Q: I thought the Raiders had a solid offseason and I love the additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at wide receiver. However, the Raiders were ranked 31st or 32nd in the NFL in 2014 in terms of yards per game, rushing yards per game and points per game. With the addition of Cooper, Crabtree and Latavius Murray taking over the running attack, how good can this offense be in 2015?
A: First off, the offense is only as good as Derek Carr. If he improves on his decision making from his rookie season, having Crabtree and Cooper as his receivers will make a big difference. They both offer a major upgrade to the receiving corps. Latavius Murray showed last season what the Raiders could do with a proficient run game. They went 3-3 over the final six games after starting 0-10, and it had everything to do with actually being able to run the ball. Being able to rely more on the run game will also help take a lot of pressure off of Carr, who had to try and do way too much as a rookie.
Q: In 2014, the Raiders finished in the bottom half of the league in most defensive categories, including last in points per game (28.3). How has the defense looked in the preseason and do you feel they have improved enough to be competitive in 2015?
A: The pass rush looks improved, mainly with Khalil Mack moving almost exclusively to defensive end. The Raiders are banking on the pass rush making up for their weak cornerback unit which is made up of young, inexperienced corners. A major change I expect will be having an actual middle linebacker after going several years in which the middle linebacker spot was a major weak spot on the team. Curtis Lofton has a great deal of experience at the middle linebacker spot and that will be important to help the entire defense get aligned properly on the fly.
Q: Who is a player most Bengals fans won't know, but should know, or should look for on Sunday?
A: Probably TJ Carrie. He was one of the team's 7th round picks in 2014 and is currently their best cornerback. He is also their best return specialist. I expect he and AJ Green to battle it out in this one, though if the Bengals are smart, they'll get Green matched up with DJ Hayden as often as possible.
Q: What are the strengths of the 2015 Raiders? And, what areas of this Raiders team concern you?
A: The receiving corps looks like it could be a strength this year. I can't say the offensive line as a whole because the right side is scary bad. But the center position with Rodney Hudson and the left side of the line is quite good. The linebacker unit is deep, but having Ray-Ray Armstrong as a starter is cause for discomfort. He has a tendency to be out of position, over commit, and make bad penalties at the worst time. And as I said before, the cornerbacks are a major concern.
Q: The Raiders were 3-13 in 2014 and finished last in the AFC West. What is your prediction for the Raiders (record wise) and where do you see the Raiders finishing in the AFC West in 2015?
A: Actually, funny you should ask. I just put out my season prediction on Wednesday. I have them going 5-11 which would be again last in the division.
Q: What is your prediction for this Sunday's opener?
A: Football will be played. The Raiders and Bengals will play in Oakland, while 13 other games will be played in cities across the nation. Take that prediction to Vegas and plop down a lot of money. Also I have the Bengals winning. Let's say 24-16.