Raiders.com Bye Week Mailbag Questions Answered

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From Byron M: Do you see Rod Streater being incorporated into the offense more moving forward?

JK: Rod Streater has worked very hard to rehabilitate his foot injury from a year ago and to get back in football shape. The team can only activate 46 of 53 players on game day. The coaching staff designs their personnel packages based on game plan, opponent, injuries and other factors. Injuries at other positions sometimes dictate who is active and who is not. For example, a need in the secondary leads to only four active wide receivers. Special teams contributors also play a factor in this.

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From William G:** Clive Walford finally had big play in Week 5. Do you see him and the other tight ends making more of impact the rest of the season?

JK: In listening to what quarterback Derek Carr and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had to say this week, that sure sounds like the plan. Tight end Mychal Rivera made a few catches against Chicago, and had a big play against the Broncos and had 3 catches for 33 yards overall. When you have wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on the outside, tight ends almost become a luxury and not a focal point. I think the upcoming opponents and their defensive game plans will have a lot to do with tight end production as the season goes on.

From Tom P: What is the offensive identity of the Raiders through five weeks?

JK: This is not an easy question to answer. The offense is multiple, meaning they can spread the defense out and go no-huddle and up-tempo or they can go two tight ends, two setbacks and run power football. At least to this observer, quarterback Derek Carr and the offense seems to be more effective running the spread offense and the hurry-up. I think the future identity under Coach Musgrave lies along that path.

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From Josh M**: Neiron Ball is coming on really strong lately, is he going to be a starter?

JK: Again, who "starts" seems to be a matter of what formation in which the opposing offense begins their opening possession. Then there's the matter of the depth chart. I think you're going to see the best 11 guys the Raiders defense can put on the field and right now Neiron Ball is one of those guys. In his start against the Broncos, he helped shut down Denver's tight ends, and he has recorded a sack and a fumble recovery in recent weeks. 

From Donald D: What are some things that the Raiders can do to improve performance in the red zone?

JK: The Raiders are 9th in the NFL in Red Zone touchdown percentage at 64.3 percent, but only 55 percent in their last three games. Also, the Raiders are much better scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone at home. I think they can utilize matchups better. The tight ends have good size. Tall, lanky wide receiver Andre Holmes has been under utilized here, plus I think the team could run the ball better inside the 20.

From Martin A: Do you think the defensive performance against the Broncos is a sign of things to come or was it indicative of a struggling Broncos offense?

JK: Maybe a little bit of both. The defense certainly has gotten much better against the run over the course of five games and shut Denver's down. The tight end was a problem for four weeks and the Raiders shut Denver's down. The pass rush was a problem early on and has recorded 10 sacks in the last three games. Will it be a finished product in a week against San Diego? Probably not, but they have been making adjustments, trying different personnel and getting better along the way.

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From Scott K**: How would you assess Latavius Murray's performance so far this season?

JK: Inconsistent. His shoulder is a bit banged up but he hasn't been seeing the cuts in the phone booth as often as he had been. I also think his performance has been affected by game situations and the play calling. Denver routinely put eight in the box after Murray got off to a decent start. Chicago historically has been difficult to run on. The running game has been a focus during the bye week. This is certainly something to keep on eye on the next few weeks.

From Tim Z: Is there any update on Nate Allen's timetable? We could use him back in the secondary.

JK: The earliest Nate Allen can return is the Minnesota Game in Week 10. We'll certainly keep an eye on this situation and bring you official changes in his status as they happen.

From Marisa M: Do you think TJ Carrie's move so safety has worked out so far?

JK: So far, yes. Carrie has good football instincts and great speed. He can cover a lot of ground. He's not a big hitter but he's a sure tackler. It's good to have versatility with your players and the Raiders have found out something about Carrie. He also seems to be an unselfish, team-first kind of guy, willing to do whatever is asked. Ideally the Raiders wouldn't have to use Carrie at safety when he may be the best cover corner on the team

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From Eric E**: What has been the single biggest thing holding the team back from closing out games this year and how can that be addressed?

JK: That's just it. I don't think it's any one thing. You look at the four close games the Raiders have been in, they've won two and closed them out dramatically, and the two they've lost were dramatic in nature in the waning moments. In those two losses the circumstances were different. Against Chicago, Ray-Ray Armstrong couldn't have covered Martellus Bennett any better on that 4th and 5 play, and Bennett makes a great catch. Against Denver, a screen pass on 4th and 19 didn't get it done. An interception return for a touchdown sealed the Raiders fate in that game. In the two wins, the Raiders closed Baltimore and Cleveland out with last-second interceptions. So, I don't think it's any one thing. Avoiding mistakes and turnovers is crucial moving forward.

From Tony H: Is this the best rookie class we've seen for the Raiders in years? Cooper, Mario Edwards, Neiron Ball, Ben Heeney have all shown things.

JK: Many people feel that last year's was pretty good too with quarterback Derek Carr, linebacker (now defensive end) Khalil Mack, guard Gabe Jackson, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and TJ Carrie coming in and contributing right away and now mightily in year two. Wide receiver Amari Cooper looks to be a rare talent, Edwards Jr is just finding his sea legs, Ball is coming on, Heeney has been banged up, Walford is just now getting into the mix after missing most of training camp, guard Jon Feliciano hasn't seen the field yet, defensive end Max Valles is on the practice squad, tackle Anthony Morris got hurt in the preseason, wide receiver Andre Debose tore an Achilles, and cornerback Dexter McDonald has also had trouble getting on the field. So, as a whole it's difficult to compare draft classes at this point. The experts say it takes three years to properly evaluate a draft class.

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