Behind Enemy Lines: Raiders

Charlie Bernstein of goes behind enemy lines with Raiders expert, Denis Savage.

1. From the outside looking in, the Raiders appear to have a couple solid receivers, a 1000 yard running back, and a physical defense with active linebackers and talented corners, yet the team is 4-10. Is the instability at quarterback the main reason why they've lost so much?

    It isn't so much the inconsistency at quarterback, although that has been an issue for this team. The real reason is the Raiders can't seem to put together a complete game. One week, the offense struggles. The next week it is the run defense collapsing and then when both units play well, special teams becomes a burden.

2. Justin Fargas suffered some sort of knee injury last week against Indianapolis, what is his condition, and do you think he'll be able to play on Sunday? If not, are the former free agent signees, Lamont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes viable replacements?

    A sprained right medial collateral ligament will sideline him for the game this week. Jordan and Rhodes will share the load. Jordan is a solid runner, when healthy, but a balky back has limited his effectiveness throughout parts of the year. Rhodes should get an increased role after flashing good cutback ability and the knack for making would-be-tacklers miss in his first extended role of the year last week against Indianapolis.

3. JaMarcus Russell is clearly the future at the quarterback position for the Raiders, and they've been inserting him in their games for a few series, to "get his feet wet." The Raiders obviously aren't winning, and have been out of playoff contention for a while, should they just take their medicine and have Russell start and finish out their final two games of the season?

    One would believe this is correct answer. Why delay the inevitable? Russell is the future and with this team out of playoff contention, now is the time to give him experience. The offense line has played well this season, meaning he isn't at as much risk dropping back in the pocket, and you can't replace game experience. It just makes sense.

4. How good or bad of a job do you feel Lane Kiffin has done in his first year of coaching, and do you think he'll be back in 2008?

    It is a two-sided tale. Kiffin has made a few strange decisions through the year with his quarterbacks and the mistreatment of LaMont Jordan. Yet, he has the team playing hard and playing well at times. It is similar to any head coach's first year with a struggling team - he is trying to identify the players that will be cornerstones for his team next year and beyond. With that said, Kiffin is a talent evaluator who knows what he wants, including the style of play. He will definitely return in 2008.

5. The Raiders defense has been getting gashed on the ground this year to the tune of 143.8 yards per game. The Jaguars have the NFL's second-ranked rushing offense, averaging nearly 150 yards per game. What will Oakland have to do to slow down Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew?

    It certainly isn't a promising matchup for Oakland. The Raiders have to make a concerted effort to stop the run, even plugging an extra body close to the line to slow down the talented Jaguars rushing game. They can't stop Jacksonville - the Raiders don't have the horses up front to accomplish the task - but if they can limit the big play and keep third down to more than five yards they have a chance.

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