You have questions, and now we have answers.
Check out this week's Raiders.com Mailbag, presented by BART.
Kevin B: Murray is the starter when he's healthy. If he's out, who is the starter, Washington or Richard?
EP:Well, Head Coach Jack Del Rio made it official following Friday's practice, Latavius Murray will indeed be out of Sunday's matchup against the San Diego Chargers, as he recovers from a toe injury. Since the Pro Bowl running back will be sidelined, the Raiders will rely heavily on their tandem of rookie rushers, Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington. As far as who gets more carries, I think, at least in the beginning of the game, there will be pretty close to a 50/50 split. After the team is able to get into the rhythm of the game though, I expect offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to run – no pun intended – with the hot hand, and have the other back serve in a complementary role. In the early goings of the season, both backs are averaging north of 5.0 yards per carry, so getting production on the ground shouldn't be a problem.
From Jerry Y: Will the Raiders play conservative offense if we have a lead of two or more touchdowns?
EP:First off, let's hope that the Raiders find themselves up by a pair of touchdowns, and have the chance to make that call. The Chargers offense is one of the more potent units in the NFL, and even with their rash of injuries, they still have the firepower to go toe to toe with Derek Carr and Co. However, to answer your question, if the Raiders do find themselves with a big lead, I don't anticipate them letting their foot off the gas. Through the first quarter of the season, the team has shown that they're at their best offensively when they're airing the ball out, and letting Carr pick apart the opposing defense. Now, if the Silver and Black are up huge in the fourth quarter, do I think they'll be throwing deep all the time? No, at that point they'll look to control the clock, but within reason, I anticipate Bill Musgrave giving his playmakers the opportunity to make plays, even if the team has a lead.
From Janet D: Is Crabtree the No. 1 receiver on this team? Where has Andre Holmes been lately?
EP:Honestly, at this point, categorizing either Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper as the "No. 1 receiver" is just semantics. Both are legitimate weapons out wide, and both will assuredly get their chances to make plays throughout the game Sunday. While Crabtree does have four more touchdowns than Cooper, Cooper still actually leads the team with 318 receiving yards, which is a perfect example of how the two are both off to good starts in 2016. As for Mr. Holmes, while his stats as the fourth wide receiver may not necessarily be overly impressive – he has two catches for 14 yards, and a touchdown – Holmes is a valuable cog on the special teams units, a role that is no doubt very important. Also, Holmes is tallest wide receiver for the Silver and Black, and as such, he's a great asset to have in the red zone when things get a little tighter for the offense.
From Renecillo T: Will we see Charles Woodson suit up one last time?
EP:As much as I'd love it, and I'm sure Raider Nation would love it too, unfortunately I think we've seen the last of Charles Woodson on a football field. C. Wood just celebrated his 40th birthday, and while I'm sure he's still in good enough shape to give the Raiders some quality run, I don't think he'll be coming out of retirement anytime soon. Besides, Charles has a pretty nice gig right now with ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, so for now, it looks like he's traded in football cleats and pads, for ascots and microphones.
From Alex T: The Chargers have so many injuries on defense that our offense should have a field day, right?
EP:On paper, it sure looks that way, but one thing in the NFL is certain, you can never underestimate any opponent. Yes, both the Chargers base cornerbacks are out, as is one of their safeties, but the Silver and Black will still have to go out Sunday afternoon and execute if they want to come away with their first home win of the 2016 regular season. Derek Carr and the boys put up 28 points last weekend against one of the top-ranked defenses in the NFL, so the group certainly has the pedigree and potency to put up points in a hurry against the Chargers. One thing I know for sure though, Head Coach Del Rio will have the group locked in, and ready to go, regardless of who's lining up on the defensive side of the football. You can never count out Philip Rivers either, who year after year proves to be one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL.
From Brian K: How is Gabe Jackson adjusting to playing on the other side of the ball these first four games?
EP:To see how Jackson is adjusting to switching from the left to the right side of the offensive line, that's just take a look at the stats; the Raiders are averaging 126.8 rushing yards per game, and have allowed just two sacks of Derek Carr through four games. The offensive line has arguably been the best unit on the team, and Jackson is a big part of the reason why. While he may have switched sides of the offensive line, his production has remained steady, as Jackson is still a mauler in the run game, and a huge asset in pass protection. Much has been made about the myriad combination of linemen that the team has trotted out, but regardless of who has been lining up next to him at right tackle, Jackson has been solid.
From Hank C: Is it a bad thing that Marquette King is having such a good year?**
EP:Absolutely not. There's a reason that coaches talk about winning all *three *phases of the game; special teams is an essential part of the game, and through the first quarter of the season, King has been one of the best at his position in the entire NFL. Coming out of Fort Valley State, there was never any doubt about the strength of King's leg, but over the past year or so, No. 7 has developed a lethal finesse to his kicks that we hadn't seen consistently before. Now, instead of just booming the ball 70 yards downfield, he's doing that, but also pinning the ball deep, and not giving the opposing returner a chance to make a play. Plain and simple, King has been outstanding this season, and looks to be on his way to becoming one of the elite punters in the league. He has the ability to flip the field almost at will, and having that kind of weapon is a luxury that few teams are lucky enough to have. If he keeps it up, King could have a strong case to be named to his first Pro Bowl at season's end.
From James H: When will Derek Carr enter the elite QB discussion?
EP:I think the more the team wins, the more Derek Carr will find himself in the discussion of being an elite quarterback. As impressive as he's been since joining the Raiders, let's also remember that the team has not yet earned a trip to the postseason in his tenure, and when you talk about the elite signal-callers in the league, they regularly have their teams in the playoffs. Now, statistically, Carr definitely seems to be knocking on the door of that elite club. Through four games, he's thrown for 1,066 yards, and his passing touchdowns (9) and completion percentage (68.0) both rank in the top 10 in the NFL. Carr is a Pro Bowl quarterback, and I think once the wins start coming in bunches, he'll find himself in that elite discussion a lot more. Also, keep this in mind, he's just 25 years old, and in his third season in the NFL. Not too bad if you ask me.