Know Your Enemy: Oakland Raiders, Week 12

I was set to sunset this series after last week’s heart-wrenching loss to the Colts. Then I remembered that I wouldn’t be writing this series if it weren’t for one Chris Hansen of the rock supergroup Bleacher Report. He got me hooked up with what was then the NFL series of blogs (titansblog.com was my site) which led to an FC role at Bleacher Report and of course the pinnacle, my own site.

When Sunday’s game in Oakland is over, someone’s going to be 5-6. As Forrest Gump used to say, “that’s all I got to say about that.”

I gave Chris topics to discuss more than specific questions. Let’s see what he has to say.

QB: Oakland’s quarterback situation is an interesting one, but it boils down production in the passing game. Terrelle Pryor has amazing athletic ability, but was struggling as a passer over the last four games he was the starter. Pryor’s minor knee injury probably wouldn’t keep a pocket passer out, but without his legs he proved to be very limited.

For the first four games, Pryor was effective on the ground and through the air. It didn’t take long to figure out how to slow him down in the passing game, even if he remained effective on the ground.

Enter McGloin, who couldn’t have been much worse than Pryor as a passer. As it turns out, he looked very good against in his first start on the road that was also against a pretty solid defense.

We knew coming into the season the Raiders probably didn’t have a long-term solution at quarterback. Pryor got the Raider Nation excited for a month, but he pretty clearly regressed as a passer since then. With that frame of mind, it makes sense to see what you have in McGloin. If he couldn’t cut it, it might even make sense to see what Tyler Wilson could do. [Zach note: I thought Wilson was gone, but he was added to the practice squad and recently promoted.]

It looks like McGloin is going to get his shot. As long as he produces, he’ll keep starting. The Raiders can put in a special package of plays for Pryor once he’s healthy, which is what they planned on before he won the job in the preseason.

As Dennis Allen said, it’s a production-based business. The quarterback that can play the best is going to play, because the Raiders don’t have a franchise guy…yet.

Darren McFadden (aka will he limp off into the sunset after his contract expires): McFadden will be back, but not this week. When he does manage to get onto the field, it will either be as a backup or he will share a significant number of snaps with Rashad Jennings. Even before his injury, Jennings was running better. [Zach note: We’re all confused as to what happened to Jennings last year, failing to take advantage of an MJD injury. He still has talent.]

At this point, it’s unlikely McFadden returns to the team next year. He hasn’t been productive or consistently healthy in three years. I doubt he’s even highly-coveted in free agency.

I doubt you could clone his frustrating athletic DNA. All the biology labs I talked to said that it can’t stay on a petri dish long enough and that once it’s off, it will take twice as long as normal to get it back on. Maybe if you wanted to throw away money like the Raiders have over the past decade and set up your own lab, but by that time McFadden might be back on the field.

The future (are you looking forward to an offseason in which the Raiders will finally have draft picks/salary cap room): It’s going to be one of the most interesting offseasons for the Raiders in a long, long time. They have all of their draft picks and they have a ton of cap space. They signed a bunch of vets last offseason to one-year deals and many of them are playing like they want an extension.

Unlike some teams that are under the cap, the Raiders actually have to spend some money based on the new CBA rules. Left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston will eat up a big chunk, but they are still going to have plenty of space.

That said, Reggie McKenzie is unlikely to overpay for a guy. Having come from the Packers, McKenzie knows that it’s a bad idea to sign a top guy in free agency and there is a lot more value in the second and third-tier players. The Raiders have a chance to add a ton of quality players and depth for next season, but they have to be careful how the structure all those contracts or it could be a mess down the line. [Zach note: They just survived said mess, so it makes sense to be prudent.]

Current talent level (is the team near the bottom in the NFL in terms of top-to-bottom talent, and are there some bright spots on the roster that have bubbled up this season): The Raiders lack talent and are toward the bottom of the league in that regard, but not nearly as bad as many people thought. Linebackers Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett and Sio Moore have really been huge upgrades on defense and cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter have also played well. The talent level on defense is closer to average, but they could use pass-rushing defensive end.

Offensively, the Raiders could use a could solid offensive guards, an elite receiver and—of course—a quarterback. The offense lacks depth, but they have a lot of young players that should improve. A good quarterback and a top receiver would make a huge difference as it would for most teams. [Zach note: Hello, Kenny Britt.]

Matchup history (last playoff win in Raiders history was against the Titans in 2002, what’s it like being a fan during this period): It’s incredibly frustrating. It’s also taken its toll on the fan base. Even a couple games of average to above average quarterback play gets them giddy with excitement. I have to be careful not to fall into the same trap, which is a lot easier because I cover the team.

I think the team is headed in the right direction, but it takes time to turnaround a team the right way. Hopefully Mark Davis give the current regime enough time to do it and doesn’t get impatient like his father. I’d just like to see the team improve and I think it has over the past two years.

Bottom line (how do you think the game will go): The Raiders got embarrassed when they last played at home and they aren’t forgetting it. The Raiders are a prideful group now, so I think they will play well. It really comes down the the quarterbacks and which one plays better. McGloin has me encouraged.

I don’t think the Raiders will blow the Titans out, but I do think they should get the win at home. Should be a close game. [Zach note: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt McGloin, it’s the NFL on CBS!]

Check out Chris on Twitter. He is the AFC West lead writer at Bleacher Report. Check out his podcast on RaidersBlog.com.

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