The Cleveland Browns take on the Oakland Raiders this afternoon after stumbling into the bye week with a 31-13 beating at the hands of the Tennessee Titans. The Raiders are riding an emotional wave following the death of owner Al Davis, which only compounds the problems the Browns would have already had with running back Darren McFadden.
To get a better look at the Raiders, we spoke with Chris Shellcroft of Just Blog Baby. We talked McFadden, Sebastian Janikowski, and were able to put in a little OU plug by asking about safety Mike Mitchell.
1) Could you give a little insight into how Raider Nation took the news of Al Davis passing and what kind of tributes you’ve seen to the team’s late owner?
I’ll admit that it hit me harder than I thought it would. I was an LA Raider fan, as they were my local team growing up, so when Davis took them back to Oakland it left me sour for a couple of years. But then I got off my butt, got up to the Bay on a Sunday and fell in love with my team all over again. A big part of that process was being a part of Raider Nation. Few fan bases are as close as Raider fans and that is a direct result of the Davis philosophies. One of the best tributes were the fans who started showing up at the team facility leaving various mementos in honor of Davis. I think all of Raider Nation was shocked since we never imagined a day would come that Mr. Davis wouldn’t be looking down from the owner’s box on Sunday.
2) How much of an impact will the newly-acquired Aaron Curry have on the Raiders defense?
It’s hard to say. I love the move as it is a low-risk, high-reward gamble. He’s a freak athlete that just needs to be used in a manner that best suits his talents. That Curry is starting today is shocking. That being said, he can’t be any worse that Quentin Groves who was invisible as a Will linebacker.
3) Darren McFadden leads the NFL in rushing going into today’s games. Is this something he can sustain over the entire season? What have you seen in him this season that is different from his previous years in the league?
With McFadden it is all about staying healthy. He is a weapon unlike any other in football. Not even kidding here, I think he would be the best wide receiver if he played the position. Part of his success comes from having a couple of offensive minds like Hue Jackson and Al Saunders finding creative ways to get Run DMC touches. More of his success comes from the way the O-line is dominating. When you get a guy like McFadden one-on-one in the open field it’s just plain unfair. His size, speed and physical style of running make McFadden a nightmare for DBs to deal with. Again, it is all about his health though. So long as he can avoid the injury bug that has bit him in each of his three seasons, McFadden will be a legit MVP candidate.
4) As an alum of Ohio University, say something nice about Mike Mitchell, will ya?
I LOVE Mike Mitchell. He’s dealing with a knee injury so he’s only been active a couple weeks now after missing all of camp. A lot of Raider Nation wants to see more of him in fact. He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder and loves to lay the wood. The guy is also versatile as he can play both safety positions and has been a nickelback too. Mitchell’s best strength is covering tight ends which makes him valuable. Overall, the guy has yet to reach his potential but if gets more snaps I have a feeling he’ll be much more involved in the defense.
5) The Browns are fresh off the bye, but the Raiders are playing for Al Davis. Who wins this one?
People are calling this a “trap game” for Oakland which is just disrespectful to Cleveland. Yes, the Raiders are still riding an emotional win in Houston but they’re a .500 team just like the Browns. Sure, the Raiders have a winning record but they’ve alternated wins and losses each week. I expect Oakland to come out on top but only beacuse they have a weapon in Sebastian Janikowski that will factor in a close contest – 23-20 Raiders.
Thanks again to Chris for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. To check out our quirky Q+A over at Just Blog Baby, click here.