The Kansas City Chiefs are set to do battle with their most bitter rivals, the Oakland Raiders this Sunday. The game is in the “Armpit of the West,” Oakland, California, so the Chiefs will need to have their wits about them to not only be ready to take on a tough Raiders team, but also to dodge the batteries and other projectiles that are sure to be hurled in their direction as they run out on to the field.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wear a helmet when I traveled over to Just Blog Baby, FanSided’s excellent Oakland Raiders site. The editor over there, Chris Shellcroft, is extremely entertaining and insightful. His only flaw, of course, is that he is a dirty Faiders fan.
Join me as we go Inside the Enemy Camp with Just Blog Baby.
The Raiders had to place DE Matt Shaughnessy on IR with a shoulder injury this week. I know that he hasn’t played since Week 3 and it didn’t appear as though the Raiders had any trouble generating pressure against the Browns without him. My question is, how are they doing it? Are the lineman just winning the battles up front or are the Raiders generating their pressure with creative blitz schemes?
One of the many Al Davis philosophies has been to generate pressure with your front four. Over the last few years the Raiders have gone about building an athletic and aggressive D-line. Usually the Raiders would blitz about as often as Rex Ryan keeps his mouth shut. However, this is a new era and Hue Jackson is already doing things his way while still leaning on the teachings of Davis. In recent weeks the Raiders have put a lot of that speed to use by mixing in blitz packages that otherwise would not normally be in the playbook. Losing Shaughnessy is a big blow as he was on his way to becoming one of the better pass rushers in the AFC West. Still, with Richard Seymour, Lamarr Houston, Trevor Scott, Kamerion Wimbley and Desmond Bryant the Raiders have versatile talent capable of lining up in different positions on every snap to keep the offense guessing.
The Raiders are 4-2 and have played a pretty balanced schedule. There are some easy wins against the likes of the Broncos but some more impressive wins against the Jets and Texans. The team’s losses came by a nose to the Bills and by a lot to the Patriots.
In your opinion, what was the difference in the two losses that cause the Raiders to fall?
The biggest issue with this team is the defense. Plain and simple. Against the Bills the defense gave up TDs on every drive of the second half. Against the Pats it was more of the same as they held Tom Brady to his worst offensive output of the season yet couldn’t stop the run or Wes Welker. Fact of the matter is, had Jason Campbell not thrown a red zone pick at the end of the first half the Raiders would have had a good shot at taking it to New England. Instead a couple costly turnovers married with some terrible defense created a lopsided loss at home. From an offensive standpoint the Raiders can play with anybody in the league. It will be up to the defense to dig deep and continue to improve in order to make any kind of serious playoff push.
Who are some young Raiders players that KC fans might not know yet that they should keep an eye on Sunday?
Don’t think I need to mention Jacoby Ford. He announced himself to the NFL against KC last season so that is old news. Denarius Moore is a real talent that could go down as the steal of the 2011 draft. Moore is settling in as a starter opposite the ever improving Darrius Heyward-Bey. He had a monster game against the Bills and has made plays in every game since. Another guy that isn’t getting much attention but is becoming a dominant player is left tackle Jared Veldheer. Yet another steal, Veldheer was a 3rd round pick out of a D-3 school. He is quietly blossoming into a franchise left tackle. His size and athleticism are remarkable and his strength has improved greatly from his rookie season. Another guy that Raider Nation wants to see more of is Taiwan Jones. He’s buried on the depth chart behind Darren McFadden and Michael Bush but he’s getting a few touches in the return game and figures to find an expanded role at some point in the near future.
I have to ask you about Palmer. I think he could be an upgrade over Campbell down the line this season but are you concerned the team gave up too much for him? I know the team will be getting some compensatory picks for Nnamdi and Miller but does it make you nervous that Palmer might get hurt and then all of the sudden you are out the picks and still riding the Kyle Boller train?
I’ve been watching Palmer since he was in high school. What is unique about Palmer is that at one point he was an athletic QB that made more plays outside of the pocket when plays broke down. However after an injury at USC and then a couple in the pros he has drastically changed his game. With each “ding” he’s taken he’s become a little less confident and more gun shy. My concern is that we have no idea what Palmer we’re getting. He was on the cusp of becoming an elite QB until, once again, an injury occurred and it has been a roller coaster since. Without a doubt the Raiders paid a far too expensive price for Palmer but I love the message it sends to the league. It would have been far to easy to go after a serviceable QB and lean on the running game. Instead Hue Jackson chose to swing for the fences. Those compensatory picks will likely be third rounders which is nice but can’t compensate for the fact that the Raiders have traded away almost all their picks for 2011 and will potentially be without a first round pick for three years running including this past draft.
The Raiders remind me a lot of the 2010 Chiefs. Strong running game, mediocre QB play with an opportunistic defense and special teams. The problem with the 2010 Chiefs was that eventually, their weakness got exposed by teams like the Raiders and Ravens. The Chiefs had only one real WR option and when teams took that away the Chiefs simply couldn’t throw the ball.
What weaknesses do you feel the Raiders have that, while they might not hurt them against inferior opponents, could be a season ender in the playoffs against the likes of the Patriots or Ravens?
Again, the concern is the defense. Al Davis had a belief of production over percentages. Just take a look at that emotional win in Houston and you’ll see the Davis defensive philosophy at work. All game long the Texans threw the ball all over the field yet when the Raiders needed a big play Michael Huff stepped up and snatched victory from the sky. That bend-but-don’t-break style of play is fine in September and October. But come December, when the games get more tense, you need stops. The last two weeks have seen the Silver and Black defense improve against the run. However against the pass there is still a lot of concern. Losing Nnamdi looms larger every week. While Stanford Routt has played well his supporting cast in the secondary is dismal. Oakland’s offense is dynamic enough to find ways to score no matter the opponent. But as we learned in Buffalo, playing in a shootout is fun for fantasy football and impartial viewers. However that is not Super Bowl caliber football which is what Coach Jackson is preaching in the East Bay.
Finally, your prediction for Sunday?
The Chiefs have been looking much better after that awful start. It wasn’t that long ago that KC couldn’t lose in Oakland. Therefore I’m expecting another close contest. Dwayne Bowe and Darren McFadden will be the story as I see a big game for both but I think Sebastian Janikowski is the difference , that is if his hamstring isn’t an issue. With a weapon like Jano the Raiders win it in a 23-20 game that will be close throughout.