FROM THE OTHER SIDE : OAKLAND RAIDERS
By Leo Haggerty

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This week, we again go to the “Left Coast” for expert analysis from our AFC West correspondent David Alexander.   Doc has an impressive resume which includes a stint with BLESTO, the NFL Scouting Service.

Enjoy the opinions of the “Oracle of Oregon” on the Silver & Black.

LH : Are the Raiders for real?

DA : They certainly seem to be.  There’s only one great team in the AFC right now, and that’s the Patriots.  The Raiders still have to play Denver twice, but have shown some real growth this year.  Reggie McKenzie has finally collected a core of talented players, and was rewarded with a four-year contract extension before the season started.  One thing that should concern them is a terrible point differential, but they are 4-0 on the road and that’s impressive for a young team.

LH : How much has HC Jack Del Rio meant in the maturation process of QB Derek Carr?

DA : Probably the best thing Del Rio has meant to Carr is encouraging him to be more assertive, especially in the Red Zone.  Carr has also benefitted from improved play on the offensive line, as well as Latavius Murray running the ball.  A good sign for the Raiders is not being satisfied with field goals this season, which is a difference from past seasons.  Del Rio’s confidence (arrogance?) is contagious and Carr has benefitted from it.

LH : Are Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, arguably, one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL?

DA : They’re certainly on a par with any other team in the league.  Crabtree is having a great year, and has never been afraid to make the tough catch over the middle.  Cooper will only get better, especially with Carr more willing to throw the ball deep.

LH : Is LB Khalil Mack the player on the Raiders defense that you better account for on every play?

DA : The Raiders defense is so-so, but Mack is a great player.  I think the Raiders are still experimenting with how to use him, since they have some weak areas (especially against a good running game) that Mack has to account for.  When he gets opportunities to let it rip and go after the QB, he has few peers in the league.  

LH : How much has S Reggie Nelson solidified the Oakland secondary?

DA : If you look at the major difference in Cincinnati’s defense this year, it’s the loss of Reggie Nelson.  He had a big interception in the Jacksonville game last week.  Nelson brings smarts and experience to the Raiders, which they need if this defense is going to improve.

LH : If you had to bet the mortgage, are the Oakland Raiders the Las Vegas Gamblers in two or three years?

DA : I was in Las Vegas when the state legislature voted to fund $750 million for a stadium to get the Raiders.  This may be the worst deal ever.  The funding will come from a hotel tax, so tourists are paying the freight.  They are assuming that one-third of the fans to a Raiders game will come from out of town.  The job projections for building the 65,000 seat stadium and permanent jobs (for eight games a year) are not close to realistic.  If the hotel tax doesn’t cover the $750 million, the citizens of Clark County, who will see no revenue from parking, or concessions, or naming rights for the stadium, will be on the hook.  Mark Davis is not the most popular owner in the NFL, and will have to work hard to get support from 3/4 of the other owners.  I think the chances are 50-50 at best.

LH : Who wins and why?

DA : I like the Raiders.  They are staying in Florida after last week’s game against the Jaguars, so they aren’t making the cross-country trip.  Their defense needs to play better, but the offense is humming right now. They’ve done well winning some close ones and I’m betting it happens this Sunday.