I recently had the privilege to sit down and talk with Chris Shellcroft, the editor for Just Blog Baby, Fansided’s Oakland Raiders site. I posed five questions of him, and he provided both intimate inside information, and quality responses. Here’s what was discussed:
Blogging Dirty- Oakland has long been known for its good defensive front and playing man-to-man coverage in the secondary. It seems that the team isn’t adjusting to modern NFL defensive schemes well. Do you think the Raiders defense will get after Matt Ryan, or will the Falcons be able to dictate the game to the Raiders?
Just Blog Baby- It’s pretty impossible to evaluate this defense right now to be honest. Dennis Allen brought in a new scheme but because he doesn’t have the proper personnel we’re seeing pretty much the same principles as previous. Not as much man coverage but there is almost no use of any base other than 4-3. Last season the Raiders D-line got to the QB all day everyday. So far this year just three sacks in 4 games. I’m thinking Ryan will have time to cook a brisket behind the line. Allen’s defense has failed to get much pressure, Michael Huff is starting at corner, Rolando McClain looks worse with each passing week and you forget Richard Seymour is even on the field sometimes. It will be another year or two until we see any real difference I’m guessing…if Coach Allen lasts that long.
BD- The Raider offensive line isn’t fantastic, but can be much better through play-action and successful running. How well do you think the Oakland o-line will play against Atlanta?
JBB- Last season the Oakland O-line was a pleasant surprise. Hue Jackson utilized a power scheme that let the big boys up front man handle the competition. This season Greg Knapp’s zone scheme has not worked at all. Another case of having the wrong personnel for the scheme. It’s a theme this season. The thing about play-action is that it only is effective when you can actually run the rock. Knapp has a healthy Darren McFadden and the Raiders are dead last in the NFL in rushing. That’s pretty impossible to explain even more frustrating to try and understand. I’m hoping the bye week gave the coaches a chance to add in a few wrinkles that can exploit the Falcons up front. If the Raiders can’t get it going on the ground this week it will be time to really consider making a change at offensive coordinator.
BD- How will the Raider cornerbacks matchup with Roddy White and Julio Jones? Is there a defender on your team who can matchup effectively with Tony Gonzalez?
JBB- Ummm…I’m just going to skip to the Gonzalez part of this question. Tyvon Branch will be on Tony all afternoon. He’s going to have his hands full as we’re talking about the best tight end in the history of the game. Branch is better against the run than he is in pass coverage so it will take a very inspired effort to keep #88 quiet but Branch gives it 110% every time he suits up so expect a good battle. Quickly, Michael Huff is starting at corner because he’s the best option Oakland has at this point. Dude has looked pretty terrible on the island which I think says it all about the White/Jones conundrum.
BD- How crucial is Darren McFadden to what the Raiders what to do offensively? The Oakland receivers are very fast and get down the field well, but will Carson Palmer have time to deliver passes if the offense doesn’t establish the run?
JBB- McFadden is everything to the team, never mind the offense. If he’s on his game then everything changes for the Raiders. The problem, again, with getting the ball down field is Greg Knapp. He rarely dials up deep balls, failing to take advantage of the Raiders speed outside. Either way, if Run DMC has his way then everyone’s life becomes easier and the entire playbook opens up. Plus if the Raiders can control the clock they’ll keep Ryan and Co. off the field. That is the real key to victory.
BD- What is your prediction on the outcome of the game?
JBB- This one will go one of two ways. Either it’s a 36-10 snooze fest going the Atlanta way or the Raiders shock the world 23-20. I’m going to split the difference and say 28-16 Falcons.
Many thanks to Chris Shellcroft for participating in this Q&A session.