The Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders meet in the preseason once again, this time facing off at 7 PM PST on Thursday in the Bay Area. The Raiders look like a team on the rise thanks to the solid play of Derek Carr, the elite everything of Kahlil Mack, and other young guys like Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray, rookie Karl Joseph, and free agent signings such as Kelechi Osemele, Sean Smith, and none other than Bruce Irvin.
In fact, they’ve mined the Seahawks quite a bit lately between Irvin, Malcolm Smith, and defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.
So you’ll see familiar faces on Thursday, but perhaps not on the field very much as teams look to find out what they have at the back end of the roster. To find out more about the Raiders front and back ends, I asked 5 Qs to Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride. He returned with 5 As.
Q: I read on Football Outsiders that Derek Carr is overrated and now I feel conflicted because I like both FO and DC. How much truth was there to that article? What did the article overlook?
A: I'm not usually one to discredit studies like that. They came to their opinion based on certain statistics at which point you bookmark it and see if their observations hold up. But, I'll try. First, it appears that the writer was looking for stats that would prove his opinion rather than the other way around. No, I'm not saying he is a 'hater', just that he started out by saying he was tired of hearing about how great Carr was expected to be, so he tweeted asking if Carr was overrated (and thereby saying he thinks he is) at which point he felt the need to prove it. Not exactly an objective way to go about doing a study.
He also used the team's record over the past two seasons against Carr. I have a couple issues with that. First, wins and losses are not QB stats. Second, the writer isn't accounting for the fact that 7 of the 10 wins came last season alone, and all 10 of those wins came over the past 22 games. If you frame 'his' W/L record as 10-12 over the past 22 games, that kinda changes the message.
Separating quarterbacks by era has a lot of merit. I have no argument with the concept of judging QB's by their era. Comparing Carr's numbers over his first two seasons to Marino or Elway or even Manning is pretty misleading. Especially when you consider the air attacks these days and the Raiders lack of a ground game last season and Carr starting all 32 games -- something many rookie QBs don't do. That being said, saying it makes Carr 'overrated' doesn't mean much, really. He downplays Carr's Pro Bowl berth by saying he was one of 11 QB's to be selected. True enough, but being the 11th best QB in the league is still pretty good.
At the risk of dissecting the entire study, I'd say overall, I agree that based on the first two seasons, it's premature to say Carr has proven himself to be among the league's elite quarterbacks. But I also believe the opinions of him are based on projections for this season. The optimism I have had comes when comparing his improvements from his rookie season to his second season, and having the same coaching staff and surrounding cast of receivers for consecutive seasons. The numbers haven't entirely bore his out yet. But there are reasons to believe they will.
Q: Bruce Irvin. I think in Seattle we sort of had these big expectations after the draft and then those expectations changed and then it was sort of a mishmash where you never really knew what you were going to get out of Irvin despite his obvious talents. What do you expect him to do in the Raiders defensive scheme? How has he looked in training camp and preseason?
A: From the looks of it, his job will be very similar to what he did in Seattle. He will be a pass rushing outside linebacker first and foremost. So far, he has not shown a whole lot. He has been a bit of a liability against the run and hasn't really been a terror as a pass rusher either. Even with Khalil Mack consistently seeing double teams on the other side, Irvin hasn't made a lot of noise. Though he did have some good looking rushes in camp, thus far it hasn't translated to the field. We'll see if that changes come the regular season.
Q: Speaking of defense, Oakland went hard on that side of the ball in the draft: S Karl Joseph in the first, DE Jihad Ward in the second, LB Shilique Calhoun in the third. How are your defensive rookies looking this year? Who do you expect to have the biggest impact and who looks like they're a longer term project? Side note: Do you expect the Raiders to have a really good defense this season since there's also that Kahlil Mack fellow? Please take good care of Malcolm Smith also.
A: Joseph is the only one who is slated to start right away. He hasn't looked great in limited preseason action, though he was sidelined for ten months, so getting up to speed could take more time. Ward has looked fairly good. The Raiders have moved him to 3-tech DT and he seems well suited for that spot. He has had a few lapses this preseason, but the talent and strength is clearly there for the position. Calhoun has looked pretty bad. He gets tossed around on the block and being new to the linebacker position (he was a DE in college) he is completely lost in coverage.
As for the defense as a whole, it's still a work in progress. The additions of Irvin and Sean Smith were to improve against the pass, but it appears so far to have been at the expense of the run defense. Interesting you mention Smith, because he was a rare bright spot on the defense last week. He has been huge for this defense since last season. They moved him back to outside linebacker, though, with Ben Heeney taking over in the middle. If Heeney struggles, Smith's presence once again takes on greater value.
Q: A lot of Seahawks fans wanted the team to find an extra $50 or so million in the pocketbook for Kelechi Osemele, but it was Oakland who found $60 million anyway and signed the former Ravens guard. I think if good QBs never hit the open market, then right now good offensive lineman are second in line in the most difficult thing to find in free agency. Not only do teams want to hold onto those guys, but you also have to be a good scheme fit. So teams are paying (in my opinion) way too much for these players. Osemele was the highest paid example this year, but look no further than the Bucs paying JR Sweezy $32 million. Are you happy with the Osemele contract and how has the offensive line looked with him this year so far?
A: If Osemele stays at guard, the Raiders overpaid him considerably. It's his ability to play left tackle if necessary that increases his value. It's hard to argue paying big money for the final piece in shoring up the offensive line for a team that had ridiculous amounts of cap money to spend. They frontloaded the deal as they have all their deals of late to ensure there is no dead money down the road.
The offensive line has been disappointing so far. Derek Carr hasn't consistently had the time to throw as many expected. There have been a few flashes of them bulldozing defenders for the run, but it hasn't been domination. Osemele keeps having false starts, but that could be adjusting to a new QB.
Q: Please tell me the name of one player I may never heard of before who could stand out this week and impress everyone watching and one player who I have definitely heard of who is really sucking it up right now.
A: As for players you may have never heard of who are standing out, I'd have to go with fifth round rookie running back DeAndre Washington. He looked great in camp and has looked dynamic in preseason as well both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.
You've definitely heard of Dan Williams covering the Seahawks. He lost his starting job this offseason to Justin Ellis and only last week was back with the first team defense; though it was alongside Ellis, not in place of him. In that game, Williams showed why he has fallen behind.