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This week, APC got in touch with Levi Damien from Silver & Black Pride, the SB Nation blog covering the Oakland Raiders, to discuss Sunday's matchup between the Raiders and our Green Bay Packers. Though Oakland sits at 6-7 coming into this game, they just knocked off the formerly 10-2 Denver Broncos a week ago and they have a talented young core on both offense and defense.
Here's our exchange with Levi, who helped us get a feel for the Raiders before Sunday.
APC: How in the world was Oakland able to beat the Broncos last week despite just 126 yards of total offense?
As you might expect with an offensive showing like that, it was defense. Mostly it was Khalil Mack's relentless pass rush with some help from fellow defensive linemen Denico Autry and Mario Edwards Jr. Mack posted five sacks in the game, one of them resulting in a safety -- all in the second half. They also got a lot of help from punter Marquette King who placed 5 punts inside the 14-yard-line and another punt that traveled 55 yards in the air and was muffed to give the Raiders the ball at the 11-yard-line. They scored a touchdown off the turnover. They put together just one full drive in the game and with the way the defense was terrorizing Brock Osweiler that was all they needed.
APC: The Raiders appear to have a solid young core on offense with names like Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, and Amari Cooper all having impressive seasons. Who among them has impressed you the most this season and why?
Probably Carr. He has shown a lot of progress from his rookie season and is now on pace to surpass 4000 yards with over 30 touchdown passes as well. He has shown great leadership and is well respected by his teammates. There is every reason to believe that he will continue to progress heading into next season as well. Amari Cooper has shown some very impressive route running and play making abilities, but has the highest drop rate in the NFL this season. He is far and away the best rookie receiver, but in terms of comparing him to all receivers, he needs to be more consistent and dependable.
APC: Green Bay fans have been happy to see Charles Woodson's resurgence, but what is he doing or how has he changed his game to make him so effective again this season?
Great corners with the size he possesses often make a natural progression to safety in their later years. The Packers had the luxury to let him go and after he had broken his collarbone twice, it made sense to move on. He is a tremendous leader on this team. And great players like him are just cut from a different cloth. His resurgence is shocking and it isn't. It's shocking in that you don't expect a player to perform as he does at age 39. Then again after seeing him do it for three years now, it's tough to continue to be surprised with anything he does. The Packers were damn lucky to have gotten him for his best years and he was lucky to be there to get his Super Bowl ring. Since returning he has just been able to play for the love of the game until they won't let him play anymore.
APC: What are the long-term prospects for this team? A playoff berth this year is unlikely, but what can we expect from Oakland over the next 2-3 years?
I think they themselves expect next season to make a serious run at the division and/or the playoffs. They again have a lot of money to spend in free agency. This time around there won't be quite so many desperate needs across the board so they can focus on areas such as the secondary to upgrade.
APC: Can you give us one name each on offense and defense that we might not know who you expect to make an impact on Sunday's game?
I will give you a group of rookies who I expect to make an impact in this one. Amari Cooper you know. But you may not know second round pick Mario Edwards Jr (aside from have just mentioned him above) who has been playing extremely well in a hybrid 3-tech DT/3-4 DE role. Also third round tight end Clive Walford who has been making some eye popping catches in recent weeks. Fourth round pick Jon Feliciano is making his first start of the season at right guard so we all will be watching to see how he holds up. Then fifth round linebacker Ben Heeney who lines up at middle linebacker and shows great speed sideline to sideline.
Our thanks to Levi and to Silver & Black Pride for trading responses with us, and here's to an injury-free game on Sunday.