The Seahawks host Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, and to give us a scouting report on the enemy, I consulted Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride, SB Nation's Raiders blog. Huge thanks to Levi for taking the time -- my questions in bold, his answers follow.
1. The Raiders decided to go with rookie Derek Carr this season at quarterback. How has he fared thus far, all things considered? What are his biggest strengths, and what does he have to work on?
He has looked pretty good, "all things considered". That would include mainly his being a rookie, but also the lack of a running game and the lack of a viable number one receiver. Early in the season he struggled with his pocket presence, but he has improved in that area and has stepped into the pocket more instead of fleeing it.
Now, he struggles with locking onto receivers. Last week he was so focused his primary target, he missed his outlet with a free rusher right in his face and ended up getting popped hard and fumbling it. He talks about getting a coverage he wants but oftentimes the corner defends it perfectly and yet Carr will still go after it regardless. That means he is not going through his reads.
And, oftentimes when he does go through his reads, he just ends up checking it down, even if it's third and long. All of these are common rookie mistakes and all correctable with game reps.
2. As for the rest of the offense, who are the key players that the Seahawks will have to game plan for?
James Jones is the top receiver on this team. He lines up in the slot a good percentage of the time, though I could still see Richard Sherman shadowing him a lot due to a lack of proven receiver talent on the team. The Seahawks might also want to figure out how to cover Andre Holmes. He is inconsistent, but has great size and leaping abilities, which must be accounted for.
Carr will make use of Holmes' strengths every chance he gets and he trusts him to be able to go up and come down with 50/50 balls thrown his way.
3. Defensively, what are the Raiders' strengths and weaknesses? How well do they defend the run? How are they against the pass?
Their run defense was among the worst in the NFL but has looked much better the past couple weeks. At this point, that run defense is the closest thing to a strength on this Raiders defense. Defending the pass has been a struggle because they aren't getting much pass rush out of the defensive line (two players are tied for the team lead with 2.0 sacks) and they aren't making many plays in the secondary (just three interceptions).
4. Which players have stood out for the Raiders this year on defense? Bright spots? Glaring liabilities?
The standouts on defense have been Khalil Mack, Charles Woodson, and Sio Moore. Mack is a favorite right now to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is the top run stopping linebacker in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, and the second highest rated linebacker behind only Von Miller.
Woodson, at 38-years-old, has two interceptions on the season and has been very good in run support. He looks even better this year than it did last year as he has settled into the safety position. The way he's playing, he might just come back for another season. Sio Moore is a high-energy guy who gets in the backfield with regularity.
A bright spot would T.J. Carrie. The seventh round rookie has been probably the best cornerback on the team. He has earned his spot on this roster as the nickel corner and has a bright future.
The most glaring liability is middle linebacker Miles Burris. He was thrust into the role with the injuries to Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiava. Burris is a marginal weakside linebacker and a fish out of water in the middle. Mack is nearly unblockable and Burris is the anti-Mack.
Safety Brandian Ross was known as the weakest link last season but thus far he has been passable. Though, he is probably ripe for the picking should the Seahawks be so inclined.
5. Finally, how have Oakland's special teams units performed this season?
Meh. The best player on special teams this season has been T.J. Carrie. Yes, the same seventh round rookie that is a bright spot as a cornerback. He began the season returning punts and did so well, they gave him the kick return duties too. He is due to break one. And after that special teams play the Rams had against the Seahawks, I can understand your concern.
Janikowski has not had a lot of field goal chances this season though he's only missed one. Changing holders from Marquette King to Matt Schaub (the Raiders' $8 million holder) has helped as well. King still punts and he has done well to consistently have punts fair caught and downed inside the 20-yard-line, though almost never inside the 10.
Huge thanks again to Levi for the scouting report, and make sure you head over to Silver and Black Pride for more on the enemy. Follow Levi at @LeviDamien on Twitter.
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