Randy Rivera asks...
"The question is can the defense stop Lamar Jackson?"
Randy, this is a question defenses have been trying to answer since 2018.
The Raiders are not the first team that has worried about stopping Lamar Jackson; they're just the latest. The former Heisman winner and youngest NFL MVP in history doesn't seem to be slowing down for anybody. Jackson led the Ravens in passing and rushing yards last season and has established himself as one of, if not the, most dangerous, dual-threat quarterback in the league.
"He can throw, he can run, he can do magic tricks apparently," linebacker Cory Littleton said of the opposing QB.
While Jackson might be a magician on the field, the Raiders have seen teams expose those tricks. If you watch game film of the 2019 AFC Divisional Round Game between the Titans and the Ravens, Tennessee upset the top-seeded Ravens because they were able to get Jackson to make mistakes, put pressure on him and keep him in the pocket. Jackson was sacked four times and threw two interceptions with a 63.2 passer rating in the loss to the Titans. The Raiders need to confine Jackson to the pocket. They simply can't give him time to make throws on the run or run down the field for big gains. Contain him, keep him in the pocket and lock down his top two receivers in Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. That's how you stop Lamar Jackson.
Nevertheless, just because the Raiders defense has the recipe, doesn't mean they'll be able to cook it to perfection. Jackson is a superb player, and despite all the game planning you can do against him, he can still find a way to get loose on any defense in the NFL.
Albert Beam asks...
"Biggest question? How long will the 'fair weather' fans blame Derek Carr for everything?"
The Raiders went 8-8 last season with the 26th best defense in the NFL. What does that mean to you?
It tells me that Derek Carr is still one of the top quarterbacks in the league, despite not always getting the proper recognition for it, even coming off the best season of his career. The man threw for more than 4,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and less than nine interceptions. He's as accurate as any elite quarterback can be in this league and has now adapted and become comfortable with Coach Gruden's offense.
"See, I like Derek Carr, but that's just me," Keyshawn Johnson said on First Take Wednesday. "I've been saying it since Day 1. Three years ago he was an MVP candidate until he got hurt. Jon Gruden came in there and changed up everything four years ago. Jon Gruden came in there and changed up everything, and he ain't miss a beat."
He's thrown for more than 4,000 yards the past three seasons and with the influx on weapons in the Raiders offense, it just doesn't seem like Carr will be slowing down.
But haters are still gonna hate, Albert.
Joe Messina asks...
"Can the O-line protect Derek Carr and open some holes for Josh Jacobs?"
Many teams in the NFL made adjustments to their offensive line this season, yet many people were more concerned when the Raiders did the exact same thing this offseason.
The starting offensive line this season might be young, might be untested but definitely suitable. Richie Incognito, even at 38 years old, is an elite guard in the NFL when healthy. Kolton Miller has become a top left tackle in the NFL, vastly improving since he's come into the league from UCLA — and he was given a substantial contract this offseason that will motivate him to be even better this season. Denzelle Good has become a great veteran presence in the room, John Simpson has put on some noticeable muscle mass and General Manager Mike Mayock and Coach Gruden believe that Brandon Parker can become one of the best swing tackles in the league.
The only questions that have surrounded the offense line revolve around center Andre James and first-round pick Alex Leatherwood. While they've yet to see regular season action, they've both shown throughout Training Camp and the preseason that are fast off the ball and will not be liabilities for the Raiders offense. They definitely have big shoes to fill, however I'm confident that they will be able to perform at a high level.
Even with how much promise this new-look offensive line has, Week 1 against the likes of Justin Houston, Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Patrick Queen will be no walk in the park.