1. So how’s the Gruden experience going?
SBP: I think Jon Gruden the coach is great as long as Jon Gruden the GM stays out of his way. The rumor has been that Gruden has the final say on the first-round picks and gives the mid- to late-rounds to Mike Mayock. If you look at the Raiders’ recent draft history, the Day 1 picks have been terrible but they’ve found some gems on Days 2 and 3 like Maxx Crosby, Hunter Renfrow and Nate Hobbs.
However, despite all the first-round misses, Las Vegas’ offense has been impressive and the team is 3-1, so Gruden the coach is actually doing a pretty good job considering Gruden the GM sucks at drafting. I’m optimistic that it’ll work out, probably because I have to be with his 10-year contract, but obviously, the team needs to start making the playoffs since we’re going on year four with the same coach and that hasn’t happened yet.
2. From the outside looking in, it seems like Carr is having one of the best
seasons three and a half-game stretches in the NFL. Is this just a high point in the ups and downs of a player’s career, or has there been a substantial change?
SBP: Lol, as you hinted at, last Monday was certainly not pretty but Derek Carr has been very impressive throughout the season. He and Gruden keep saying that this is the same quarterback that the team has had over the last few years and while that’s literally true, figuratively that’s objectively false.
Carr definitely seems to have more command of the offense and has been pushing the ball down the field more frequently this season. In the past, he’d take check-downs way too often, but he’s been hanging in the pocket a lot longer and letting the play develop more this year which has helped to open up those deep shots. Also, it felt like he was timider in recent years after suffering that nasty broken leg back in 2016, but he’s been much more fearless when it comes to taking hits so far in 2021.
3. What’s the deal with the Raiders O line and why didn’t you trade Rodney Hudson to us instead of the Cardinals?
SBP: Injuries and young players. Richie Incognito has been out since about halfway through training camp and Denzelle Good tore his ACL about 20 plays into the season, so they’ve been playing two backup guards basically the entire year. At center, Andre James is a former undrafted free agent who played tackle in college and had one start to his name heading into the 2021 campaign. Rookie Alex Leatherwood has struggled to make the transition to the NFL at right tackle, to put it simply.
As far as trading Hudson to the Bears, the last time the Raiders sent a former Pro Bowler to Chicago it didn’t work out for them so maybe that lead to some apprehension!
4. How thrilled are Raiders fans to have Josh Jacobs, Damon Arnette, and Bryan Edwards on their team?
Editor’s note: These are the players the Raider’s drafted with the picks they received in the Khalil Mack trade. The Bears also received a 2nd round pick in that trade which they used to draft Cole Kmet.
SBP: Well, I definitely don’t speak for all Raider fans since there are plenty that will disagree with me on this, but I’d trade all three of those guys to have Khalil Mack back, and the Bears can go ahead and keep Cole Kmet, too, lol.
Josh Jacobs has been good when on the field but that’s part of the problem. He’s been injured every year and has already missed two games this season. Plus, he plays the least valuable position on the field while Mack plays arguably the second-most important.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, Damon Arnette has been absolutely terrible. He started as a rookie basically because he had to, and now that Casey Hayward is on the team and playing really well, Arnette is barely seeing the field which isn’t what you want a year after spending a first-round pick on a guy.
As for Bryan Edwards, he’s been solid and has shown up in some clutch moments this year. He has 109 receiving yards in overtime which is already the most of any player since 1991 and a lot of yards overall have come late in close games.
5. The Raiders offense struggled against the Chargers defense in the first half. Both Brandon Staley and Sean Desai run their own versions of Vic Fangio’s system, so they should see a similar defense on Sunday. Do you think the Raiders will struggle again, or do you think the 2nd half adjustments that let them come back into the game can be used again for sustainable success against one of the most suffocating defenses in the NFL?
SBP: Obviously, I’m biased but I think the Raiders will be able to make adjustments. There have already been rumors coming from practice this week that the Raiders are tinkering with their offensive line and trying guys at different spots to help with the pass protection issues.
As you mentioned, Gruden made some halftime adjustments last Monday and the offense was able to move the ball a lot better. So if Desai tries to do the same thing Staley did, I’m confident the Raiders will be able to adjust since they now have experience playing against that type of scheme.
It sounds like this will be a fun game which may ultimately come down to who does the best job compensating for a subpar offensive line. Thanks again to Matt for his insights!