Raiders.com Mailbag: State Of The Offensive Line, Will Khalil Mack Reach 10 Sacks?

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From Vincent M:When will we see 1st round pick Karl Joseph in the starting lineup?

EP:For Joseph, it's all about growing more familiar and comfortable with the Raiders defensive scheme each time he takes the football field. Let's not forget that he missed the entire Offseason Workout Program recovering from injury, so I don't think it's fair to say that, "by Week X Joseph needs to be in the starting lineup." That being said, the rookie safety is now healthy and ready to go, and when asked about Joseph, defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. said that wants to Joseph "continuing to grow, try to continue to develop." Look, Joseph is part of the team's long-term plan defensively, so I wouldn't be too concerned that he didn't start his very first regular season game as a rookie. He's a quality player, and when he's ready to start, he'll start.

From Shane B: Can Marquette King throw a good spiral? We haven't seen the fake punt material just yet...

EP:Hey, there's a reason Marquette doesn't wear the non-contact jersey during practice – the man is an athlete. I've said time and time again that I think The Kicksquad President is the most athletic punter in the NFL, and while the strength of his leg has never in doubt, I don't think the strength of his arm needs to be either. No, we haven't seen him execute a fake punt yet, but I have no doubt that when called upon, King would up to the task. And can you imagine his celebration if the play was successful? It would be awesome.

From Justin L: Will Sean Smith be tasked with guarding Julio Jones this weekend?         

EP:I'm guessing this question was asked because of Smith's, shall we say, less than stellar day at the Superdome. You have to give him credit, the veteran cornerback didn't shy away from criticism, and faced the music, saying that Sunday's effort against the Saints wasn't up to par, and that he was locked in on the Falcons. To answer your question though, I think Norton will throw a variety of schemes and players at Jones throughout the game, Smith included. Smith definitely has the measurables to match up with Jones, and I anticipate him getting his fair chance at shutting down Jones. He'll surely be motivated after last week's season debut.

From Moo P: Will Raiders go for two again if put in a similar situation as last week?

EP:Well, let's hope that the Silver and Black don't find themselves in that exact situation again this week, but if they did, my gut instinct would say that Head Coach Jack Del Rio would make the same call. Now, obviously each situation is unique, but after last week one thing is clear – Del Rio has supreme confidence in his group to get the job done in crunch time. Sunday's decision to go for two has been sliced and diced, and discussed ad nauseam, but more than anything, it showed the Raiders will not be backing down from anything in 2016, and that attitude comes straight from the head coach.

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From Demauri M:** Will we see more of Johnny Holton soon?

EP:In his first regular season NFL game, Holton saw just two offensive snaps, working primarily on the special teams units. As of now, the top four wide receivers (Cooper, Crabtree, Roberts and Holmes) for the Raiders look set, so for the time being, Holton will have to first make his mark on special teams. While the rookie wide receiver can flat out fly, he's still a raw product that doesn't have that much actual football under his belt just yet. I expect Holton to be a contributor offensively at some point, but with a solid group of wideouts ahead of him, his development certainly doesn't need to be rushed.

From Isaiah M:Will we see Khalil Mack reach 10 sacks this season?

EP:The short answer, yes. Mack is too talented, and too dynamic of a pass rusher to not get his sack number to hit double digits by the time the 2016 season comes to a close. Yes, after last season's 15-sack performance, teams will be keyed in much more closely on the All-Pro defensive end, and shift offensive formations to mike life more difficult for him, but at the end of the day, Mack is an elite pass rusher, and I expect his stats to reflect that.

From Cody L: How is the O-Line looking after getting a little beat up in Week One?

EP:It's a good thing that heading into season the offensive line was so deep, because just a week in, the group is already being tested. Neither Menelik Watson nor Matt McCants are expected to play after missing the entire week of practice, but thankfully Austin Howard was able to return to work, and I expect him to get the start at right tackle Sunday against the Falcons. While the group may not garner a lot of fanfare, make no mistake about, the offensive line is the engine that makes the offensive machine go, so having them at as close to full capacity as possible, will be huge going forward. With Howard now back in the mix, I would anticipate Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele to return to their natural positions, with Jon Feliciano acting as the swing tackle should any other injuries arise.

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