Total Titans exchanges questions with a Raiders writer

This will be the fifth or sixth season Total Titans will be doing question and answer exchanges with someone who writes about the Titans’ opponent of the week. It’s a fun exercise, and one that’s often informative.
 
Several days ago, I asked what you’d like to know about the Raiders, the first opponent for the Titans this year. Thanks go to our readers who submitted questions and to Patrick Patterson, the founder of Thoughts from the Dark Side, for answering them.
 
First are our questions for Patrick, after the break.

 
Total Titans: Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey were both first-round draft picks in recent years and both have under-performed. How have they developed this summer? Do you think that this year will be their break-out year?
 
Patrick Patterson: Darrius Heyward-Bey was the first one back at the facility working after the season. He has looked much improved in training camp and over the preseason. He will have some big plays, but I don’t see him having a “breakout year.” He will likely be the third receiving option behind TE Zach Miller and WR Louis Murphy. Darren McFadden has been hampered by injuries, so it is hard to tell whether or not he will have his “breakout.” He seems like he is more of a poor man’s Reggie Bush than every down running back, and will be splitting time with Michael Bush. If McFadden stays healthy it will be interesting to see what he can really do.
  
TT: How excited are Raiders’ fans about the potential of new starting signal-caller Jason Campbell?
 
PP: The Raider Nation is very excited about Jason Campbell. Well, truthfully, there is an excitement that there will be a quarterback who cares more about football than Purple Drank under center. The key is Campbell won’t lose games for the team the way that JaMarcus Russell did. Campbell’s mobility and leadership will be a welcome addition.
 
TT: With all his speed, how on earth did Al Davis pass on Chris Johnson? At the time, it wouldn’t have been any bigger of a reach than DHB was last year.
 
PP: Well, Davis passed over CJ for Darren McFadden becuase McFadden was supposed to be the can’t miss running back prospect. In the combine, there wasn’t much difference between McFadden’s and CJ’s 40 time. Just further proof how the draft is really a crap-shoot.
 
TT: Should Titans fans expect more 3-4 or 4-3 looks from the Raiders defense?
 
PP: To quote Tom Cable, “We will play defense against the Titans.” Look for them to use a hybrid 3-4 and 4-3 style defense. They are short on defensive ends and long on defensive tackles and linebackers.
 
TT: Is there anything you would like Titans fans to know that isn’t generally known outside of Raiders Nation? Or anything that hasn’t been asked here?
 
PP: With all the talk about DHB and his struggles, the Raiders got a steal last year in the 4th round when they selected Louis Murphy out of Florida. He is going to have a break out this year at wide receiver.
 
TT: And finally, what matchups do you like best? What will the Raiders do to win?
 
PP: I am very nervous about the Raiders defense stopping Chris Johnson. However, I do like the Raiders defensive ends on passing downs, especially rookie Lamarr Houston. Of course, the best matchup for the Raiders is Nnamdi Asomugha on any receiver.

In order to win, the Raiders have to contain Chris Johnson, which is easier said than done. If they can score early and force the Titans to have to pass.

My prediction Raiders win 27-24 on a late Sebastian Janikowski field goal.

 
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And now, questions from Patrick with my answers.
 
PP: Vince Young has been a roller coaster since he has been drafted, are you still sold on him as a quarterback to build around?
 
TT: This season will be the fifth on Vince’s six-year contract, so a decision will be made on him after the season. A good year by him, especially if he’s instrumental in leading the team to a winning record, would pretty much guarantee he’ll be resigned to a new contract. (Depending of course on a possible lockout.) You’re right about the roller coaster and even when he’s been playing well, he hasn’t looked like a great QB. One thing stands out though — despite his flaws, he’s a winner – Vince’s record as a starter is 26-13. Something else to consider is that one of Vince’s biggest fans is the owner, Bud Adams, who hand-picked him. As long as Vince does reasonably well, especially against Houston, he can expect to stick around.
 
PP: How does Chris Johnson’s stated run for 2500 yards affect team chemistry?
 
TT: Good question. It’ll be different this year so we’ll just have to see. It hasn’t seemed to be an issue so far this year. Last year, his quest for 2,000 was something that the team rallied around.  The playoffs were out of reach so CJ’s venture was something positive to build on. 
 
PP: What is the Titans’ biggest strength (outside of Chris Johnson)/ weakness?
 
TT: On offense, the biggest strength is the blocking (the o- line, FB Ahmard Hall and the blocking TE Craig Stevens.) Biggest weakness is the passing game. On defense, the biggest strength is the d-line, although the top two DEs are both injured and will probably be inactive. The DT rotation should be pretty good. The weaknesses are in coverage. If the Titans can’t get a good pass rush, the secondary will be in trouble.

 
PP: Who are the X factors on offense and defense?
 
TT: Offense — WR Kenny Britt and TE Jared Cook. Both have tremendous athleticism and big-play ability but both are extremely inconsistent. 
Defense — FS Michael Griffin. A Pro Bowler (injury replacement) in 2008 and the worst safety in the league in 2009. 
 
PP: Which of the new starters on either side of the ball have impressed you the most?
 
TT: The unexpected availability and acquisition of Will Witherspoon was huge and he looked great in camp, stepping right in to fill the great Keith Bulluck’s shoes. It’s what you’d expect a quality veteran player to do and he hasn’t disappointed. Having said that, I’m not sure how much he’ll play Sunday. He just lost his mother and has missed practice so he’s likely to not be on the field for some of the stuff that was being installed this week.
 
PP: *BONUS game prediction
 
TT: CJ rushes for 150 yards and two TDs.
Tennessee 21
Oakland 17
 
Thanks again to Patrick for joining us in this exchange. For more on the Raiders and this week’s game, check out what Patrick and his co-writers have to say on Thoughts from the Dark Side.

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