Oakland Raiders: X-Factors who could impact Sunday’s game

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August 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Leon Orr (99), St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins (21), and Raiders outside linebacker Neiron Ball (58) pose for a photo after a preseason NFL football game at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Rams 18-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

3. Neiron Ball

When Ken Norton sees a problem, he looks for solutions. Perfect case in point: The Raiders defense was getting torched by opposing tight ends in the passing game, so instead of letting a solid run stuffing linebacker like Curtis Lofton get hung out to dry week in and week out by tight ends, he started mixing it up by giving rookie Neiron Ball a chance to show his skills on passing downs.

Last week, Ball turned in a solid performance against the Broncos, he played smart and he played fast. With more reps and experience, he should develop into a pretty solid option in the linebacking corp for the team.

This week, he will be going up against one of the best to ever play the position, Antonio Gates. Gates is the tight end equivalent to Charles Woodson, he just keeps playing, and keeps producing.  To expect any defense to completely shut down Antonio Gates is just crazy, but Ball does have an opportunity to display his skills against one of the best in the business, and he gives the Raiders a better shot at stopping him than anyone else in the linebacking corp.

The odds of Ball shutting down Gates are slim to none, but the experienced he should gain by playing against a player of his caliber will no doubt help the development of this young player on the rise.

Next: Sunday X-Factors: Marcel Reece