Raiders Mailbag: Todd Downing’s offense, the roles for Obi and Conley and much more

It’s been a while since we did a Raiders mailbag and since a lot has happened in free agency and the draft, I figured now would be a good time to bring it back. Lot’s of great questions again so let’s get right to the opinions!

@RaidersReporter Why am I worried that Derek Carr is going to regress next season? I’m always skeptical of success…

— Jamie Parry (@Jamiethetweeter) May 9, 2020

I mean, regression happens in the NFL. A lot. And to good players as well. So I understand the concern but don’t share it. Carr has shown improvement in each season he’s been with the Raiders. But he’s also shown slow starts in the preseason so don’t get worried if he doesn’t look great then. If, however, we are in week six and he still doesn’t look good, then you can worry a bit. But for now, as long as he comes back from the injury healthy, I expect another MVP caliber season.

@RaidersReporter What kind of offense can we expect with a new O coordinator this season? And do you see us still needing a FB, very few teams have one.

— Dan Atterberry (@0ut4Blood) May 9, 2020

Hard to tell since Todd Downing has never been a coordinator before so there isn’t a whole lot to go on. That being said, I wouldn’t expect major wholesale changes. I would expect an offense that looks very similar to what we’ve seen the past few seasons. I do, however, think we will see a little more of a focus on the power run game and that means use of a fullback. I also think that Downing will be a little more willing to open things up in the passing game. Besides that, who knows what we will be getting in Downing?

@RaidersReporter Whats up with MEJ can we rely on him this year or is he just too injury prone?

— CJ Villalobos (@xDJCJx) May 9, 2020

I really don’t know. It’s hard not to think of him as injury prone after the past couple of seasons. Then again, there have been players who were injured for a few years, looked injury prone then came back and were healthy for significant parts of their careers. He very well could be injury prone but whether or not he is, the Raiders need to assume he will get injured and be prepared for it. Until he shows the past couple of seasons were flukes, it would be unwise to rely too heavily on him heading into the season.

@RaidersReporter Do you think Obi ends up playing the SS role more than Joseph by the end of the season…meaning Joseph moves more of a FS role.

— Turd Ferguson (@kohughes) May 9, 2020

That’s what makes the most sense to me. Even when playing strong safety last season, Karl Joseph was a far better player when he was away from the line of scrimmage. That allows him to run downhill and avoid blockers rather than try to take them on. But with that being said, I also wouldn’t get too stuck on the safety labels with these two. For me, what makes this duo potentially great is the fact that both guys can play both positions. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them switching roles from play to play.

@RaidersReporter Can jelly handle being the full time NT? Who’s going to spell him in that role? The DL depth is scary.

— Turd Ferguson (@kohughes) May 9, 2020

We will see. He’s never been a guy who was able to take on a huge work load, but this year they don’t have a whole lot behind him. Most of the guys the Raiders have brought in are more of the interior pass rush mold than the nose tackle mold. Justin Ellis weighs 334 pounds. The next heaviest defensive lineman is an UDFA named Paul Boyette who weighs 310 pounds. I gotta be honest, I really have no idea how the Raiders will approach the nose tackle position this year aside from Jelly.

@RaidersReporter Just saw that Vanderdoes has gone down to 301lbs. You think there’s a great chance he’ll be the guy they hoped Williams should’ve been?

— Dustin Matthews (@dustmatt75) May 9, 2020

Dan Williams? Well, they are very different players in my mind. Williams is more of a nose tackle like Jelly Ellis. Meanwhile, Vanderdoes is a pass rushing 3-tech. He’s much lighter and his role will be to penetrate into the backfield where Williams was a guy who eats, stacks and holds blocks rather than being a penetrator. I like to think of Vanderdoes as similar to Mario Edwards, Jr. in what he brings (interior pass rush) but with a very different style (speed/agility instead of brute force) and has the potential to be even more impactful than MEJ.

@RaidersReporter How many UDFA’s could they conceivably keep this year and do you see any surprise cuts coming? (Seabass, Lee Smith, Howard etc.)

— Robert McGillick (@rmcgillick) May 10, 2020

The only potential “surprise” cut I could see would be Sebastian Janikowski. He’s set to make the second most money of any kicker in the league and was ranked 18th in the league last year in field goal percentage. And what’s most concerning is that Janikowski was by far the worst from 50 yards or beyond this season. The thing that made him such a weapon in the past was a liability last year.

@RaidersReporter Would you be surprised if Raiders have some (very few) sub packages that feature Conley as free safety?

— Cano (@ClamoTho) May 10, 2020

I would be, mostly because if any rookie is getting snaps at safety it will be Obi Melifonwu. I think we see Conley as the roaming corner who follows the quicker, shiftier receivers on the opposing team. He’s the answer to the Brandin Cooks of the world who like to abuse the Sean Smiths of the world.

@RaidersReporter Week 1…starting D in a 4-3…who are the 3 linebackers?

— Mark Lubienski (@marklubienski) May 10, 2020

I think the Raiders will spend more time in a 3-4 formation with two inside backers, Jelani Jenkins and Marquel Lee and with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin at the OLB positions. When lined up in a 4-3 I imagine the linebacking group will be very similar. Jenkins and Lee are capable of playing outside linebacker though Jenkins would likely be better at it. I think Cory James has a chance to push Lee for the starting role and if the Raiders bring back Perry Riley, I think he starts over Lee. I think that as long as Jenkins is healthy, he will be a starter.

@RaidersReporter Were the first 3 picks aimed at the patriots? Pressy short zone CB, TE eraser, Pocket collapser?

— Po 🇺🇸 Clinton Hill (@poewing) May 10, 2020

Sure looks that way doesn’t it? I don’t think they made the picks directly to compete with the Patriots, but rather to compete in the modern NFL where those kinds of players are needed. And it just so happens that the Patriots are one of the leaders in this new era of pass happy football. So while I think the goal was to compete at a championship level, that inherently means being able to compete with the Patriots.

@RaidersReporter Does Elijah Hood make the final 53?

— Eric (@metarzan17) May 10, 2020

He’s going to have to have a very good training camp and preseason in order to make the final 53. In his first rookie camp, there were reports that an UDFA running back looked better than Hood, but it’s clearly still very, very early. But here’s a take that will certainly make some fans upset: If Hood does make the roster, there’s a legit chance that it’s at the expense of Jamize Olawale. While he’s a fan favorite, Hood making the team would mean there’s someone else who can do everything Olawale can. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are better at catching the ball out of the backfield and Hood is a good lead blocker as well as pass protector in addition to being a short yardage back and an outlet pass catcher. If the Raiders feel comfortable with Hood taking on many of the fullback duties this year (many scouts believed a move to fullback was in Hood’s best interest), they might not feel like they need a backup FB in Olawale.

@RaidersReporter With our Oline being intact ( rt arguable) for another year under Tice, what is you thoughts on how much time Vadal, Jon, Kirkland etc play

— Joshua Zedwick (@jczedwick) May 9, 2020

I honestly think the playing time of Alexander Vadal and Denver Kirland will be impacted much more by the return of Lee Smith than the health of the offensive line. The sixth lineman formation you saw from the Raiders last season will be dramatically minimized by the return of Smith, who is essentially a sixth lineman who can run routes and is eligible to catch the ball. Jon Feliciano will remain a backup guard and likely not see a lot of playing time.

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