For this week’s Getting to Know … segment, we turned to Jimmy Durkin, Raiders beat writer for the Bay Area News Group, which includes the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News.
Let’s roll …
MC: How has Jack Del Rio impacted this team in his first season in ways that have made it better and gives it a chance to achieve the franchise’s first winning season since going to the Super Bowl back in 2002?
JD: “He’s brought credibility and a no-nonsense attitude. He hired a good staff of experienced coaches and the players respect what they’re being taught because they know Del Rio and his staff have had success in the NFL.”
MC: What has been the strength of Bill Musgrave’s work as offensive coordinator this year and what, if anything, is he doing to bring out the best in Derek Carr’s second season?
JD: “He’s really had them prepared at the start of games to fire out quickly and has scripted game plans that have featured creativity and highlight the team’s strengths. Carr’s confidence has grown in Musgrave’s offense, although a lot of that could be him having a pair of great new weapons in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.”
MC: What would you say is Carr’s greatest strength and how much credit would you say offensive line coach Mike Tice should get for the protection that allows Carr to perform better?
JD: “He’s seeing the field really well right now. As an offense, they’ve been tremendous at limiting the pressure, reading blitzes and protecting Carr and definitely, Tice’s offensive line has been a revelation. They went into the year feeling great about center Rodney Hudson, veteran left tackle Donald Penn and second-year guard Gabe Jackson. But he’s gotten the most out of right guard J’Marcus Webb and right tackle Austin Howard, even overcoming a preseason injury to projected starting right tackle Menelik Watson.”
MC: The Raiders are last in the league in pass defense, yet they’ve intercepted passes in seven straight games. What can Vikings fans expect not only in terms of surrendering big plays vs. takeaways but Oakland’s ability to first stop Adrian Peterson in the running game?
JD: “The Raiders, until last week against the Steelers and freak of nature Antonio Brown, have been very good about not surrendering big plays in the passing game. Their mantra is to stop the run (they were No. 2 against the run before DeAngelo Williams erupted last week) and not get beat deep. That’s been part of what’s happened to them against the pass, where they’ll allow big yardage but limit the points. They’ll give up a slew of plays underneath in order to avoid getting beat deep and it’s been a strategy that’s worked pretty well. A couple of their games (San Diego and the New York Jets), they jumped out to big early leads and as a result, had no problem letting those teams throw for a bunch of underneath yardage.”
MC: What kind of effect has the possibility of moving — including owner Mark Davis’ recent comments about being “open to anything” in terms of a move to Los Angeles or even San Diego — had on the fans and the team's home games?
JD: “It oddly hasn’t really affected things yet. Season ticket sales are at a high since their return from Los Angeles and the crowds have been great. I think a lot of fans, while the potential move isn’t far from their mind, are pretty caught up in the fact that they finally have a good, playoff-contending team. There’s a lot of frustration with the whole process, but the fans have stayed loyal so far.”