Behind Chiefs Lines: Part II

Silver & Black Report teamed up with Warpaint Illustrated to discuss this week's Thursday Night Football between the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Here's what Warpaint Illustrated's publisher, Nick Athan.

NA: The Raiders have showed some guts in handing the rock to rookie Quarterback, Derek Carr. I've watched several Oakland games this season and I marvel at his toughness. What has been the one thing that's sustained the young signal caller in a season where the Raiders have yet to win a regular season game?

CM: The first thing he will point to as helping him keep his composure this year is his faith. But he has shown some real guts behind center, and his composure is something that has really impressed me. Despite being 0-10, his motivation/attitude has not changed one bit and he comes to work everyday looking to get better. It has also been great to see him on the sideline, continuously talking to coaches and fellow offensive players to learn what he can do better.

Despite just being 23 years old, Carr is extremely mature for his age. Much of this can be credited to growing up around football and his brother David Carr when he was on the Houston Texans. I think growing up around his brother and seeing his brother go through the NFL has really benefitted him.

NA: One thing the Raiders seemed to always do against the Chiefs in years past was run the football. However, with the Raiders facing so many deficits in most of their games this season, will they go back to leaning on their backs to grind out yards?

CM: Interim head coach Tony Sparano believes in a power-running game and will keep trying it. It has certainly been hard to keep with it due to the deficits, but it is his philosophy. It will especially be interesting to see if they can get it going this week against a Chiefs defense that is giving up some yards on the ground.

Second-year running back Latavius Murray came in last week and provided a spark against the Chargers, carrying the ball four times for 43 yards. It is expected that he may receive more carries moving forward, which may help spark the rushing attack since veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew have struggled much of the year.

NA: This past week Khalil Mack recorded his first NFL sack. I thought when he was drafted Mack would be a shoe in for rookie of the year. How has his transition from small college football to the NFL been for the rookie Raiders defender?

CM: Khalil Mack has been everything as advertised this season, despite only recording his first NFL sack last week. He has applied pressure to the quarterback relatively consistently, but he has not gotten to the quarterback. He draws a lot of double teams with opponents recognizing his ability, and also draws holding penalties like the one last week that pushed the Chargers out of field goal range.

Mack has also been excellent against the running game, something that gets overlooked. The young linebacker has 56 tackles on the season and continues to grow every week. He isn't even close to reaching his ceiling, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors at all.

NA: From my view the Raiders are in a clear rebuilding phase, but with a disconnect with city official in Oakland reaching a stalemate in regards to a new stadium, do you think that's played any part in the way the team is playing considering they might need to find a new NFL home to play football in 2015?

CM: I don't think the stadium problems have played much of an impact on the Raiders' record this year with the players. The players appear focused on football, and football only. When asked about the stadium issue, they acknowledge that it is their job to focus on the football aspect while there's no reason to worry about things they can't control.

The team is still winless primarily due to the lack of execution, and in some ways, deficit of talent in certain areas.

NA: Tony Sparano from all accounts is a solid coach. I thought he did a terrific job at Miami but fell short getting that franchise over the hump. As the interim Head Coach right now, do you think he's the man to guide this team in 2015 and beyond. Or will General Manager, Reggie McKenzie be able to convince his old friend, Mike Holmgren, to get back into coaching and help him rebuild the Raiders?

CM: I do not believe that Tony Sparano will be the head coach heading into 2015. While I think he is a great motivator and has done an adequate job with the team on his interim basis, I believe Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie will likely want to go in a different direction.

Davis will likely want to get a coach with more prominence to head the team next, after going the coordinator-turned-head-coach route with Dennis Allen. Mike Holmgren is certainly a name that has been thrown out often, and would be a nice hire especially with his familiarity with McKenzie and ability to groom young quarterbacks like Derek Carr. Raider Nation keeps preaching Jon Gruden, but there's no evidence that he's interested in the job nor that he wants to leave his job at ESPN. San Francisco 49er's Jim Harbaugh is another name that people keep mentioning, but we also don't know if he will be available even.

Whether it is Holmgren, Gruden, or another head coach with a history of coaching, Mr. Davis may have to open up the check book to come to the Raiders.

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