The banged-up Raiders travel to Pittsburgh and play the Steelers on Sunday. They are coming off a big win Monday night over the Baltimore Ravens while they also are dealing with injuries that leave a number of key players questionable.
That leaves their fans with a bunch of questions. Here is a sampling of what arrived in the mailbag this week:
Uncle Fred (@fredwardiso): Does Jon Gruden take a similar approach to T.J. Watt as he did with Khalil Mack of the Bears in London — accounting for him every play?
Vincent Bonsignore: Watt is a spectacular player who needs to be accounted for at all times, so the Raiders will scheme it up to try to neutralize him. But you can’t be so fearful of someone that you focus so much it takes you out of what your base gameplan. At some point the attention has to mix with confidence that you can successfully deal with someone. Besides, the Steelers have other quality playmakers on their defense. The Raiders can’t focus so much on one player that it leaves them vulnerable against others.
Hook Jr. (@DominionRaider): It’s early, but Denzel Perryman was hitting hard and looked sharp against the Ravens. Were you surprised at his impact?
VB: Not really. When Perryman is healthy, he is a very good player. That is why the Raiders traded for him. They knew he brought a great understanding of the defense, leadership and production. The key, of course, is keeping him on the field, which has been a challenge during his career.
Gus Gair (@GusGair): Between Cle Ferrell, Quinton Jefferson, Solomon Thomas, who gets more snaps against Pittsburgh on Sunday?
VB: As he showed on Monday, Jefferson is a valuable interior player, so he will get on the field. Thomas played 15 snaps Monday, and that could expand because of the injuries on the defensive line. Ferrell has been dealing with a back issue, so you have to wonder how much the Raiders will push him in what should be his first game of the season. With Yannick Ngakoue possibly and Gerald McCoy done for the season with a knee injury, expect Ferrell to play if he is healthy, getting snaps both inside and outside. It might not be the most among the defensive line, but he’ll get significant time.
Beverly Hillbilly (@waylenlee): The Steelers’ defense is extremely stingy. Last year’s defensive stats were excellent. It is my belief that the Raiders will need to run the ball efficiently to win this game. What do you think will be the keys to the game?
VB: In theory, yes, the Raiders need to run the ball better against the Steelers than they did on Monday. But two issues face the Raiders: The rebuilt offensive line could be down its two starting guards and Josh Jacobs toe injury has sidelined him for this game. The Raiders could have to coach around a run game that might not be effective, but one they have to stick with to keep the Steelers honest.
PrinceNazoEphtribe (@ephtribe): When are we going to see Malcolm Koonce in action?
VB: With such a deep defensive line, the Raiders can afford to bring Koonce along as a developmental player. When his number is eventually called, he’ll be in a better position to deliver. That is the plan, anyway. But with Ngakoue dealing with a hamstring issue and some question about Cle Ferrell’s back, Koonce’s time might come sooner rather than later. Maybe even on Sunday, if Ngakoue is ruled out.
VB: Part of that depends on the availability of Richie Incognito.
The veteran left guard was inactive with a calf strain on Monday and hasn’t practiced since mid-August. The Raiders have expressed optimism he’ll be able to play Sunday. If so, he will line up at left guard with John Simpson, who played on the left side in place of Incognito, sliding over to right guard. However, if Incognito can’t play, it likely will be Simpson at left guard and Jermaine Eluemunor, who replaced an injured Good on Monday, remaining at right guard. The Raiders also signed guard Jordan Simmons this week, and backup center Nick Martin can play guard if needed.