It is time for our weekly 'Five Questions' segment. With your New York Giants facing the Oakland Raiders we turn to Silver and Black Pride editor Levi Damien for some answers. Here we go.
Ed: Looking at the numbers it looks like the Oakland defense was playing fairly well until Sunday vs. the Eagles. What happened? How do you explain getting torched like that by Nick Foles?
Levi: They weren’t properly prepared. The Eagles up-tempo offense completely caught them off guard. Then in trying to patch one hole, they opened another. They switched to nickel and sent three rushers. This only made matters worse because then Foles had no pressure and sat in the pocket until he found an open man. It was a wake-up call for a defense that was pretty high on themselves coming in as one of the better overall pass rushing teams as well as one of the better run stopping teams. The Eagles went away from the run and neutralized the pass rush and it was catastrophic for the Raiders defense. The Raiders offense is nowhere near good enough to win games for them or come back from large deficits.
Ed: Matt McCants looked like an overwhelmed scrub who didn't belong in the NFL when he was with the Giants. How did he end up starting with Oakland, and how has he done?
Levi: He started by default. Injuries to Jared Veldheer, Menelik Watson, and Tony Pashos left him and Khalif Barnes as the last remaining offensive tackles on the team. I would credit Tony Sparano for having a keen eye to spot McCants and figure out how to make him into a decent NFL offensive tackle. I couldn’t tell you exactly what he did but Sparano is probably the best in the business at what he does and his addition to the coaching staff can’t be understated. That being said, McCants hurt his toe last week and will not play in the game this week. Rookie second round pick Menelik Watson will start now that he is back from injury.
Ed: am not sure what to make of Terrelle Pryor as an NFL quarterback. What are your thoughts on him and do you see him as a long-term answer with the Raiders?
Levi: Ah yes, my favorite weekly question. I go back and forth on this, to be honest. At one time, he had shown little in the way of NFL quarterback passing skills. Then he made a downright miraculous transformation this off-season and through training camp. He continued to progress through the first 3-4 weeks of the season. At that time I said if he continues to progress at this rate, he has the potential to be the future at quarterback for the Raiders. But over the past few weeks he seems to have leveled off. His pocket presence has not improved, he is too quick to flee the pocket under pressure instead of throwing to the hot read, and he is not pulling the trigger as soon as receivers break open. Now, if he stays at this level and can’t get back to the progress we saw a month ago, that won’t be enough to be the long-term answer for this team.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants' roster and put him in the Oakland lineup who would it be? Why?
Levi: I will make this a two part answer. For this team at this instant, it would have to be former Raiders draft pick, Kevin Boothe. Left guard with Lucas Nix as the starter is the weakest link on this Raiders team. Boothe would be a considerable upgrade over Nix and could very well solidify that line especially with left tackle Jared Veldheer returning from partial season IR soon.Long term, I would say Hakeem Nicks. He would be a tremendous addition to this Raiders receiving corps and it just so happens he is a free agent after this season and is not expected to return to the Giants. I could see the Raiders, with their nearly $70 million in cap space available next off-season, making a play for him. He has some of the best hands in the game and the trio of Denarius Moore, Hakeem Nicks, and Rod Streater would be a strong one.
Ed: Tell us about a couple of young players on Oakland's roster Giants' fans might not know about but should watch for on Sunday.
Levi: Defensive end Lamarr Houston is the best player on the team on either side of the ball. He doesn’t rack up the sacks and since we all LOVE us some sacks, he can tend to fly under the radar. He does it all. He is solid in the run game, pass rush, and even drops into coverage with some proficiency.I would also toss out there rookie linebacker Sio Moore. He tends to be hit or miss, but prior to last week when the Raiders pass rush was eliminated by the Eagles, he had begun to show up for the Raiders with three sacks in the previous two games. He is a very passionate player and I would expect he will be pretty fired up after that debacle last week. They like to send him at the quarterback like his hair is on fire.