Latavius Murray is competing to become the Raiders starting running back. Photo by Tony Gonzales/Raiders.com.
We recently took to Facebook and Twitter and asked you, Raider Nation, to send in your questions about everything Raiders. In the first of a regular mailbag, Raiders.com Senior Editor Jerry Knaak answers your questions…
How is the o-line doing this off season
JK: Hey Reilly – Too hard to tell based on OTAs [Organized Team Activities] and minicamps. I'm very excited to see what the starting five will look like but this group, with the addition of Rodney Hudson, has the chance to be very good. Last year's group only allowed 28 sacks but struggled to run the ball. We won't see how good they can be until the pads are on.
What's the "new" direction for the #Raiders ? I haven't seen my guys in the #playoffs since 2002. Back when Gannon was QB
JK: Well, you said it. It starts with the quarterback. By the time Rich Gannon came to the Raiders, he was a seasoned veteran who had led a team to the playoffs. Derek Carr is just in his second season but he has the moxie and the arm – and there is no question he's putting in the work this offseason to make himself better. I'm not in the business of predicting playoff berths in the offseason but I do like what I've seen with the guys brought in via the draft and free agency.
Latavius is in a crowded backfield now. Who will be getting the main load? Will they give him a chance to get the majority playtime?
JK: Latavius Murray generated a lot of excitement last season on the strength of just four carries. I can't deny that the running game improved once he got his shot. He has the size and the speed to play in this league. He'll have every opportunity to earn the job. He'll have to demonstrate blitz pickup and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield on a consistent basis. He's still going to have to earn the job. In February, Head Coach Jack Del Rio said, "I think he's shown enough of the traits to make him a candidate to be that guy. I don't know that he's earned that, yet. I think he's shown that there's potential there and we're excited about working with him and developing him to his fullest, and having him compete and whoever ends up being the best guy, we'll let the best guy play. He's done enough things that pique your interest."
With Khalil Mack now at 270lbs will he now be used full time as a DE with either Armstrong or Smith taking over at LB ?
JK: Head Coach Jack Del Rio has kept this pretty close to the vest. Mack has as well. I think Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., and Del Rio are going to get very creative with Mack. I'd like to see Mack used like Lawrence Taylor or Andre Tippett were back in the day. Put him on the edge, wind him up and turn him loose. I'll bring you more on this when we get to camp.
Any chance we see the team actively pursue a trade of QB McGloin who is in final year of contract?
JK: My personal opinion is that Matt McGloin is a valued member of the team. His fire and passion, and his ability to produce off the bench are valuable commodities. At this point in the offseason, most teams seem to content to ride with the guys they have unless there's a catastrophic injury. Unless McGloin forces the issue, I don't see him being traded.
IS THE TEAM DONE WITH ADDING DE OR CB HELP ? OR SHOULD WE EXPECT 2 SEE SIGNINGS WHEN CUTS FROM THE LEAGUE HAPPEN 4 53 MAN ROSTER ?
JK: Every general manager in the NFL, Reggie McKenzie included, looks for help year-round. If a quality corner becomes available at any point, you can't rule it out. The days of the post-June 1 cuts are long gone, but you never know if someone will come available.
From Nick S:*
Brandian Ross was showing some progress later on in the season will we be having him on the field more this year or will it all be Nate Allen?
JK: Nick, I agree, Brandian Ross was much improved a year ago, He had an excellent offseason. I saw him make numerous plays during OTAs and minicamps. This will be one of the more interesting training camp battles. I could see Ross getting plenty of action as a nickel defensive back. This will be key with as much "spread" offense the Chargers and Broncos employ.
From Craig N:
Do you expect to stretch the passing field this year or concentrate on short slants and outs or both?
JK: Craig, I think QB Derek Carr is going to use the entire field and all of the weapons at his disposal. Last year, Carr averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt, last in the NFL, however, with the additions of TE Clive Walford and WR Amari Cooper will give the Raiders the ability to attack any part of the field from anywhere. Carr was much more effective last season when he attacked the middle of the field.
From Ryan B:
*We keep on hearing about Cooper, which is awesome, but I'd like to know how Harper is doing. It's interesting to see if he will play a role in the offense seeing that he has experience with Carr and they are running a similar paced offense this year. *
JK: Josh Harper jumped right in after signing as an undrafted free agent. During mandatory minicamp, Carr said, "He can come to me and ask any questions. I'll be able to have the answer. I know as a rookie, it's hard. It's a hard deal, so when you have a familiar face to be there and to talk to, I know it's been easier for him." Wide receiver is an interesting position from a core group standpoint and a total corps aspect. One of the greatest receivers nobody talks about was Denver Broncos great Rod Smith, who was an undrafted free agent. Harper will have to be special in camp and the preseason to make the team. It is also going to depend on how many receivers the coaching staff wants to keep. Teams typically keep four-six wide receivers.
From Jerry de C:*
The Raiders are so deep at linebacker the recent stories have not included Heeney and Ball's progress. How are they doing in learning the system?
JK: Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball haven't been discussed much because they've been steady and solid. Heeney and Ball will be in the mix in training camp and could contribute mightily on special teams for starters. The coaching staff is high on these two guys. Of the defensive players in the Draft class, Coach Norton said, "When guys are fast, guys are instinctive, guys care about ball, they are enthusiastic and they have a good nose to get around the football and they like making plays, you thought that about them before they got here, and they came here and that's exactly who they are. We like a team of good football players. We like that."
From Anthony C:
Hows TJ Carrie been practicing? And DJ Hayden?
JK: Anthony, TJ Carrie and DJ Hayden are poised to be on the corners when the season starts. Hayden has enjoyed his first full offseason since he was drafted. The question remains if Carrie is going to see any action as a kick returner of some variety. They are young and talented. They just need to put it all together. It is still a bit of a surprise that a veteran, starting caliber corner wasn't brought in. Coach Norton said, "They're young, fast, long. Most of the young cornerbacks that I've been involved with in Seattle, [they are] young. You just have to coach them up." So, we shall see. They'll be tested often and early when the Bengals come to town.
From Adam C:*
How is Clive Walford doing and do the coaches believe he can beat out Mychal Rivera for the starting spot?
JK: Adam, the Raiders are hoping Clive Walford is an every down tight end. He can block, he can catch, and he has deceptive speed. There is a role for Mychal Rivera and the camp competition for this group will be fun to watch.
From Belinda M:
What teams do ya'll most and least look forward to playing this year? JK: Belinda, I look forward to every opponent on the schedule. However, for me, the AFC West games are always huge. Pittsburgh is a fun trip. Chicago is a rare treat. The Green Bay Packers coming to Oakland should be interesting with Aaron Rodgers returning the East Bay. The Bengals and Ravens to start the season right off the bat will be tough. Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans in Nashville won't be a cakewalk. There are many tough match-ups on the schedule. The Raiders need to get off to a fast start this season. And, if you look at the team historically, the Raiders usually have a good season when they win their opener.