CB: It’s obviously very difficult to find silver linings in a 1-11 season. But what are some of the positive developments on the field for the Raiders in 2014?
CM: It has certainly been a difficult season for the Silver & Black, but there's definitely some positives that have come out of this year. For the first time in awhile, the Raiders appear to have some young pieces that they can build around (both offense and defense).
Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has shown his immense potential in his first season, despite recording just one sack. The young linebacker has applied pressure to the quarterback consistently while also excelling against the run. The fifth-overall pick has 60 tackles on the season.
Rookie cornerback TJ Carrie is another player that has shown potential after being drafted in the seventh round by the Raiders. Forced into a bigger role because of injuries, he has shown he can cover and is a dangerous returner.
Despite going through rookie patches throughout the season, quarterback Derek Carr has displayed the attributes of what looks like could be a solid NFL quarterback. He has a strong arm, though makes mistakes but will only get better next year, especially if the Raiders can give him some weapons.
CB: Oakland netting the No. 1-overall pick looks like it’s in play. The big question I’m sure many Raiders fans have: do they keep that pick? And if so, do you look at Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota despite Derek Carr showing potential in his rookie season? Or is trading that pick away to address other areas the more prudent move?
CM: This seems to be the biggest question. It's pretty hard to pass up on Marcus Mariota if the pick is kept, as he continues to build a resume for being the first-overall pick.
That being said, Derek Carr has looked good this season for the most part and has shown flashes of potential. That, along with the fact that Mark Davis has been high on him since before the draft, may make it difficult for the Raiders to take Mariota.
Oakland also has a roster that has many holes, which would make selling the pick the best idea. Selling the pick for a RGII-esque ransom may be the route to go if it is offered. This would allow the Raiders to address many of their needs, much like the St. Louis Rams did.
If they do keep it and decide against Mariota, one obvious name to look at is USC's defensive lineman Leonard Williams. He would help fill one of the Raiders' many needs and would be another young defensive star to develop alongside Mack.
CB: The Raiders’ running game has been a real weak point on offense. Why is that? And what can 49ers fans expect from rookie running back Latavius Murray?
CM: The Raiders running game has been atrocious this season, for a variety of reasons. The offensive linemen have struggled some in blocking in the fun game, but veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew have also had a hard time hitting the appropriate holes. They also lack the same burst that they had in their younger years.
Latavius Murray is a big back that has great burst of his own. He hasn't gotten the ball that much in his career after being put on the injured reserve in training camp last season, but he is showing the Raiders that he deserves the ball more. Though he has just 14 carries this year, he has 166 yards (11.9 yards per carry).
To put that into perspective, McFadden has 136 attempts for 449 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Jones-Drew has 41 carries for just 90 yards. There's no reason for the Raiders to not play their young back, as he is outproducing the veterans and it would also allow the front office to see what they have in Murray.
CB: The 49ers worked out Charles Woodson prior to last season and elected to draft Eric Reid in the first round instead, then signed Antoine Bethea in free agency last spring. What has Woodson brought to the Raiders, and how important has he been to that defense in his 17th season?
CM: Free safety Charles Woodson has been one player that continues to impress me and many of the other writers. He makes plays every week that has me re-looking up his age just to make sure. At 38 years old, he is leading the team in tackles with 87. He has also recorded two interceptions and one sack, making him the only team in NFL history with 50 interceptions and 20 sacks.
Woodson has also been very important inside the locker room, mentoring young players on the defensive side such as Mack, DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie, and more. The veteran has even gone as far to reach out to the rookie quarterback and help guide Carr during this rough season. A veteran presence like Woodson is what the Raiders needed in the locker room.
CB: A lot has been made about the Raiders’ future in Oakland given they don’t have a lease at the O.co Coliseum beyond the season. In your heart of hearts, are the Raiders going to stick around in Oakland, or do you think they will wind up going to Los Angeles. What about the idea of sharing Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers before figuring out a more permanent solution?
CM: I keep going back and forth on this topic, because it's really hard to know since it has been pretty quiet on that front. I still hold out hope that they will get something figured out, but there's only one more home game after this week and it's hard not to wonder if the game against Buffalo will be the last one in the Coliseum.
There was some good news this week for Raiders fans that want the team to stay in Oakland: Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury reported that the Raiders met with financier Floyd Kephart to discuss the possible development of the Coliseum property. There's still a lot of work to do, but at least it's a step in the right direction.
I don't know if Santa Clara is an option for the Raiders. I know it certainly wouldn't have been if Al was still around, but Mark might listen if the Niners approach him again about it. But the Raiders have made it pretty evident that they want their own place to call their home, and Raider Nation shares that same sentiment.