Oakland Raiders: Twitter Question Session
I cannot in good conscience spend any time discussing the Raiders most recent loss to the Saint Louis Rams which was a 52-0 shelling of the old Blitzkrieg model. It was such a rapid butt whooping that old French men were making jokes about not being able to fight back. When you boil that game down to its real basics, the Raiders played exactly the same systems they had all year and they walked into a team that could play against those tendencies extremely well. It does not hurt to play off coverage against the Chiefs because they have not smaller quick receiving threats whose game is predominately the screen game. The Rams have two of those, and they had a quarterback that sailed a duck any time he threw over ten yards. Of course there were no adjustments made and the same goes for the offense. It is pretty easy to stop a passing game whose entire route concepts are based strictly off vertical routes, especially when you have four solid pass rushers and all press man corners.
With all of that in mind, I am switching this week’s column to focus more on answering questions of the readers and doing so in long form. This means, rather than get 140 character answers through Twitter, I will spend considerable focus on several fan questions. I have my berry blend juice, so let us get this party started!:
Question 1: Should the Raiders go Defensive Line with First Pick? (@MoRaiderFan)
I have said recently that I am skeptical of Amari Cooper as a top five pick. This does not mean that he cannot be a great player, but I simply have questions and concerns with him. The one player I feel very confident about this season as a top three pick is USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Standing 6’5 and weighing 291 pounds, the comparisons between Leonard Williams and JJ Watt have been consistent. The more I ponder a good comparison for Williams the more I tend to lean towards Richard Seymour, but regardless either comparison is one of very high praise. In Watt’s Junior season at Wisconsin which was his final season, he recorded 21 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Williams only has 8.5 tackles for loss this season with 6 sacks, but what is similar is the amount of batted balls that Williams has. I view Williams more in line with Seymour rather than Watt because he is not the same natural penetrating force on every down as Watt is. Williams is an ideal five technique which is a 3-4 defensive end that can slide into a rushing defensive tackle position, but I do not think he can rush the edge with the same quality as Watt.
Although Williams may not be to JJ Watt’s level, even a Richard Seymour clone would be a fabulous addition to this Raiders defense. His versatility is really the key with him, and a creative defensive coordinator would move both he and Mack all over the defensive front seven in order to create significant matchup advantages. Williams could have a significant impact early on and as a tandem with Khalil Mack, they could prove to be a devastating combo. Having them play off each other the way Cowboy and Aldon Smith do in San Francisco could provide the significant defensive boost the Raiders need. If the Raiders cannot get ample compensation to move them from the first overall spot, I would say Williams is the almost definite first pick in my mind.
Question 2: We are down to one TE! Does RM not have a plan B or C? (@sparksraider)
This is an interesting question to be honest. Firstly I would assume Reggie does not think these injuries are serious. Of course one tight end is on IR but Leonhardt is simply not practicing. The Friday injury report will be key. Secondly, he can grab a tight end off a practice squad in a moment’s notice. Thirdly, an lack of tight ends could force Reece into more tight end something many Raider fans want, and also, they could be forced into more three wide receiver sets hopefully with additional creativity. Beyond that is speculation.
Question 3: How does Vic Beasley to the Raiders sound? (@isiah151519)
Sounds good to me! Really depends on the circumstances in which they get him. Let’s just say the Raiders trade down big or do multiple trades down to the 12-20 range and he is the best player available, then I love it. If they trade down to the 5-10 range and get him then I like it a little less especially if Gregory is on the board. If somehow the Raiders trade back and take another player such as Cooper, but trade back up into the first round to get a falling Beasley, I would also love it. The issue then becomes about scheme and formation. The Raiders would either have to keep Beasley as a backup to Sio and a rotating pass rusher, or go to a 34 scheme where Sio moves inside and gets protection in run defense from a very stout inside linebacker such as Brandon Spikes next to him.
Question 4: Center prospects in this draft if wiz holds out or doesnt resign (@nanddukes)
Hroniss Grasu from Oregon is probably the best center in this draft. He is solid in both aspects of the game. The biggest issue for me will be how he handles reading pro defenses, but if the Raiders under a new head coach begin moving to a more spread based system, they will see less complex fronts and it may not matter. David Andrews from Georgia is another center I see as a solid fit. He blocks with power and is solid on the ground. His pass protection can be questionable at times, but I like his instincts. Max Garcia is a larger center standing 6’4 weighing in at 307 pounds. He would fit in well with this behemoth offensive line the Raiders have. He has battle some injuries, but he is balanced. Similarly in that vein is Max Tuerk from USC. He started off as an offensive tackle as a freshman in 2012, but he excelled when he was kicked into guard. He has played center as well and has done very well this season. The sleeper of this group is Dallas Lewallan of Wisconsin. He plays both center and guard but he is huge standing 6’6 and weighing 322 pounds. When I think ideal fits for this division and this team I think Lewallan, and the Raiders could grab this guy in round four or later.
Question 5: Where should the Raiders focus most in the offseason and why? (@isiah151519 ; @ianmaxwell84)
I basically got asked the same question in two different ways for the final question. The Raiders will have an opportunity to sit on a ton of cash again this offseason, and hopefully with a head coach that has league wide respect from players, the Raiders can lure in some bigger name free agents. Some fans seem to think Reggie chose his free agents this year over the other players. That is simply false. He was told behind closed doors that the players he wanted would not come to Oakland regardless of money. Reggie wants to spend. He even went after Desean Jackson and Darelle Revis, both of whom publicly denied the Raiders.
My strategy would be simple. Spend big bucks on one playmaker for each side of the ball, then grab solid role players in key positions, and they draft offense heavy although the first pick is debatable. If somehow Crabtree, Bryant, Thomas, or Cobb become available, I would overpay and massively frontload a deal for any of them. My eyes would be predominately on Bryant and Cobb. From there I would look to add one more weapon especially a tight end. If the Raiders could land Thomas or Cameron along with a top wide receiver it would be tremendous, but more likely a player such as Jermane Gresham or possibly Charles Clay would be much more likely and both players would be great additions.
Defense is a bigger issue because the scheme is a tough one to judge for the future. The big money man on defense would be Greg Hardy or Cliff Avril. They are on different levels for what they would cost, but what I would be buying is sacks. Even if the Raiders go to more of a 34 set, both could be tremendous situational pass rushers, but Johnson’s biggest value would be in a 43 scheme. Personally I would stay away from Suh, but I admittedly do not like his personality. The same goes for Fairley. I would definitely look to add Paea from Chicago or Odrick for interior pressure. My absolute necessity signing is Brandon Spikes even if Reggie overpays. The Raiders need a linebacker like him regardless of scheme. I would also consider Colin McCarthy and Rey Maualuga although Spikes is the by far best of his type. An under the radar signing would Jabaal Sheard as a pass rusher as well. Lastly, I would make a push for both Chris Harris and Rahim Moore from the Broncos. One last name, Dan Williams from the Cardinals.
Let us assume the Raiders go with a 34 defense and the starters on the defensive line are Ellis at nose tackle, Odrick at end, and Dan Williams at end. McGee becomes a versatile fourth defensive lineman, with Paea as a rotational pass rusher inside. Spikes and Moore become the inside linebackers, with Sheard and Mack outside. That leaves Mayowa and Buriss as rotational backups. Harris and Hayden become the starting corners with Carrie as the third and kick returner, but Harris plays the slot. The starting safeties are Dowling and Moore. Even if you add Cobb and Gresham to the offense, I would trade down in round one, grab the best receiver available making Streater my slot man, and draft heavy offense including a center and possibly two mid round running backs.
Question 6: how about coaching candidates, coordinator candidates, all out of the box? (@A_NewLookRaider)
I will keep this real simple. Head coach: Jim Tomsula, Defensive Coordinator: Ken Norton Jr., Offensive Coordinator: Edgar Bennett