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Behind Enemy Lines: What the Raiders have done to help Derek Carr

Derek Carr has had a nice four week stretch. The Raiders have done plenty to help put him in advantageous situations.

Los Angeles Chargers v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Bengals are traveling to Oakland to take on the Raiders. Cincinnati is looking to get their first win against an Oakland team who is holding onto their playoff hopes after turning their early struggles around.

Now seems like a good chance to catch up with Cyril Penn from over at Silver and Black Pride to get his perspective on the game.

Patrick Judis: The Raiders obviously weren’t a very good team the past two years. I think Bengals fans would be very interested in knowing what changes they made to get them back on track this year.

Cyril Penn: The Raiders have gotten on track by drafting some late-round gems and committing a bevy of resources to their offensive line. Drafting Kolton Miller, handing Trent Brown a massive contract and taking a chance on Richie Incognito have all paid off as the Raiders are No. 4 in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. That coupled with the key contributions they’ve gotten from late-round picks like Maxx Crosby, Hunter Renfrow and Foster Moreau have given fans much to be happy about.

PJ: Derek Carr started off the season okay, but over his past four games he has eight touchdowns and only a single interception. What has made him and this passing game so successful over that stretch?

CP: The Raiders are putting Derek Carr in manageable third down situations and doing a great job of scheming people open. With Josh Jacobs leading the charge on early downs, Oakland is converting nearly 48 percent of their third down opportunities. It helps when you have a strong offensive line keeping the pressure at a minimum. At his worst, Carr has had a tendency to wilt under pressure and make poor decisions, so Gruden has countered that by giving him a sturdy front five and scheming up a heavy dose quick-hitting passes and play-action.

PJ: Statistically, the Raiders defense isn’t that great (outside of their run defense). What is something they do well that fans outside of Oakland may not be aware of?

CP: The Raiders do a really good job of disguising their coverage intentions pre-snap. They ask both safeties to switch off playing one-high in Cover 1 and Cover 3 and need versatility out of the position. They’ll do this frequently out of a split-field look and rotate which safety either drops into an underneath zone, or mans up on tight end or slot receiver. When they can create pressure (doesn’t happen often) and quarterbacks don’t have time to read the defense, they can take advantage with turnovers like last Thursday night against Philip Rivers. With Karl Joseph on IR and Lamarcus Joyner questionable to play this week, it’ll be interesting to see how the Raiders try to confuse Ryan Finley.

PJ: Who is a player(s) who doesn’t get enough attention from the national media that you’d like to see in the spotlight more?

CP: It seems like Rodney Hudson doesn’t get nearly enough love outside of California. The highest paid center in the league was snubbed from the NFL Top 100 list and should get a lot more credit for the job he’s done over the years. Gruden has called Hudson the best center he’s ever coached in 2018 and Kolton Miller said in training camp that Hudson didn’t miss a single blitz pick up call all last season. He’s a beast on the field and in the film room and deserves some more national acclaim.

PJ: What is your prediction for the game?

CP: 34-21 Raiders

At 5-4 and clinging to the No. 6-seed for dear life after Pittsburgh’s Thursday Night Football loss, I don’t think the Raiders will take this one lightly. I expect them to jump out to an early halftime lead and then play conservatively the rest of the way.

Thanks again to Cyril Penn for taking the time out to answer our questions. You can find more of his work and Raiders coverage over at Silver and Black Pride.