With the Eagles and Raiders scheduled to face off on Sunday, I reached out to SB Nation Raiders site Silver and Black Pride for an Oakland perspective. Levi Damien kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) Name one player on offense and defense the Eagles need to keep an eye on.
On offense it has to be Terrelle Pryor. He is a dynamic weapon and a wildcard. His ability to make something happen with his legs makes him a tough match-up and he has shown just enough ability with his arm to force a team to respect it. He has gotten off to fast starts this season and then cools off or stumbles entirely in the second half.
Lamarr Houston is the heart and soul of the Raiders’ defense. He is the one player every opponent truly fears. He may have just 4.0 sacks on the season but don’t let that fool you. He is a vicious pass rush threat and a very solid tackler in the run game as well. Best for Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy to keep an eye on him.
2) Terrelle Pryor seems like an intriguing player. Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who tried to recruit him at Oregon, thinks so too. How has Pryor been and how big of a threat does he pose to the Eagles' defense?
I kind of answered that above, but I will expand upon it. When Chip Kelly was at Oregon, they were a run first team. Pryor had always been a run first quarterback so his recruitment made sense there. It doesn’t make as much sense now. Kelly realizes he needs a passing quarterback to survive in the NFL. Hence the reason Nick Foles is the starter and he drafted Matt Barkley. That is the area of Pryor’s game that has improved tremendously in the past few months.
But still, in some regard, that is not saying a whole lot because of how very far behind he was in his development as a passer. He is as big of a threat as always on the ground. In fact now that he has forced teams to respect his arm more, it has opened up the field for him to run as well. He still has a long way to go and lately turning the ball over has become a bit of an issue. If he is to be trusted to run the offense after the first half, he must continue to show consistently sound mechanics and decision making.
3) The Eagles offense has struggled in recent weeks. In fact, they haven't scored in offensive touchdown in their last two games. Tell us about the Raiders' defense. Can they limit the Eagles offense? What are the strengths of this unit?
The strength is the run defense. They are sixth in the league in yards allowed per game and second in the league over the past four weeks. They haven’t allowed a run of 20 yards or more all season. Three times this season, they held an opposing rusher to under 2 yards per carry. They won all three of those games. The starting running backs on those teams were Maurice Jones-Drew, Ryan Mathews, and Le’Veon Bell. They also haven’t given up a 100-yard rusher all season.
4) I've noticed you're an Oregon Ducks fan. How do you feel about Chip Kelly now that he's going to be coaching against the Raiders?
I still have tremendous respect for Chip Kelly. He is a fantastic motivator and one of the more innovative football minds of our time. I had a feeling he would struggle early on as the transition from college to pros can be a difficult one. Also with his schemes and coaching style, he requires certain types of players to make it work which can take time to put together. When he became the Eagles head coach, I immediately thought Mike Vick and DeSean Jackson were two players who would fit perfectly in his system. Vick’s healthy concerns are another issue altogether. If he can change his system to have success with Nick Foles behind center, that is a real credit to his genius because Foles is nothing like the kind of quarterback he recruited at Oregon.
5) Are there any under the radar Raiders players the Eagles should know?
I would usually say Marcel Reece because he has been the Raiders X-factor the past few years. However, he has not seen the ball much of late for whatever reason. That could change so it’s worth noting. But I will say Taiwan Jones. He is a special teams guy. He is one of the best gunners in the league. He was drafted as a running back and switched to corner this off-season although he doesn’t see the field on defense. He has blazing speed but had lost the trust of the coaching staff for fumbling problems. As of last week it appears he has regained their trust because they had him returning kickoffs. Be on the lookout to see if he is returning kicks again because he can make things happen as a return man and will make life very difficult for opposing return men.
Bonus: Score Prediction
Let’s go with Raiders 20, Eagles 16.