Lots of questions and concern about the Raiders defense, so let’s get to it.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I’m big into barbecue, so I answered a BBQ query as well and will try to do so each week provided I get a question. Food and football go together, after all.
Q: Lack of pass rush. Personnel issue or Paul Guenther issue? — @urbanteaaa
Since pass rush comes down mostly to winning one-on-one matchups, I’d say the personnel is not delivering. And remember, Jon Gruden let go of a pretty good defensive line coach in Brentson Buckner to bring in one he thought was even better in Rod Marinelli. The first four games have not been encouraging.
Q: Why do players, highly regarded free agents to be specific, always underperform for the Raiders? Simultaneously, players leave and play better elsewhere? I think we all know the answer though.. @ENorx14
If you look league wide, I don’t think its unusual for free agents to underperform. Especially in the first year. Keep in mind they were let go for a reason. As for Raiders who play better elsewhere, not sure I see any ex-Raiders as big stars. Amari Cooper was a trade, not a free agent. Same with Khalil Mack. Every year, free agency is viewed as if it’s Christmas, and too often the return is a lump of coal.
Q: Let’s say at the end of the year, we realize that Guenther and Marinelli are not the answer, would Jon Gruden be open to a scheme change (Wade Phillips or someone like that) on defense or is he sold on what we are doing at the moment? — @Rmmcgillick
Gruden is an extremely stubborn individual. I don’t see him completely revamping the scheme. Rather, he’d want to keep the same scheme and have it play better. Has he dumped Derek Carr and changed the scheme, or kept the same quarterback and tried to make it better? I rest my case.
Q: From Gruden’s press conference today, is he just mocking the fans at this point? Knowing that management, fans, and players can’t do anything — @GuodKnowledge
Doubt he’s giving the fans a second thought when he’s taking questions from the media. He’s just waiting for it to be over. That’s why they last about six minutes sometimes. I remember hearing Bill Parcells talk about how much he hated Mondays, even after a win. Sorting through all the injuries on no sleep, doing followups with the media, getting started on the next opponent. I think Gruden feels that way too.
Q: Lots of fans hating on Carr. He had an MVP season in 2016 so no chance they get rid of him that offseason. That leaves 17-19 offseasons. Name an option (excluding a major trade for a top pick) that would be better than Carr? Also, he hasn’t had a mediocre WR corps or Defense since 2016 — @TheKobeGuy1
You’re obviously in Carr’s corner. And there are an equal amount of people who would want just about anyone else. The reality of this year is this — Carr is performing at a higher rate than most of the rest of the team relative to what he’s asked to do. Does that make him great? Not necessarily, and it doesn’t matter. It only matters if he wins. Derek has said as much himself.
Q: Honestly nobody thought we would be 2-2. I figured we would beat Carolina and Buffalo and lose to New Orleans and New England. How do you think the season is going so far besides the defense? How is the morale of the team, quarterback, and the coaching staff? — Jacob McKinney (email)
For the first time in 25 years, I’m nowhere near the locker room. I’m covering remotely from the Bay Area. But even those who are in Las Vegas aren’t in the locker room either. They’re in the same zoom press conferences I am because of the pandemic. So judging mood is stricly guesswork. It’s not like you can talk informally with players and get any kind of vibe. The handful of guys that talked postgame had a unified front, but that’s to be expected. But you do make a good point. The Raiders are 2-2. It’s a manageable record and the schedule has been tough. That’s one Gruden claim that’s not hyperbole. I would think the players feel they’re pretty competitive.
Q: Why cant we stop a screen pass? — @Samcuso
Or execute one on offense, for that matter. It does seem to be a common thread among Raiders teams for a couple of decades and I wish I had an answer for it. But the coaches don’t either, and that’s what they’re paid for.
Q: Is Jeff Heath that bad that he can’t find a consistent way into the game when our safety keep getting knocked out every other possession? — @RaiderJay10
Usually sub patterns are based on what’s done during practice during the week. And Heath obviously hasn’t been a big part of the plan. When someone gets knocked out and stays out, and Heath gets a a shot, he’ll need to make the most of it.
Q: Every game seems like its two to three plays away from a different outcome. Thoughts? — @Oguru2019
That’s what the coaches and players are saying, and it may be what they believe. But the end result was a 16-point loss in New England and a seven-point home loss because of a late cosmetic touchdown. Good teams make those two to three plays and then more on top of that. This Raiders team will have to prove they have that in them. There is ample time to accomplish that.
Q: The defense man, somebody tell me why we can’t fix a defense in 20 years please — @CodyWMathrews
I’m not a Raiders fan (an occupational hazard) but I’ve got to admit it would be great to cover a slam-bang defensive team that knocks people backward with regularity. When I did some 49ers last season for the playoffs they were so much better defenisvely than most everything I’ve seen with the Raiders. It just leaped out as the biggest difference between the two teams.
Q: What are three defensive player/position changes the team might consider to shake things up? — @oneida415
Tempting I know. But keep in mind those who are down on the depth chart are there because they’re not outperforming the starters in practice. Some were clamoring for Amik Robertson and look how that turned out. He’ll get another chance. I honestly don’t see anybody on the current roster that would immediately upgrade the defense. The guys who are playing have simply got to get better. That is the Raiders’ plan, and it’s the only one that is practical.
Q: Has Guenther lost his players trust? It sure appears that way. — @bobngenia1
I think a lot of them haven’t been around long enough to form that opinion. But like I said, players are pretty sequestered these days and it’s not easy to know what’s going on behind closed doors.
Q: Why was so much emphasis put on the Maliek Collins acquisition, and was he just handed the starting job over Maurice Hurst without really having to earn it? Hurst seems to be the only lineman we have making impact plays, yet Collins continues to get most of the work with no results. — @Raiderrocker18
I totally get what you’re saying about the Collins buildup from Gruden and Guenther (who was following Gruden’s lead). It seemed like it was one of those “if wishing could make it so” kind of deals. A way to fire him up with a one-year contract and get a bargain for a year. But I wouldn’t get too caught up in the “starting” thing. Not on the defensive line. Rotating and keeping them fresh is a solid plan even if it’s not paying dividends yet. I do think you’ll see Hurst’s snap count climb, though.
— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) October 3, 2020
Q: Best BBQ chicken recipe? — @RaidersFanInNC
I prefer an easy Italian salad dressing/worcestershire/garlic/orange juice marinade overnight with thighs and drumsticks or wings. Pat dry. Season with BBQ rub (I’m a big MeatChurch fan) and let sit at room temp for a couple of hours. Smoke at low temp for an hour, kick up to 350 or so to finish. Beauty of thighs and drumsticks is they don’t dry out. Once they hit 170 or so internal temp, it’s all good. Great on a pellet smoker.
Q: How has social media changed the jobs of journalists and reporters? I like your free website and articles. Half of the league’s teams have newspapers that require me to sign up for online newspaper subscriptions. Some give a couple freebies per month. Some give one sentence. — @chappyskizm
Social media has changed the job in a major way because players break their own news with it, so you’ve got to keep abreast of Twitter and Instagram. And the instantaneous nature of it has radically changed how reporters operate in the race to get news out fast. Sometimes too fast. If you’re getting stuff free off our web site, don’t tell anyone. There’s supposed to be a paywall. And that’s the direction news organizations have to go to survive.
Q: Jack Del Rio (25-23 record) Offense: 22.4 ppg (16th) Defense: 24.1 ppg (25th). Jon Gruden (13-23 record) Offense: 19.8 ppg (26th) Defense: 27.9 ppg (31th) Gruden needs to win next 12 games to equal @coachdelrio. Is Gruden stealing from Mark Davis? — @LeonardoRaider
Bringing back Jon Gruden is something Mark Davis always wanted to do. He asked him about it pretty much every year. Once he got the sign from Gruden, Del Rio or anyone else was out the door. Would have been fascinating to see what would have happened if the 2017 Raiders had a playoff season like the 2016 season. The fact that Davis had just signed Del Rio to a contract extension speaks volumes on how much he wanted Gruden. Davis is the only person who can judge if he’s being ripped off. I’m guessing he’d do it all over again. He’s as stubborn as his head coach.
Q: 1) How is it possible to spend all this money to revamp the defense and we are worse than last year? 2) Why cut Damarious Randall? Why cut Prince Amukamara?; 3) How much longer do we keep starting Erik Harris? Why not go get Earl Thomas? What’s the worst that can happen? 4) Thoughts on trading for a WR? T.Y. Hilton? — Joe Lamana (email)
This is like one of those grand finales at a fireworks show. 1) Can’t say they’re worse than last year yet. A dozen games to go and the competition has been pretty good. 2) Randall seldom practiced and was beaten out by Erik Harris, who always practices. Not sure what his physical issues where. Randall was promoted from Seattle practice squad in Week 4 and we’ll see how he does. Amukamara was let go when it was apparent Damon Arnette was going to step in and start. Now Arnette is out for a long stretch. It’s worth noting no team has signed Amukamara. That could tell you something. He’s on the market if the Raiders want him. 3) Harris probably starts all season. Not a lot of safeties on the roster. Earl Thomas is a major turnoff, apparently. Two solid organizations (Seattle and Baltimore) got rid of him. Houston talked with him, and reportedly the locker room reaction was negative. 4) The Raiders tried the in-season wide receiver thing a year ago, trading for Zay Jones and Trevor Davis. Davis didn’t last the season. Gruden’s offense is a difficult one to learn on the fly. Hilton is 30 years old, making more than $14 million this year and a free agent in the offseason. So I wouldn’t count on it.