Tomorrow, the Packers face off against Oakland Raiders in the team's third preseason game. Marcus Allen Krause of Silver and Black Pride was kind enough to answer some questions about the Raiders and provide some insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen doesn't appear to be in any rush to start rookie quarterback Derek Carr. How has he looked thus far in the preseason, and who do you expect to be Oakland's Week 1 starter?
Derek Carr has definitely opened up eyes with his ability as a passer. There were questions about whether he could adapt to being under center because he was mostly a Shotgun QB at Fresno St in college, however he has already completely squashed those by looking very natural so far. He has amazing arm strength, underrated athleticism, and is very smart.
Despite all of that, Matt Schaub will be the starter Week 1. Carr still needs to work on feeling the pressure better and that is the main reason he won't start Week 1. He hasn't faced real pressure yet like he would in the regular season but even now it is evident that he needs to move in the pocket better. Matt Schaub is a veteran who is capable of running the offense while Carr waits his turn in the shadows. There is no reason to rush him into playing when Schaub is here anyway.
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie recently compared first-round pick Khalil Mack to Packers' linebacker Clay Matthews, a player McKenzie helped select during his time in Green Bay. How legitimate is that comparison, and what type of impact should be expected of Mack as a rookie?
The most striking part of the comparison is how closely they resemble each other in their size with Matthews being 6'3 and 255lbs where Khalil Mack is 6'3 and 252lbs. Khalil also has that natural aggressiveness and chip on his shoulder by being passed up by bigger colleges and having to earn the attention he received. Clay may have gone to a big school at USC instead of Buffalo University like Mack did, but he did so by being a walk on without a scholarship.
Other comparisons are athletically Mack has a quick first step, intelligence in knowing how to set the edge and consistently rip at the ball while tackling and he has good bend to get underneath blockers like Clay is famous for. However, it is still very early in the process to be making such a drastic comparison between the two. Matthews is one of the best in the league, if not the best altogether, and Mack is a rookie who hasn't done anything yet.
As for what to expect from Mack's rookie year, it will probably start out slowly. He faced mediocre competition in college at Buffalo and the jump to what he is facing in the NFL is even larger than your average top pick. He also will have to face double teams and be a major focal point from the offense, both things that will likely slow his development. Big things are expected by the end of his rookie year but the cards will be stacked against him early on.
Oakland added a number of big name free agents this offseason, including Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, and Carlos Rogers. How have these veterans looked thus far in training camp and the preseason?
Lamarr Woodley has been the most impressive so far with his vocal leadership and high-energy play. Neither he nor Justin Tuck have played much in the games as of yet but that will change against the Packers. They both have shown in minimal action that their veteran presence will be beneficial and that they are very much ready to prove they are not too old to play.
Carlos Rogers has also played well so far, including him being one of the top Ballers in the most recent game against the Detroit Lions. He has been very consistent and has honestly looked like the Raiders best cornerback, though that isn't a huge compliment with the Raiders secondary really struggling so far. He was an under the radar signing that has been very impressive so far.
With the regular season opening in two weeks, what do you perceive to be the Raiders' greatest strength and weakness?
The Raiders greatest strength is definitely their defensive line, which is ironic because it was easily their biggest weakness last season. Theadditions of Lamarr Woodley, Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith are to thank for that turnaround.
Besides the veterans, they also have gotten strong play from their DT's Pat Sims and rookie 7th round pick Shelby Harris (former Wisconsin Badger for a season), and they also have a behemoth 4th round rookie DT that has shown promise in Justin "Jelly" Ellis who is 6'1 and 334lbs. On top of all that, Khalil Mack will see some time at DE as well.
Biggest weakness however is also on the defense with their secondary. Last year's first round pick D.J. Hayden hasn't even been able to practice since OTA's because he got injured with a hairline fracture in his foot, he might even start the year on the PUP list.
The top cornerback on the team is FA pick up Tarell Brown and he has struggled mightily so far after being abused by Cordarrelle Patterson in Week 1 and being burned for a TD on the opening drive against the Calvin Johnson-less Lions. The Safeties haven't communicated well, including Charles Woodson, and the best cornerback so far has been Carlos Rodgers who was suppose to be the Nickel back this year.
Despite inheriting debilitating salary-cap restraints and a roster lacking in many areas, many predict 2014 could be the final year for Reggie McKenzie and his staff. How realistic is it that McKenzie could lose his job after the season, and is that fair considering the circumstances he came into?
Reggie McKenzie has done a solid job with what he had to work with so far, but he does have some blemishes so far. Failing to retain the services of left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive lineman Lamarr Houston despite over $60M in salary cap space was a hotly debated black eye for him and he hasn't gotten any help from last year's top pick D.J. Hayden either.
Even so, the seat is not really very warm. He has turned around the roster and created lots of cap space and set up contracts to keep it that way and he had a really good draft this past season. He has a very high approval rating within Raider Nation with just a minority of fans thinking lowly of him, though they can get pretty loud at times. All in all, his job is pretty safe right now.
The same cannot be said for his staff though. Dennis Allen was a mostly unknown quantity among Raiders fans when he was hired and he has not won over much of the fan base as of yet. He is consistently the largest complaint and his seat is absolutely burning hot right now.
Another bad season like the two 4-12 seasons before this and he will be gone. Raiders owner Mark Davis has said this year there are "no excuses" and he expects to see a better team this year, and that is a statement that is much more aimed at Dennis Allen over Reggie McKenzie.
We'd like to thank Marcus and Silver and Black Pride for answering our questions. Follow him on Twitter at @Krause_Marcus. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Raiders. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company tomorrow for our comprehensive game day coverage of Raiders vs. Packers.