Wide Receiver Amari Cooper
Before the Oakland Raiders took the field for their Week 16 showdown with the Indianapolis Colts at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, we posed five questions that we were hoping to have answered during the game.
With Derek Carr breaking his fibula during the fourth quarter it's easy to forget that the Raiders actually won the football game, taking down the Colts 33-25, improving their record to 12-3 in the process.
With the win over the Colts now in the rearview mirror, let's take review our five questions, and see if we got any answers.
1. Will Mario Edwards Jr. get back on the gridiron?
Yes, he will.
After a four-and-a-half-month wait that included a trip to the Reserve/Injured – Designated for Return list, Edwards was promoted to the active roster Friday afternoon, and then made his 2016 debut Saturday against the Colts.
It's been a long road back to the field for No. 97, so even though he didn't register a tackle on the stat sheet Saturday, it was good to see him back out there in the defensive rotation.
In total, Edwards played 18 snaps in his return to action, primarily entering the fray on third down situations where he was able to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback.
2. Can Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack keep feasting?
Well, it depends on how you look at it.
Neither of the Slash Brothers took advantage of a Colts offensive line that has struggled all season and were able take down Andrew Luck behind the line of scrimmage, but both Irvin and Mack were active along the defensive front per usual, totaling four tackles and four quarterback hits between them.
Mack in particular seemed to take up residence in the Indianapolis backfield all afternoon, and seemed to be just inches away from securing 12th sack of the season on multiple occasions.
Going forward, with Carr now presumably sidelined for the remainder of the season, both Irvin and Mack know that much more will be put on their shoulders, both on and off the field.
"Me and Khalil Mack need to step up," said Irvin postgame. "The defense can't carry just the defense, but we got to help the offense better now. We are ready and prepared. We wish Derek [Carr] the best, but you know, that is the game. Got to move forward, and wish him nothing but the best. It hurts, but we got to keep fighting for him."
3. Can Latavius Murray and the boys keep rolling?
Saying that the Raiders trio of running backs got rolling Saturday afternoon against the Colts might be a bit of an understatement.
Not only did Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard produce yet another solid outing on the ground, but fellow running back DeAndré Washington enjoyed a career day against the Colts, rushing the ball 12 times for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In total, the Raiders totaled an impressive 210 yards one the ground – their best output since Week 9 – and were able to not only control the clock, but effectively control the line of scrimmage as well.
Over the past month, the Raiders running game has been performing at a high level, and going forward, the group will need to keep it up as the weather gets colder, and the games become even tighter.
"The running game, passing game, blocking, everybody has to step up their game," Washington said. "It's playoff time. Regardless of who got hurt you want everyone to step up their game to another level."
You'd be hard pressed to find a trio of backs in the NFL running better than Murray, Richard, and Washington right now, which is good news for a Raiders team that is currently going through some personnel changes on the offensive side of the ball.
4. Will the Raiders be able to limit Andrew Luck?
The former Stanford Cardinal is an elite talent, a fact he's demonstrated time and time again over the first five seasons of his NFL career, so coming into the Week 16 showdown with the Colts, the Raiders defense knew that everything Indianapolis wanted to do offensively began with No. 12.
While Luck did finish the game with 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the Raiders were able to limit him pretty well for the most part in the first half, securing two interceptions in the process that resulted in 13 points for the Silver and Black.
Give defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group credit, they've been playing an improved brand of football over the second half of the season, and the group is certainly trending in the right direction as the Raiders prepare to begin their postseason journey.
**5. Will Amari Cooper get more involved offensively?
After recording just a single reception in the Raiders Week 15 win over the San Diego Chargers, Cooper certainly found himself more involved in the offensive game plan Saturday afternoon against the Colts.
While 'Coop' caught just four passes in the win over the Colts, he averaged an impressive 18 yards per catch, and helped to secure the Raiders 12th win of the season, hauling in a dart from Matt McGloin on a critical 3rd and 8 just before the two-minute warning.
"In a situation like that, you want to get the first down," McGloin explained postgame. "You're going for the first down. We don't want to exactly play it safe. We wanted to get the first down and take a knee to end the game right there. Obviously not having a ton of opportunities to play with Amari Cooper and that first unit, but I know the types of routes he runs, and can trust him in big time situations. The offensive line did a tremendous job of protection and Amari [Cooper] went up and made a terrific catch."
While Cooper and McGloin might not have a ton of experience working together right now, they'll certainly get their chances to become familiar with each other as McGloin appears set to be the Raiders signal-caller going forward.