Denis Savage, Publisher, Silver & Black Illustrated: Ryan’s mark on the team has been in its preparedness. He has the team focused each week and they enjoy playing for him. Beyond that, the defense is built on speed and speed makes up for some deficiency, not to say these players have any. They are young, energetic, and put it upon themselves to play better than last year. Ryan has been here three years and it is usually the third year of a defense that shows the most growth as old players grasp it and the new adhere to it. With all the youth, this group could be quite special looking ahead.
Doug Farrar: Second-year linebacker Kirk Morrison got lost in the crush of great rookie linebackers in 2005, but there’s no doubt he’s the real deal. Is he the leader of this defense, and what are his strengths and weaknesses?
Denis Savage: Morrison is one of the leaders, along with Stuart Schweigert in the secondary. His strength is in his passion for the game and football knowledge. He moved inside to middle linebacker this season and his ability to read what is presented in front of him and react accordingly speaks of his football acumen. One example is last week against Pittsburgh when he snared an interception off Ben Roethlisberger. He was supposed to blitz the quarterback but saw no lanes open and sat back to be in a perfect place for the pick.
Doug Farrar: Al Davis has always coveted great defensive backs, and the Raiders currently rank first in pass defense. How much of that is due to actual defensive effectiveness, and how much is due to the fact that teams have been able to put Oakland’s offense away and run the ball? Who’s the star of the secondary now that Charles Woodson is gone?
Denis Savage: The Raiders have the fewest passing attempts against in the NFL so you are correct, partially. Yet, the run defense is allowing 3.8 per rush, tied for 11th best in the league. Putting two-and-two together should mean more passes against but it hasn’t. Why? There is talent there. While they have the fewest passes against, they are second in the league in interceptions per pass attempt. That goes back to speed and the ability for these players to close the gap. Schweigert is the leader back there but Nnamdi Asomugha is turning into the playmaker and using all of his talent after struggles over his first three seasons.
Doug Farrar: The common public perception of the Raiders organization is of a drifting, headless non-entity led by a guy who should have retired 20 years ago (Davis). How much of that perception is reality? Where’s the function and the dysfunction?
Denis Savage: There are many who believe exactly what you have depicted. Losses certainly do that to any franchise. If they begin to win, the perception dies and suddenly the face is rejuvenated in the eyes of the world. Davis loves the Raiders and there is no questioning that. But, for all their glory in the past, Davis may have dipped into that legacy one too many times with Art Shell. The reality is they need to change the way they do things to conform with the new NFL, one built on speed and character. Looking at the defense, it is clear that has become a priority. Shell – the right man to lead? History says no. It may take one more change to officially change things.
Doug Farrar: What is the one aspect of this team the Seahawks need to be aware of if they want to avoid being upset by Oakland in Monday night?
Denis Savage: The defense. If they can force Ben Roethlisberger to throw four interceptions, the possibilities with Seneca Wallace are endless. With Seattle’s running game in disarray, it stands to reason that they will make Wallace beat them. Is there enough tape on Wallace to understand what his strengths and limitations are? Not sure, but the Raiders will try and exploit what they have seen.