Running Backs Coach Bernie Parmalee and the Raiders running backs
The 3-1 Oakland Raiders return home Sunday to take on the 1-3 San Diego Chargers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
The matchup between the two teams is the Raiders first clash against an AFC West rival this season, so heading into the Week 5 tussle, here are five questions we are hoping to have answered Sunday afternoon.
1. Who will lead the Raiders rushing attack?
Latavius Murray hasn't practiced hasn't yet practiced this week, casting his availability for Sunday's matchup against the San Diego Chargers in doubt.
If Murray isn't able to go, the Raiders will likely lean on their tandem of rookie running backs, Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington, to handle the bulk of the work on the ground.
"We're looking at it with a very fine eye each and every day they're in the film room because we want to do things that are right and stick with their strengths," said offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave when asked about Richard and Washington. "I don't think we're setting any limitations or putting them in any corner or any box right now. We're enjoying them being as productive as they are."
Murray has received a majority of the running back touches through the first quarter of the season, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds if he isn't able to go.
2. How does the team attempt to replace Lee Smith?
Tight end Lee Smith's numbers might not have jumped off the stat sheet, but make no mistake about it, No. 86 was a critical piece of what the Silver and Black did offensively through the first four games of the season.
Smith is a top-tier blocker, often times serving as an extra offensive lineman for the Raiders, and was an invaluable piece of sparking the Raiders ground game as well.
The sixth-year veteran did a lot of the dirty work that didn't show up in the final box score, but finding a way to replace his production will take myriad players filling his responsibilities.
After Smith had been put on the reserve/injured list, the team activated tight end Ryan O'Malley from the practice squad, who like Smith, is known primarily for his blocking skills.
"I think I'm a physical player, and I think that blocking is probably the best part of my game," said O'Malley. "But I'm able to go downfield, and run routes, and catch balls too."
It's unclear of how much O'Malley will see the field Sunday, but as a physical tight end, I'd assume he would be asked to help fill the void left by Smith.
3. Can Amari Cooper find the end zone?
In his second season in Silver and Black, wide receiver Amari Cooper is on pace to once again hit the 1,000-yard mark, but in a bit of a statistical oddity, the dynamic wide receiver has yet to find the end zone.
Through the first quarter of the regular season, Derek Carr has already thrown nine touchdowns, but none have yet gone to Cooper.
However, just because No. 89 hasn't made reservations for six just yet, Carr has no concerns about the dynamic wide receiver.
"I never really pay attention to that but it hit me one time and I couldn't believe it," Carr said when asked about Cooper not having a touchdown. "I was thinking about the games and I was like, 'Wow, that's true.' Obviously Atlanta was playing soft coverage, taking him away and trying to do those things. Certain other aspects of coverages that people do towards him, he's going to get special attention. He knows that and he's learning that. It'll be just a matter of time. He'll get back in there. That's what he does for a living so he'll get back in there."
While there's no reason to be concerned about Cooper's touchdown total, I am interested to see if he finds the end zone Sunday against the Chargers.
4. Will Perry Riley see the field?
In addition to Lee Smith being placed on the reserve/injured list this week, the team also placed linebacker Ben Heeney there as well.
In a corresponding move, the Silver and Black signed veteran linebacker – and childhood friend of Bruce Irvin – Perry Riley Tuesday morning.
Originally drafted in the fourth round (No. 103 overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft, Riley appeared in 79 games for the Washington Redskins before being released by the team prior to the start of the 2016 season.
Now, he's a Raider, and with fellow linebacker Malcolm Smith not practicing the first part of the week, Riley could see the field just days after signing with the Silver and Black.
Riley described himself as a complete linebacker, but one that excels in stopping the run, and if Smith isn't able to go, it's likely that the veteran linebacker will find his way onto the field.
How he performs, if called upon, is something I'll be watching.
5. Can the team win its first game at home?
Through the first quarter of the regular season, one thing has become abundantly clear – the 2016 Raiders have proven they have the ability to win on the road.
The Silver and Black started the season with three of their first four games on the road, and they returned home from each road trip with a win in tow.
However, as odd it sounds, winning at home has been an issue for the Raiders.
Since 2015, the team boasts just a 3-6 record at home, and if the Silver and Black do indeed want to take the next step, and earn their way into the postseason, they have to protect their home field.
"We need to win at home, there's no doubt about that," Carr said. "We need to win at home. Our fans are too awesome. They deserve it, to have a win in front of them. It's going to be a tough task, obviously, in the division. We need to go out and we need to set a standard at home. We definitely need to do that."
Will the Raiders be able to take care of business at home? We'll find out Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.