marquette King is the real deal. Sorry Kluwe… The future is full of King. King is the best punter in the new NFL and if he isn’t we also have Bobby Cowan out of Idaho State who is 6’5 229lbs and was one of the Ray Guy Award finalists. Looking good here too! The return game looks bright as well as Oakland will be welcoming back the one and only Jacoby Ford coming off Lisfranc rehab like McFadden.”
“Ford had to have surgery to repair the tear which was a success. It is the only injury Ford has had and proved to be very tough outside of his setback. Ford possesses the world-class speed in Al Davis fairy tales that gets you going and I expect him to be returning KR for TDs alongside Cribbs.”
“In the PR game, Cribbs is going to play his game in the only way we know him to play, record setter and true PR specialist. Also in the mix here is Sam McGuffie who is also a speed demon running a 4.32 in the 40 who also plays WR/RB/KR. There is no lack of talent here… just as good as any if not better. I see top 10 Special teams here as high as 3-10… A few TDs puts this unit at 1 or 2 but it needs to happen and the numbers will be shown.”
“So… My final call is at best the 2013 Oakland Raiders will win 11 games and winning some really big games at that. Depending on other team’s key injuries rather than our own, I see this team getting to the playoffs with decent QB play and top-notch running. Defense will win a few games and this could be the momentum this team needs to build going into next season to go along with all the money that becomes available next year.”
“At worst I see them winning 6 games but not worse. This team has made some very key strides that may look like too many to work all at once but really, Reggie went out and got good players out of the pot that were best available regardless of the budget in hand. I think if you bring in the guys we just signed this year into the locker room last year, they would have breathed down Seymour, Kelly, Bryant, Huff, DHB, Myers, McClain and Mitchell’s neck for starting jobs. I liked all the Raiders of last year but man! If you aren’t performing, and won’t take a pay cut, than maybe you don’t want to play here after all…. Just saying!”
“The NFL only sees the player’s contracts as legit playmakers, and they never were bona-fide players so where’s the loss when Reggie cut loose. The NFL world sees Oakland as a digressed team, but I don’t think they factor in everything such as coaches for players and such. I feel there is tons of upside with this team moving forward and I will be there watching another chapter proudly.”
2. What is your favorite off-season move that was made by the Oakland Raiders? Explain.
Answer- “I really think the best move was picking up Woodson, but my favorite move was bringing in young stout, injury free LBs that can all play ILB and OLB along with drafting Sio Moore to spice it up even more. We needed an emotional upgrade from McClain, and I think Raider Nation is due for some hard-nosed LBing.”
3. Can Denarius Moore become an elite receiver? If so, what must he do to become one?
Answer- “I feel most of the time last year, DMo was the primary WR and was always battling the opponents shut down CB one on one so really, he just has to rise above and own the situation. Moore was labeled #2, but he was always #1 in the opponent’s eyes. In order for Moore to become elite, he can’t do it alone. It will take a cast of other WR to make that happen. Last year was easy. You put two decent CBs on DHB and he’s done, and then, you put the best CB available on DMo and it doesn’t work out all the time. I think with the combination of pass possession WR we now have to give fits underneath, it should allow big plays to happen on the outside…something we haven’t had since Jerry Rice’s slants that drew attention from the middle. I think Conner Vernon, Butler, and Ford will play all over including slot, and our spread offense will demand respect like Bellichicks offense two years ago. If this happens, DMo and Streater may both become elite as they both possess play making ability as well as world-class speed. With Matt Flynn, I think we may see more receptions rather than TDs, but I think DMo will for sure get his yards and fair share of highlights.”
4. Who is your favorite Oakland Raider of all time, and why?
Answer- “Marcus Allen… Running with the night baby!”
5. What is your favorite Oakland Raiders memory, and what is a typical tailgate party like for you at home games?
Answer- “My favorite Raider memory is when we scored 59-14 points on the Broncos in 2010. I thought it was great to see all the Denver fans just getting to their seats in the first quarter, and the score was already 21-0 with 8 minutes still left. The looks were priceless. Yeah, Yeah, they can say all they want with Manning as QB, but they really only have maybe 2 years to try to get this done. The Mile High Massacre!”
“I don’t tailgate, I go to the games early to watch the players in warm-ups and eat, and I just enjoy the music and atmosphere.”
Wow, Fernando definitely makes his points known with plenty of explanation. I love it! We, as fans, should know about all the players on our team. Passion is what drives Raider Nation, and Fernando definitely shows his passion through his words.
I would like to extend my thanks to Fernando Maestas for taking the time to conduct this interview. Again, if any of Raider Nation would like a chance to answer a few questions themselves, please contact me via email. I will be continuing this segment through July 25th (The start of training camp).