The season was long gone many weeks ago, however, educated Raider fans still know there is plenty to look for when tuning in to watch games. This week is no different. Coming off a win for the first time in what seems like an eternity, there are some intriguing storylines to follow for the Silver and Black. As such, here are three things to watch for as the Oakland Raiders hit the road to take on the Baltimore Ravens.
1. Johnny Holton will be back
Johnny Holton is back on the active roster for the Raiders. This time, however, he is listed as a two-way player as he could line up as a defensive back and wide receiver.
Holton has shown an unfortunate knack for dropping passes but he has also been a speedy deep threat that has seen success down the field. Last season, Holton played the majority of the year as the No. 4 wide receiver on the depth chart. In that role, Holton may have only caught nine passes, but he made the most of them as he went for 218 yards. In fact, his first two catches were both touchdowns, his first a 64-yard bomb in Denver then a 44-yarder on Monday night against the Dolphins.
With Saeed Blacknall back on the practice squad, I’m not exactly predicting a huge game from Holton, but I’m expecting at least one or two deep shots from Derek Carr provided that Holton isn’t a healthy scratch on game day. I’ll also be very curious to see how well he does if he lines up as a corner. There’s no questioning his speed, but will his mechanics be there too? That remains to be seen.
2. How will Oakland defend the run?
Lamar Jackson will be making his second consecutive start on Sunday against the Raiders. Last week in his first start, the Ravens appeared to be somewhat cautious with their quarterback of the future. I say ‘somewhat’ because as a passer, Jackson threw a mere 19 passes. He completed 13 of those attempts for 150 passing yards and one interception. It was a modest game from a quarterback standpoint.
It was as a runner that allowed Jackson to take this game over. Jackson ran for 119 yards on 26 carries while the rest of the ground game churned out 148 more rushing yards. Despite Alex Collins scoring his fifth touchdown in four games, rookie Gus Edwards came out of nowhere as he stampeded for 115 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Prior to last week, Edwards carried the ball just 15 times all season.
The Raiders run defense is currently allowing the second most rushing yards per game as opponents average 142.3 yards on the ground against Oakland. The Silver and Black have already been made a fool by 49er’s rookie quarterback Nick Mullens and now with the duo of rookies Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards…it could be a long day for the Raiders run defense.
3. Consistency from Carr
Having consistency from everyone on the roster would be nice, but during an obvious rebuild of a team, that might be asking for too much. Asking for consistency from a former MVP candidate seems feasible. However, there are a lot of variables such as receivers catching passes and most importantly, the offensive line protecting Carr that go into whether or not his play can be consistent.
Ever since his rookie year, Carr has shown he can get the most out of what is around him. Last week this was evident as Carr threw two touchdown passes and no interceptions for his first multi-touchdown no interception game since Week 8 where he threw three touchdowns against the Colts. Against the Cardinals, Carr was working with a thinned out wide receiving group that got even thinner as Brandon LaFell suffered an Achilles injury. Nevertheless, Carr finished with 192 passing yards and two touchdown tosses and no interceptions.
The last time Carr threw for multiple touchdowns and no interceptions in back-to-back games came in weeks one and two of last season. At that point in time, Carr had 492 yards passing, five touchdown passes, zero interceptions and the Raiders were 2-0 and appeared to be on top of the NFL. Life comes at you fast.
This time around coming off a two-touchdown no interception game, Carr has far less talent around him and frankly a lot less expectation surrounding him and the team. Carr will have a great opportunity this week to replicate his zero interception game a week ago, as the Ravens have yet to intercept an opposing quarterback since Tavon Young picked off Baker Mayfield in Week 5.