The AFC West-leading Las Vegas Raiders will be in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday to face the 2-6 New York Giants. To learn more about the Raiders, we turned to Matt Holder of SB Nation’s Silver and Black Pride for this week’s ‘5 questions’ segment.
Ed: In the short term, how will the Raiders deal with the loss of Henry Ruggs as their deep threat? In the long term, might Las Vegas be an Odell Beckham Jr. landing spot if he gets his release from the Cleveland Browns?
Matt: Zay Jones will be stepping into a larger role with Ruggs out. Jones isn’t nearly as fast as Rugg is, but he can still make plays down the field and has made some big catches this year. He’s been with the Raiders for a few years now and this has been his best season so far, he just hasn’t seen the field much. The team also called up Dillon Stoner, an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State, so he might play into their gameplan too but isn’t a deep threat.
OBJ is definitely on the table for the Raiders and really any wide receiver that’s available. They only have four on the active roster after Stoner’s promotion so they’re in a spot where anyone is an option, especially since Beckham can stretch the field vertically.
Ed: Tell us about Rich Bisaccia. What kind of impact has he had in following a big personality like Jon Gruden?
Matt: I wouldn’t say he’s a big personality like Gruden, but Bisaccia is a great motivator and leader. There have been videos floating around on social media of him giving some inspirational speeches in the locker room or in meetings and the players seem to really respond to him. He’s guided the team through the mess that is the Jon Gruden situation to a 2-0 record since taking over.
Bisaccia is very direct and honest in his press conferences. You can tell he’s a guy who you always know where you stand with him and I think the players appreciate that. He has a good personality but he’s much calmer and less animated than Gruden and running back Josh Jacobs even pointed that out as a noticeable difference on the sideline in Bisaccia’s first game.
Ed: The Raiders are:
a) A mediocre team that has taken advantage of weak competition thus far?
b) A truly good team that will win the AFC West or at least make the playoffs?
Matt: B, I don’t know if they’ll win the division because it’s going to be a tight race but I think they’re at least a playoff team.
It will be interesting to see what the Raiders offense looks like moving forward but the strides that the defense has made this year is what gives a lot of Raider fans hope. They’ve got arguably the best edge-rushing duo in the NFL this season with Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, and cornerback Casey Hayward is playing at an All-Pro level. Derek Carr and the offense still have plenty of firepower to keep putting up points, though it will be more difficult moving forward.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster and put him in the Las Vegas lineup, who would it be? Why?
Matt: Leonard Williams.
His name has been tossed around with the Raiders ever since he came out of USC but the timing has just never worked out. The Raiders don’t necessarily need a defensive tackle right now, but they don’t have one who’s as good at stopping the run and rushing the passer as Williams is. All of their defensive tackles are closer to specialists, with former Giant Johnathan Hankins being the only one who’s stout against the run. Plus, Williams is only 27 so there’s a good amount of future value in him too.
Ed: If the Giants are going to win on Sunday, what might that look like? What are the matchups the Giants might be able to exploit?
Matt: The Giants can pull off the upset if they can make it a defensive slugfest, similar to what they did last week in Kansas City. New York’s combo of Williams and Dexter Lawrence on the interior of the defensive line should have an advantage over Las Vegas’ interior offensive linemen. John Simpson, Andre James and Alex Leatherwood have all struggled this season, and I could see Williams and Lawrence wreaking havoc in the backfield if those three don’t pick it up.
Offensively, if the Giants can figure out how to get a run game going behind their banged-up offensive line, it could really frustrate the Raiders defense that has struggled to stop the run this year. Teams that have gotten a lead early and could move the ball on the ground have given them trouble.