Oakland Raiders Vs. Tennessee Titans: 10 Questions For The Game
It's almost here Raider fans. The start of a new season.
Everything feels new about this team this year.
A new quarterback, middle linebacker, offensive coordinator, center, and much more.
Week 1 versus the Titans will be an easier match-up than you might think. While you can criticize Cable for running a soft training camp, there's nothing like Jeff Fisher's.
Fisher is a great coach, which is a reason for being the longest tenured in the AFC, but he held no two-a-days during training camp.
It translates to the start of the regular season. Last year, the Titans started 0-6, before turning the reins over to Vince Young.
Young, along with Chris Johnson, run a very formidable running attack.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 questions for the Week 1 game between the Raiders and the Titans.
1: Will Chris Johnson Run Wild On The Raiders' Front Seven?
The Raiders run defense has annually been one of the worst in the league the past few seasons.
So, they did something about.
They moved Seymour to three technique, Kelly to the one technique, drafted Lamarr Houston to play left end, and drafted Rolando McClain to play middle linebacker.
McClain has looked quite ordinary so far. He hasn't shed many blocks, but is making correct reads.
Chris Johnson will tear you apart if you don't stay disciplined.
For as fast as CJ2K is, his speed is not the sole reason why he's the best running back in the game.
The Titans run a lot of the zone blocking scheme, along with some angle blocking. They love to hand the ball of to Johnson, and let Johnson read the defense.
Johnson is one of the most patient backs in the NFL, so he will wait for a hole to open up. That's where his speed comes into play. Once he makes his first cut, it gets that much harder to stop him.
Then, comes the most underrated part about his game.
Johnson breaks most initial tackles, a result of his compact running style. If you allow him, to break that one or two initial tackles, then you might as well stop chasing him because he will be long gone.
I'm afraid that there will be a couple of plays where the 40 yard runs happens.
How Will Jared Veldheer Perform In His First Career NFL Start?
Veldheer was named the starter at Center earlier this week.
While Veldheer started the preseason game against the 49ers, there's nothing like going on the road, and making the calls in a stadium of 80,000 fans screaming.
Let's face it, he's been at Center for a very brief time, and even rookie centers who have been starting their whole life struggle to begin with.
With all that being said, there's no way Veldheer is as bad as Satele, the incumbent.
Veldheer looked fantastic in pass protection, but was below average in run blocking. He also let Patrick Willis get inside the backfield untouched, showing his inexperience.
Veldheer will only get better in time, but let's not start crowing him our future at center.
Look for Stephen Tulloch to come on A gap blitzes, to try and confuse Veldheer from making the necessary calls.
Is Nnamdi Going To Be Lining Up With Titans Number 1 Receiver?
I'm afraid we don't really know this answer.
The Titans don't really have a number one receiver, more of a collection of decent ones.
If the Raiders had to shadow Nnamdi with someone it would be Nate Washington.
But, I would expect to see Asomugha to cover Kenny Britt and Justin Gage also.
Will Mario Henderson Be Able To Block Jacob Ford And Derrick Morgan?
If you haven't heard of Jacob Ford before, let me tell you that this kid is a force to be reckoned with.
Now taking over for Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ford was ranked number two on the list of the top 25 prospects (Insider Subscription) by Football Outsiders.
Ford loves to use the speed rush against left tackles. It turns out that the speed rush is the reason why Jason Campbell was left flat out on his back, and got carted out.
Derrick Morgan, the rookie from Georgia Tech, was seen as the best 4-3 defensive end in the draft. However, he has had a rocky offseason, getting arrested for DUI, and injuring his calf.
Mario Henderson will never be a true left tackle, but he looks to be the best the Raiders have at the moment.
Don't think for a second that Tom Cable won't turn to Khalif Barnes, a former starting left tackle, if Mario gives up more sacks and pressures.
Mario is on a very short leash.
For this game, we'll see if Mario Henderson is able to keep the duo's claws of his Quarterback.
Will The Raiders Attack The Titans Through The Air?
And why wouldn't they?
The Titans ranked dead last in pass defense a year ago.
Cortland Finnegan runs his mouth all game long, but needs to back it up. Finnegan is a former All-Pro, and was injured parts of last season. He is smallish (5-9), but makes up for it with his physicality.
Jason McCourty is just in his second year, and wasn't too good himself when he got the chance to start. Remember that Patriot game last season where the Titans were beaten 59-0? Well, McCourty was a big part of that performance.
McCourty isn't a playmaker the Raiders have to worry about, so look for Jason Campbell to look for DHB, when matched up with him.
Speaking of Heyward-Bey, no player on the roster looked more improved this offseason. He still tends to catch too many balls close to his body, but is still getting better in that category.
With Schilens being out, look for Louis Murphy to be the main target among the receivers.
Murphy needs to be in focus the entire game, and he can't have another stupid penalty, like the one during the 49er preseason game.
How Will Quentin Groves Perform In His First Start at WLB?
This is seen as a minor shock to Raider fans.
We were led to believe that Trevor Scott was going to be the starter at weak side linebacker.
Well, apparently it's changed. Groves appears to be working with the first team, while Scott is working more with the defensive line.
Groves is built like Scott, just more athletic.
Groves has performed well in the preseason, looking very good against the run.
Is Tommy Kelly Going To Stay Disciplined?
Kelly looks to be in fantastic shape, poised for a career season.
However, he has always been susceptible to an offsides penalties. Quarterbacks recognize Kelly's weakness too.
Look for Vince Young to change his snap counts quickly, and it will be up to Kelly to stay disciplined.
Will Stanford Routt Prove To Be a Competent Starter at CB?
You know what, I don't think Chris Johnson minded a demotion. Johnson was the busiest corner last season, starting opposite Asomugha.
Stanford Routt now assumes the task of playing opposite the league's best.
Routt is as fast as they come, but gets burned far too often by either being too aggressive, or blowing coverage completely.
The former second round pick looked fantastic in the pre-season, but I'd like to see how he performs when it matters.
Is Richard Seymour Healthy?
Seymour sat out the last three games in the pre-season with a minor triceps injury.
The difference when Seymour, the best player on the front seven, is in the lineup is noticeable.
Desmond Bryant got absolutely handled by 49ers guard Chilo Rachal on one play, which led to the 49 yard run by Frank Gore.
Seymour, if not the best, is one of the best three techniques in the game. If he's healthy, the goal stopping Chris Johnson is that much easier.
Who Will Win?
Most Raider fans, along with analysts like SI's Don Banks and CBS' Pete Prisco, think the Raiders are a playoff team.
The Raiders don't deserve a playoff projection.
After eight years of futility, we need to take a 'show me' approach.
The Raiders are a good team, but we just don't know how good yet.
The Raiders will to come to Nashville extremely confident and pumped for the regular season like the rest of us are.
But so will the opposition.
This Titans team is a very sound football team. Had they had Vince Young all season a year ago, they would've a playoff team.
They have an underrated offensive line, to go along with a heck of a running back. Like I said in the opening slide, Jeff Fisher's teams tend to get out to slow starts.
I expect this game to be a close, grind it out type of game. My prediction is that Jason Campbell (assuming his limbs are in tact by the fourth quarter) will be given the task to lead a fourth quarter comeback.
Will he pull it out, or choke under pressure? I can't wait to find out.
Some other predictions for this game:
Player of the game: Chris Johnson, Tians
X-Factor for Raiders: Louis Murphy
X-Factor for Titans: Jason McCourty
Key Match-ups: Rolando McClain vs. Chris Johnson
Zach Miller vs. Chris Hope
Lamarr Houston vs. David Stewart
Who has the edge at each position?
Final Game Prediction:
Titans 23, Raiders 17
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