On Monday, the Cleveland Browns’ take on the Las Vegas Raiders. To help preview a few topics from the Raiders’ perspective, we reached out to Matt Holder from Silver and Black Pride and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Raiders are 1-5 since their bye week — what has caused Las Vegas to go from the hottest team in the league to start the year, to now being under .500?”
Matt: “I wish I could pinpoint one or two things but it’s really been a collection of issues, both on and off the field. The Henry Ruggs tragedy happened right before the Raiders were set to return from the bye and the offense hasn’t been the same since. Wide receivers are struggling to get open and when they do, Derek Carr hasn’t been able to find or connect with them. Carr also has seen a major dip in play without Ruggs in the lineup and the offense just isn’t as explosive as it was at the beginning of the season.
Las Vegas’ defense hasn’t been that bad, minus the two Chiefs games, or at least not as bad as the scores might indicate. They held the Football Team and Giants to 17 points - New York had a pick-six to make it 23 - and the Bengals just controlled the ball and broke away late because the Raiders offense couldn’t do anything all game so the defense got worn down. However, the Raiders defense couldn’t get stops when the offense did score points, another common theme since the bye, so the team just isn’t playing complimentary football right now.
Also, this is the third year in a row that the Raiders have started out hot, only to flame out down the stretch of the season so, in a way, this is just what they do. I’m sure Browns fans can relate, it’s been tough to be a Raider fan over the last 20 years.”
Chris: “Hunter Renfrow has been lighting it up, despite the Raiders’ losing streak, taking advantage of the targets not there with Henry Ruggs gone and Darren Waller injured. Where do the Raiders usually line Renfrow up?”
Matt: “Renfrow has definitely taken advantage of the extra targets without Waller and Ruggs in the lineup, but Renfrow has been lighting it up all season and the boxscore is just reflecting that more now. He’s been the Raiders most consistent offensive player all year and has become Carr’s favorite target because he always finds a way to get open.
As for where he’ll line up, the Raiders almost exclusively put Renfrow in the slot. He’s become one of the league’s best slot receivers this season, and his shiftiness helps him create separation before the catch and make people after.”
Chris: “What has been the Raiders’ biggest issue defensively?”
Matt: “I’d say run defense and that could be even worse this week with run-stuffing linebacker Denzel Perryman out for the second game in a row. This is my biggest concern with the Raiders against the Browns as I think Nick Chubb could easily run rampant on the defense. Las Vegas’ defensive tackles struggle to hold up at the point of attack so even with Wyatt Teller out, I think Cleveland has an advantage in the trenches with Joel Bitonio and JC Tretter in the middle.
The Raiders pass defense really isn’t all that bad. They have a good pass rush led by Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, and they have a decent coverage unit with veteran Casey Hayward playing at a Pro Bowl level this year and Tre’von Moehrig putting together a solid rookie campaign. However, Las Vegas hasn’t gotten much pass rush from their defensive tackles recently, they’ll be starting a backup corner in Brandon Facyson and they don’t have a safety outside of Moehrig that can cover.”
Chris: “It’s crazy how the Browns will be missing like 40% of their roster, including half of their starters, due to COVID-19. However, as of this question, the Browns still have two important pieces defensively in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. How has the Raiders’ offensive line been handling opposing teams’ pass rushes?”
Matt: “In short, terrible.
Kolton Miller, the left tackle, has been a stud most of the last season, minus last week, so it’ll be fun to watch how he handles guys like Garrett and Clowney. But Brandon Parker is on the other side and is a turnstile at tackle so I’d expect the Browns to deploy their pass rushers there.
Center Andre James has had his ups and downs this season, but he’s been pretty consistent as a pass blocker. He will struggle against powerful bull rushers from time to time but he’s not the biggest issue Las Vegas has up front. That would be the guards, John Simpson and Alex Leatherwood. To be blunt, both are pretty awful pass rushers so I would be surprised to see Cleveland put their studs on the inside, that’s what I’d do.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Matt: “I’ll go with rookie edge rusher Malcolm Koonce. Koonce didn’t make his debut until a couple of weeks ago and has only played on a handful of snaps, but he’s managed to get two sacks in two games. He’s a player I’m excited to watch down the stretch of the season and should get more playing time now that the Raiders’ playoff hopes are slim to none. Also, with Cleveland playing two backup tackles this week, I think the rookie has a chance to make a name for himself on a national stage.”
Thanks again to Matt for taking the time to answer my questions.