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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Oakland Raiders. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Levi Damien from Silver and Black Pride and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Looking at the Raiders' stats, the most surprising one is that QB Derek Carr has only been sacked four times all season. Is Oakland's pass protection that good, or does Carr just do a great job getting rid of the football quickly?"
Levi: "It’s not entirely either of those things but a bit more of the former than the latter. The offensive line, while looking putrid in the run game, has offered Carr some pretty good protection. Carr has not been getting rid of the ball quickly, he is just pretty elusive and when he can’t find an open man, he is good about throwing the ball away to avoid a sack. His pocket presence was not great early in the season but even then, he would flee the pocket successfully. He is quite fast and even has the Raiders longest run from scrimmage this season (41 yards). He has done much better as the season has gone along about trusting his protection and stepping up into the pocket."
Chris: "The Raiders are 0-6 right now. Before the season started, what did you think Oakland's record would be at this point of the season?"
Levi: "I had them at 5-11 on the season and at the time I caught a lot of flak from fans considering several other publications had them at 6-10. Fans, of course, were counting ‘winnable’ games and predicting larger win totals so they weren’t too keen on my prediction, which seemed pessimistic at the time and now looks downright homeristic. The Raiders would be 2-4 at this point in my predictions with wins over the Jets and Dolphins. So, not too different thus far."
Chris: "Oakland selected OLB Khalil Mack with the 5th overall pick of the draft. How has his production been through six games?"
Levi: "He has zero sacks thus far but his pass rush productivity rating is among the highest in the NFL. He is also rating as the top run stopping linebacker in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. That’s all linebackers, not just rookies. His PFF rating of +17.0 is the best of any rookie this year at any position. So, you could say he has produced. As a run stopper, he is virtually unblockable. It’s quite something to see him shed and shuck blockers to make stops. As a football fan, he is fantastic to watch."
Chris: "Last week, the Browns were overmatched by a deep Jaguars defensive line that entered the game with a bunch of sacks. Has the Raiders' defensive line presented problems for opposing teams, or have they just been pedestrian (or even overmatched)?"
Levi: "Overmatched is more accurate. They don’t rush the passer or stop the run with any proficiency. It was one of the areas that was completely rebuilt this off-season and has been a serious weak link. Their inability to hold their positions in the run games has put tremendous pressure on the linebackers and safeties to fill the gaps – a task thus far the linebacker have not been up to. That is one area the Browns will not need to worry too much about."
Chris: "Raiders DB Charles Woodson is in his 17th season. How would you rate his skills as a coverage player this season? Is he still an above average player?"
Levi: "He’s a safety for the Raiders. And he is a freak of nature. The level at which he performs is difficult to explain. He consistently makes plays in coverage and leads the team with two interceptions this season. The one he had last week was the first interception the Cardinals had all season. He also comes up to help out against the run, which he is far too often needed because of the aforementioned defensive line and linebacker issues. He was already a Hall of Famer as a cornerback and now he is just showing off as a safety."
Thanks again to Levi for taking the time to answer my questions.