Raiders.com Week 15 Mailbag Questions Answered

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We took to social media earlier this week to find out what was on your mind heading into this week's Raiders vs. Packers tilt. You asked, and Raiders.com Senior Editor Jerry Knaak answered.

From Manny V: What is it going to take for Amari Cooper to bounce back from a few down weeks to contribute in a big way again?

JK: Quarterback Derek Carr has said repeatedly that he is going to get the ball to the open guy. He has also shown faith in a receiver after a drop by going right back to that guy. All that being said, Cooper bounced back in a big way after being held to 1 catch for 4 yards at Detroit with 7 catches for 115 yards in a win over Tennessee, followed by 4 grabs for 49 yards against Kansas City. A few teams have done a good job of limiting Cooper's opportunities but I expect him to rebound in the last three games.

From Jim F: Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL – what do you think Ken Norton Jr. will do to try to make him have an off day?

JK: Pressure is the key to disrupting any good quarterback. Rodgers, one of the NFL's best, has the added element of mobility to content with. Rodgers has been sacked 31 times this season and has 314 yards on 51 carries. The Raiders have 34 sacks on the season and defensive Khalil Mack leads the league with 14. If you look at his numbers, they are comparable to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Carr has actually thrown for 138 more yards with just one more completion. The Raiders will need to a good job of pressuring Rodgers but will also have to keep him contained in the pocket.

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From Mary F**: Why hasn't Leon Orr been playing more this season? He stepped in and made some nice plays.

JK: Other players were ahead of him on the depth chart, plain and simple. He did enough in the offseason and preseason to earn a spot on the practice squad. Due to injuries, he has been promoted and is making the most of his opportunities. Justin Ellis, Dan Williams, and Stacy McGee have formed a formidable trio on this inside, and Mario Edwards Jr.'s versatility give the Raiders defensive coaches quite a few options.

From Carlos G: Do the players still believe that they have an outside shot at the playoffs or are they mainly playing for pride at this point?

JK: We all believe there is a shot. I'm not naïve, I realize the Raiders need to probably win out and get a lot of help. But until the Raiders are mathematically eliminated from contention, there's a shot.

From Ryan W: Who breaks 1000 yards first this season – Cooper, Murray, or Crabtree?

JK: I think it'll be Cooper, and I think it happens sooner than later.

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From Carroll M**: This team is clearly talented on both sides of the ball but has been very up and down all year – what is the biggest reason for the inconsistency?

JK: The biggest? Probably youth. The Raiders have 29 players on the active roster with three years of experience or less and that includes three of your most important skill position players on offense – Carr, Cooper and Murray. Sixteen of those players are between 21-24 years of age. They just need experience, reps, and opportunities. 

From George C: Is this team turning from a team with offense as its strength to one that is better on the defensive side of the ball?

JK: I personally think the team is growing in all phases of the game. At times it seems like one group is ahead of another for various reasons. As mentioned a question ago about consistency, this team is young, hasn't been together very long and is still learning what a new coaching staff is teaching them. Different pieces are coming along faster or have developed hitches along the way. The offense was on fire during the middle of the season and has cooled off. Now, the defense, the pass rush in particular, is coming on. Head Coach Jack Del Rio said this week that the goal is to build a dominant defense. It that happens in the short term, and the offense can recapture its mojo from Weeks 7-9, look out.

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From Tom T**: How important are the last three games of the season really when it comes to making a leap next season?

JK: Very important. If you look at the end of the 1999 season, the Raiders beat the Chiefs in Kansas City in overtime to knock the Chiefs out of the playoff race and give the Raiders an 8-8 record. The Raiders proceeded to go 12-4, 10-6, and 11-5 and win three straight AFC West titles. Knowing you can play with anybody while taking part in meaningful games in December can go a long way in teaching your team that it belongs with the contenders.

From Oliver H: What is the biggest challenge that the Packers present on defense? JK: Total team defense. From the defensive line to the secondary, this is a well-coached unit led by longtime NFL coach Dom Capers. They play fast and they play good, solid team defense. The have a couple of superstars in Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. They are 18th in the NFL in total defense allowing 350.2 yards per game, 11th against the pass at 233.8 yards per game, and 22nd against the run allowing 116.4 yards per game. However, Green Bay is very stingy with points, allowing just 18.8 per game, which is good for 6th in the NFL. They are 7 in the turnover ratio and opponents are only converting 37 percent of their 3rd down opportunities.

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