Denis Savage: At first, the signing of Culpepper was a chance you simply had to take – as a team and as a fan. The dividends could have been enormous was the thinking. But the team has also changed the way he thinks. Culpepper has been asked to throw the short to intermediate routes and rarely takes advantage of his throwing arm or the wide receivers' speed. As a result, he has suffered with his decision-making and accuracy.
One thing the Raiders are trying to do this week – capture the emotion of Culpepper as he looks to face his old team. The thinking is he might have that added spark, and it will, in turn, cascade through the roster. We will see if that is true.
He has been very upbeat about his position with the team. Even when he was benched in favor of Josh McCown, he took it in stride. Culpepper realizes that the future is Russell but is spurred by the one-year deal with an eye on remaking his name for a job somewhere else. He has also been a good mentor by all indications.
TY: Do you think the Raiders made the right move in selecting JaMarcus Russell or do you think they'd have been better served getting a player like Calvin Johnson or Adrian Peterson who could have contributed more immediately (despite their minor injuries now)?
DS: Personally, I would never have passed on Johnson. He can be that good and should be a perennially Pro Bowl talent, and Larry Fitzgerald was the only other receiver coming out of college that I felt this strongly about.
Given the Raiders' situation, you can't fault them for taking Russell. If this was the continuation of the rebuilding process, you need a top-flight signal caller to make that happen. Russell has the intangibles to succeed and if the bottom continues to fall out in Oakland it will be time to see how he performs.
TY: What is the difference in running styles between Justin Fargas and LaMont Jordan, and how do the Raiders decide which one to use when? Do they need both of them to feed off the other or could they go with a featured back?
DS: Fargas is a more upright runner with good speed and some elusiveness. He has never seemed to put it altogether until this year. He is running with more confidence and hitting the hole quicker, rather than his read and react philosophy in the past.
Jordan is a straight-line bruiser that bangs up inside the tackles and carries tacklers the extra yard. He has good speed but needs more time to get to full acceleration.
As for which is used when – there really isn't an answer that makes sense. Jordan did not receive a single carry last week and a back injury he suffered in late September seems to have opened the door for Fargas and closed the book on Jordan. The feeling is Lane Kiffin is looking to the future and deciding what his future team might look like, giving Fargas the opportunity – despite Jordan sitting second in the league in rushing before his injury.
TY: It sounds like the secondary was an issue for the Raiders against the Chicago Bears. The Vikings don't have quite the experience at wide receiver as the Bears, so do you expect that to still be an issue this week?
DS: The secondary has been beat up. Starting safety Nnamdi Asomugha and third cornerback Fabian Washington both missed the game against the Bears. Chris Carr, in for Asomugha, was victimized by the big play and the Raiders never recovered. Carr was baited by comeback routes throughout the game and a double-move was his downfall. Asomugha and Washington should return this week, and given the Vikings lack of experience at receiver, the running game is a bigger threat.
TY: With Tarvaris Jackson back in at quarterback in Minnesota and no Adrian Peterson due to injury, do you expect the Oakland defense to get aggressive and blitz the quarterback or still work on fixing their ailing 29th-ranked run defense?
DS: Stopping the run has to be first. Given Jackson's inconsistency, at least from one outsider's view, and the inexperience at receiver, the Raiders have to stack the box and dare Jackson to beat them. With Tommy Kelly out, the Raiders will cheat down with their safeties and look to corral Chester Taylor, no easy feat. Run blitzes should be the norm.
If they can get the Vikings in third-and-long, a shadow for Jackson may be employed to keep him from getting outside the pocket and using his legs to carve up the defense.
Denis Savage is the managing editor for SilverandBlackIllustrated.com and Tim Yotter is the editor of VikingUpdate.com.