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Scouting the Browns’ Week 4 opponent: Oakland Raiders - Our Q&A with Silver and Black Pride

We ask about the Raiders’ rough 0-3 start, what is happening with Derek Carr, where the weaknesses factor in defensively, and more.

Oakland Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns are on the West Coast when they take on the Oakland Raiders. To help preview a few topics from the Raiders’ perspective, we reached out to Levi Damien from Silver and Black Pride and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!

Oakland Raiders v Miami Dolphins
Jon Gruden’s return to the NFL has gotten off to a rough start.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Chris: “The Raiders are 0-3 with Jon Gruden as their head coach. In each of those games, they’ve seemed to have the lead or be tied, only to collapse late in a major way. What has been Raiders fans’ impression of him leading the charge again? Happy? Frustrated?”

Levi: “Mostly frustrated. Having a lead at the half only to blow it is logically frustrating. Some fans are clinging to the fact that they have looked good in the first half as proof this team has the ability to be competitive, which offers some hope, but makes it all the more gut wrenching they crumble when the opposing team adjusts to what the Raiders are doing in the second half. Some are also still of the mind that the Raiders are better than their 0-3 record suggests because of the level of competition they’ve faced in those three games. Teams with very good defenses that are currently 5-1 against the rest of the team’s they have faced.”

Oakland Raiders v Miami Dolphins
Derek Carr has thrown 2 touchdown passes to 5 interceptions in 3 games this year.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Chris: “What is going on with Derek Carr? A few years ago, I thought he would be the type of quarterback who would throw for 30+ touchdowns and very few interceptions each year. Through 3 games, he is completing a very high 76.6% of his passes, but has thrown 2 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.”

Levi: “There are a few things at work here. 1) He’s pushing too hard. Gruden wants him to be more aggressive, but often times Carr doesn’t seem to know where the line is between being aggressive and taking unnecessary risks with the football.

2) His internal clock has him panicking even when there isn’t pressure. A lot of his inflated completion percentage came from the game in Denver when Gruden had him throwing nothing but short, quick passes in order to keep pressure off of him. He seems to still have some residual effects from that hit that broke his fibula at the end of the 2016 season. Before that he was flinging the ball around and leading the Raiders to comeback wins. He hasn’t looked the same since.

3) There was always going to be a transition period with Carr is Gruden’s system. That 2016 season was the only season in his pro career in which he had the same offensive coordinator two seasons in a row. He had great confidence in that season because of how familiar he was with the offense he was running. He was comfortable and everything was second nature to him. That takes time. Perhaps a full season in the system. You see the makings of his potential in this system when he’s confident in the scripted first drive or two of games. After that, things fall apart.”

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
Veteran OL Donald Penn has had a tough time adjusting to right tackle.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Chris: “Where is the strength and weakness of the Raiders’ offensive line?”

Levi: “The weakness is the tackles. Kolton Miller is a rookie at left tackle still developing and Donald Penn is playing right tackle for the first time after being a left tackle for his entire career. Penn has especially looked like a fish out of water, though part of that could be that teams typically put their best pass rusher over right tackle. But if he were to start to hold his own, they might start to move their top pass rusher to the left side.

The interior line trio of of Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson has been among the best in football in recent years, but has been rather average since last season when they were first asked to run zone concepts. They’ve all lost weight this year and are again being asked to run zone, though a slightly different form. Last season they started to put things together by midseason and that could happen again in this new scheme. They are still outstanding linemen, so even Tom Cable can only screw them up so much.”

Los Angeles Rams v Oakland Raiders
The Raiders’ defense has failed to generate a pass rush without Khalil Mack.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Chris: “After trading Khalil Mack, Oakland now has a league-low 3 sacks through 3 games. What has been the biggest area of weakness for Oakland’s defense?”

Levi: “That would be it. Without Khalil Mack, the pass rush is basically non-existent. Two of their three sacks came on the interior, one was on a broken play from a high snap. Their defensive line has been a major weakness. They get little to no pressure and the interior line gets worn down and gouged on the ground as the game goes along. An indication of their lack of talent and depth is Clinton McDonald was the best looking player and he was among the players who the Broncos released in their final roster cuts and signed after week one. Justin Ellis was lost for the season after week one and PJ Hall was also injured and is questionable to return Sunday from his ankle injury.”

NFL: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders
LB Marquel Lee will take over for veteran Derrick Johnson before long.
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Chris: “Tell us about one player on offense and one player on defense who have played pretty well but may not be a known name to Browns fans.”

Levi: “I honestly can’t give you anyone on offense. All the players who have had good performances are well known. And outside of Marshawn Lynch, those performances have been wildly inconsistent with one great performance and not much before or after. On defense I mentioned Clinton McDonald, so I will say Marquel Lee and Erik Harris. Lee was the team’s fifth round pick last year and has been getting more time on the field replacing Derrick Johnson. Harris has looked great at safety, but for some reason doesn’t see a lot of time behind Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist. Though I keep expecting that to change and you never know if this could be the week it happens.”

Chris: “I have a bonus question for you — you don’t have to talk about this too much, but once the Raiders move to Las Vegas, do you still plan on following the team?”

Levi: “Yes I will still cover the team after the move to Vegas (or San Diego if they play there for a season in the interim) just as I always have.”

Thanks again to Levi for taking the time to answer my questions.