The Silver and Black are back…. in primetime.
For the first of five times this season, the Oakland Raiders are preparing for a primetime matchup, this week against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins.
Derek Carr and Co., enter the matchup 2-0 for the first time since 2002, while the Redskins are coming off a win last week as well. The eyes of the football world will be watching Sunday night, so before the game gets underway, here is this week's edition of the Raiders.com Mailbag.
**From Peter O: Carr is a beast and Kirk Cousins is pretty good too. Is this game going to be a shootout?
EP:On paper it certainly looks like there's the chance for a lot of people to find the end zone this Sunday. We all know that "DC" has established himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, and on the other sideline, Kirk Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards last year. You don't put those types of numbers up by accident. Through two weeks, Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing's group has shown to be one of the tops in the league, and with dynamic playmakers like Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, as well as a formidable rushing attack spearheaded by Marshawn Lynch, it's easy to see why. That being said, Carr will certainly have his hands full Sunday night going against a secondary led by All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman. While the Washington defense has been stout against the run in the early stages of 2017, they've had their fair share of issues stopping the passing game, so I'm excited to see if Carr can take advantage of the opportunities that the Redskins defense presents him. To get back to your point though, do I think a lot of points will be scored Sunday night? Well, I'll say this, with two, talented quarterbacks, points are almost inevitable, but don't sleep on the Raiders defense, they've enjoyed an excellent start to 2017. Let's see if they can keep it up.
From @joelsmann: Who has been the biggest standout player so far this season, and who do you think will standout against the Redskins?
EP:I'm going to take a different approach with this one. While Carr has been impressive, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree look like they're picking up right where they left off last year, and Khalil Mack has made his presence known play in and play out, I think I'm going to have to go with the interior of the Raiders offensive line. The big fellas up front never get enough credit, but simply put, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson couldn't have asked for better starts to 2017. Not only has that trio been maulers in the run game, helping Marshawn Lynch and friends get rolling, they've also done a spectacular job of keeping Carr upright. The Silver and Black have surrendered just two sacks so far, and while the entirety of Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice's deserves credit for that, the interior of the line in particular has been stout. Without time to operate, Carr can't do his thing, and without strong running lanes, life gets a lot more difficult for Lynch and the rest of the Raiders backs. The Raiders had one of the best offensive lines in football last year, and although it's only been two weeks, the group seems like they're going to be in that discussion once again this year.
From John G: Is this the week that Jared Cook finds the end zone?
EP:I think there's a very good chance that's the case this week. Even though No. 87 hasn't yet made reservations for six as a member of the Raiders, the versatile tight end has quickly become one of Carr's go-to targets. With nine catches for 81 yards, Cook has fit into the Raiders offense seamlessly, and provided Todd Downing with another talented playmaker to scheme plays for. With Cooper and Crabtree patrolling out wide, the middle of the field is Cook's for the taking, and I think this is the week he scores his first touchdown as a Raider. Let's not forget either what an asset Cook is in the red zone. At 6'5 and 254 pounds, the big tight end provides a very attractive target when things get a little congested closer to the goal line, and as the season wears on, I think we'll see that area become his hot spot. Like most tight ends, Cook's true value can't be gleaned from just looking at his stat line, but make no mistake about it, I think he's going to get his numbers.
From @RaiderMatt5204: Will the Raiders play Morrow more?
EP:First of all, what a great story Nicholas Morrow has been. After playing DIII football at Greenville, the undrafted rookie made the most of his opportunity, eventually making the Raiders final roster out of training camp. From Week 1 to Week 2, Morrow saw his playing time increase gradually, and while I think we're a way away from him cementing one of the team's starting linebacker jobs, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a little bit more of him this week against the Redskins. The more playing time he sees, the more the game will slow down for him, and the more comfortable he'll be in what Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. is asking him to do. The team's defense is young, but the linebackers in particular are an especially young group, and because of that, I think there's a chance for Morrow to earn his way into a little more playing time. The rookie linebacker is far from a finished product, but he's certainly going to be a player I keep an eye on as the season progresses.
From Darcus P: Is Sean Smith going to come back this week?
EP:Headed into Week 3, the Raiders are about as healthy as they can hope to be, as Smith is the only player listed as "questionable" for the Sunday night clash against the Washington Redskins. We won't know until closer to game time if Smith is able to strap on the pads – let's not forget he missed last week's win with a due to injury – but if he is, his return adds a whole, new dimension to what the Raiders want to defensively. With David Amerson, and TJ Carrie, as well as Smith and rookie cornerback Gareon Conley in the mix, a healthy Raiders secondary is something I'm really looking forward to possibly seeing.
From Dani B: What are you favorite things to do in D.C.?
EP:Well, full disclosure, I've only been to Washington D.C. once, and it was for a really short amount of time, but one of the coolest things I did was go to Arlington National Cemetery. From a historical perspective, it's really interesting to hear about how the property has changed over the years, and to be in a place so big, and with such significance was really powerful. Outside of that, I also went to the National Museum of American History which was also super interesting. Washington D.C. is a great city, and whether you're a history buff or not, there's certainly something for everyone.