In case you forgot, the New York Giants actually have a football game to play this weekend. They head West to face the Oakland Raiders. Let’s learn more about the Raiders from Levi Damien of SB Nation’s Silver and Black Pride in this week’s “Five Questions” segment.
Ed: While not nearly as down-trodden as the Giants, at 5-6 the season has not gone the way the Raiders anticipated. What has been the biggest disappointment for you thus far?
Levi: Several aspects of the offense have fallen off this season. Newly promoted offensive coordinator Todd Downing put his stamp on things, and the change has not gone well. He changed up blocking schemes for the offensive line first of all. They haven't looked at all like the same elite unit they were last season. They don't protect as well and certainly don't run block as well. Derek Carr has been a dink and dunk QB much of the season, there has been barely anything in the way of play action, and they are too quick to abandon the run. The defense has been the same or worse which is certainly not what was expected, but last year the offense was able to make up for it. They haven't done that much this season and it's made all the difference. That being said, there appears to be a concerted effort to commit more to the run and there have been signs some of the kinks are being worked out. Now they just need some consistency.
Ed: From an outside perspective, and considering that your team faces the Giants this week, what are your thoughts on the benching of Eli Manning?
Levi: It seems like a mistake. It doesn't appear as if Eli is the problem. The head coach looks like the problem. That and the injuries. Geno Smith is a truly terrible quarterback. Or at least he was the last few times he started games in the NFL. Even when he beat the Raiders in his first two meetings with them, it was like 'Wow, these Raiders are bad. I mean, they just lost to Geno freaking Smith'. Best sense I can make of it is they are ready to move on from Eli Manning and so they're tanking the rest of the way to secure a high pick to draft his replacement.
Ed: What is the one thing the Raiders could/should have done differently in the offseason?
Levi: Sign defensive free agents. Despite having a 6th-ranked offense and 26th-ranked defense, they went all in on offense in free agency. They signed exactly one defensive free agent. It was Jelani Jenkins, who didn't even make the team. Then they drafted all defense, and have gotten basically bupkis from them. When their top two picks went down injured, they were screwed. They once again completely neglected the middle linebacker position and didn't draft one until the fifth round (Marquel Lee). They were lucky to be across the bay for NaVorro Bowman to have a soft landing spot when he was released from the 49ers a few weeks ago. But yet again, they don't have a long term answer. Not to mention the 4-game losing streak they had to endure which put a major hit on their playoff chances.
Ed: If you could take one player from the Giants not named Odell Beckham Jr. and put him in the Oakland lineup, who would it be? Why?
Levi: I'm down with JPP. Yeah, you know me. Imagining him opposite Khalil Mack woulda made for some serious fireworks (too soon?) not to mention a great story as the heir apparent to Justin Tuck in Oakland. And he's just 28.
Ed: Who are some Raider player Giants fans might not be familiar with who could have an impact on Sunday?
Levi: Well, since you probably know who Cordarrelle Patterson is, let's go with Seth Roberts and Johnny Holton. They are going to be the Raiders wide receiver corps in all likelihood because Michael Crabtree is suspended and Amari Cooper hasn't practiced this week and is in the concussion protocol, which makes it unlikely he'll play either. They had to step up last week when Crabtree was ejected on the second series and Cooper was knocked out (in more ways than one) in the second quarter. Both Holton and Patterson had big catches, but Roberts is the third receiver, so he will get his as well. I don't expect they're going to light it up, but that's who the Raiders have at receiver, so that's who Derek Carr will be throwing to much of the time.