We're catching up with SB Nation's home of the Oakland Raiders, Silver and Black Pride. Joining us is their lead writer Levi Damien. Levi shares his insight on the Saints/Raiders matchup and some of the ties that have bound the two teams together in recent years. Lets get started.
Wallace Delery: Since 2008, the Saints have faced the Raiders four times (twice in preseason, twice in the regular season) and the Saints are 4-0 in those games, outscoring Oakland 157-47 with an average score of 39-12. What has made the Black and Gold such a difficult matchup for the Silver and Black in the Drew Brees era?
Levi Damien: 1. Drew Brees 2. Bad Raiders teams. Yeah, the Raiders reached .500 for two of those seasons, but the Saints have pretty much been a difficult matchup for everyone in the Drew Brees era. While the Raiders have had different quarterbacks every season – the first of which in 2008 was JaMarcus Russell. If only this were simply a case of the Saints having the Raiders’ number. They’ve simply been an elite team while the Raiders have been among the worst in the NFL. No real mystery to it.
Wallace: The Raiders have a little history in signing Super Bowl hero defensive backs (see Larry Brown) and now former Saints cornerback Tracy Porter has joined the Silver and Black (hopefully with better results than Brown). Is Porter expected to start at corner this season or will be playing behind Mike Jenkins and first round pick DJ Hayden?
Levi: If Hayden is healthy, he is expected to start. But not in this game because Hayden has yet to be cleared to practice. Starting this game will be Porter and Jenkins. Once Hayden comes back, I don’t expect him to immediately take the starting job from Porter. However, Allen has made that he likes Hayden and Jenkins on the boundaries and if anyone were to play the nickel, it would be Porter. That would suggest Porter would not be the starter come the season but he would see a lot of time at nickel corner as the Raiders will likely be in nickel a good percentage of the time.
Wallace: Virtually every mock draft had the Raiders selecting Sharrif Floyd with the 3rd overall pick before Oakland traded down to 12 and selected aforementioned cornerback DJ Hayden, even with Floyd still available. Is that decision still favorable with Raider Nation or do you wish the team had gone in a different direction?
Levi: The feeling is still that the Raiders should probably have gone with a defensive tackle. Floyd was an option, as was Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei was always the preferable choice as Floyd’s sudden rocketing to the top of mock drafts was seen as more of a media creation. His ‘fall’ to the 23 pick was some proof of that. The Raiders didn’t select a defensive tackle until the sixth round and now they are facing some difficulty with injuries at the position with some very questionable young players as depth.
Wallace: The Raiders have tried some guys from Louisiana at quarterback starting with former Saint Aaron Brooks, followed by former LSU Tiger JaMarcus Russell. Both of those experiments ended in spectacular disasters, now the Raiders have brought in another former LSU Tiger in Matt Flynn. Is Raider Nation thinking "here we go again" or is there optimism with Flynn?
Levi: To this day, Aaron Brooks’ rise and fall is a mystery to me so I can’t really compare him to the others. The connection to Louisiana, or LSU in particular, is seen as nothing more than a coincidence with regard to Flynn and Russell. They are in every regard, polar opposites. Russell was a freakish athlete with a rocket arm but no ambition, intelligence, work ethic, or leadership skills. Flynn has questionable arm strength and gets by on intangibles. The only comparisons I’ve seen with Flynn and former Raiders’ quarterbacks are that of Rich Gannon and Bruce Gradkowski. No one tells tales of their beautiful passes but somehow those two seemed to defy the skeptics. Gannon compared himself to Flynn at one point. Guys like Russell and Brooks are the quarterbacks of the past in Oakland. Flynn is closer to the kind of quarterback you can expect to see in future.
Wallace: Raider Nation is familiar with the spectacle that is defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, can you share any insight into what Who Dat Nation can look forward to or brace themselves for this season?
Levi: Probably a blogger for the Browns or Cowboys would yield a more accurate answer. The Raiders played the same defense under Ryan as they had for many years. That was a product of Al Davis’ preference. The man cover corners and a 4-3 base defense. That’s how Al wanted it and Ryan had to try and work within those confines. I never had the chance to meet him because he left just as I started covering the team. From my point of view, he is well-liked by his players because he is a player’s coach. He can be very fiery on the sideline, much like his brother, although he doesn’t quite have the same level of brash as Rex. The Raiders had one of the worst defenses in the NFL during his time in Oakland and yet Ryan was still DC for four different head coaches. Take that for what it’s worth.
Thanks to Levi for his time and good luck this season. We are all looking forward to an injury-free game in New Orleans tonight.