Levi Damien from Silver and Black Pride and I traded questions about our respective teams this week, and we both sent back our answers to post here. You can see what he asked me about the Falcons-Raiders matchup over at their site.
Here's what I wanted to know from Levi, and what he had to say:
1) Oakland ranks last in the league in rushing yards per game. Do you think the new blocking scheme is the issue, or is it something else? Also, do you think they get it going with Darren McFadden against the Falcons, given their poor performance in stopping opposing ground games so far?
The issue is the zone blocking scheme. The offensive line hasn't gotten it down yet as a unit and Darren McFadden has not run well in it in the past. I don't know if he will be able to get things moving against the Falcons. He did have a pretty good game against the Steelers in week three and even had a big 60-yard run in that game. With Atlanta's difficulty stopping the run, I do expect McFadden to have a better game than he has shown in the Raiders' three losses in which he topped out at 34 yards. Although I am not sure I expect him to have a big game on the ground.
2) Carson Palmer is limiting his turnovers in the passing game, but the offense is still not putting as many points on the board as they'd like. Is he playing too conservative this season? Or is moving the ball a bigger issue because of the run game?
It is mostly due to the run game. But there are a couple other things at play. One is the playcalling which has been very suspect. That falls on offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Another is the pass protection. Palmer has his pocket collapse a lot which either leads to incompletions or short completions because he has to get the ball out before he can make all his reads and the receivers can go through their routes. Other teams are not afraid of the run so they rush the passer. In the Steelers game when the Raiders introduced the threat of the run, Carson Palmer was able to finish out several drives.
3) We all saw the brutal hit on Darrius Heyward-Bey against Pittsburgh in Week 3. Will he be a factor against Atlanta now that he is practicing again? And what does his presence help do for the passing game?
Darrius Heyward-Bey has continued to improve this season. In that same game against Pittsburgh he had a really nice fade catch for a touchdown which shows an added skill in his previously limited repertoire. He has great speed and once he gets the ball in his hands, he is not easy to tackle. Aside from his contributions as a receiver, he takes pressure off of Denarius Moore on the other side. Moore isn't able to get a lot of separation and single coverage without DHB in the lineup.
4) What do you think the key to containing Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense is? Can the Raiders do this in Week 6?
Magically conjuring up a pass rush. And perhaps pulling a couple of corners out of their keesters might help too. To answer the last question: No. They can't. The best the Raiders can offer is the addition of Andre Carter to hopefully add some pressure off the edge. But even if he was able to have a great game and have say a sack and two hurries. What about the rest of the 40 plus passes? The makeshift safety turned corner, Michael Huff, has not performed well and neither has Pat Lee on the other side. Zero interceptions on the season. I see some big things from Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing game on Sunday.
5) Coming out of their bye week, what do you think is the biggest thing the Raiders have tried to improve on with their time off?
Probably the run game. It is so vital and I think they are at a loss as to what they can do about the previously very good rushing attack which is now non-existent. This offense cannot be one-dimensional. They just don't have the firepower in the passing game to go without a run game.