Welcome to Beyond The Kingdom, a weekly column where we discuss the big topics around the NFL, discuss other NFL teams with the journalists that cover them, and much more!
Last week, I chatted with Ryan Dyrud, founder of the LAFB Network, to discuss the Los Angeles Chargers and the season ahead. Give it a read here.
This week, I’ve sat down with Lamarr Fields, who has covered Las Vegas Raiders for many, many years across multiple online platforms. We talk about the upcoming season, COVID-19, as well as the overall outlook of the franchise as a whole.
Here we go!
Keaton Henry: Hey Lamarr, I’d like to kick things off for our readers with some info about yourself and how you came to cover the Raiders.
Lamarr Fields: I am married with two kids, I love sports, and I like to cover sporting events. I’ve been a Raiders fan since I was five years old. I am now 37 and I figured with my history of watching the Raiders I thought I should cover the team.
KH: The Raiders/Chiefs rivalry has tons of history behind it. Are there any particular moments that really stuck with you as a fan and journalist covering the team?
LF: Two games come to mind, the last game of the 1999 season when the Raiders knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs, with a Joe Nedney field goal in overtime. Also a game during the 2001 season in Oakland that I was at. Tim Brown ran an 88 yard punt return for a touchdown and the Raiders won the game 28-26.
KH: Training camp’s are set to start here within the next few weeks for most teams. With that said, are there any headlines or key topics you are looking for with the Raiders this year?
LF: I am looking for the Raiders defense to improve and see what all the free agent pickups on defense can bring to the team. The Raiders finally rebuilt the linebacking core with Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. So the defense should be a lot faster.
KH: The move to Las Vegas is a big change of scenery for this team, what’s the mood feel like heading into a new season and new home?
LF: When I was kid the Raiders were in Los Angeles and when they moved back to Oakland I was 12. I loved going to the games in Oakland, the tailgating experience was out of this world. But it was time for the Raiders to get a new stadium and I am excited to see what Las Vegas brings.
KH: From a distance, it seemed like some Raider fans lost faith in Derek Carr last season. Now, this year you’ve got a new signee in Marcus Mariota waiting in the wings. Do you foresee a change at quarterback this season?
LF: I could see a quarterback change if Derek Carr does not throw the ball down the field or utilize his legs more. Carr has all the talent to be a top outstanding quarterback in this league, but he needs to utilize his abilities more. In 2016 we saw him at his best and he has not been the same since his injury. Mariota will use his legs and create plays outside the pocket. So Carr better be ready to roll this season.
KH: How did you feel about this year’s draft class for the team and are there any under-the-radar, diamonds in the rough that have you excited?
LF: I really loved the Raiders draft this year. They picked up a lot of speed to hopefully have a more dynamic offense. The Raiders lacked speed last year. I love the Amik Robertson pick, I feel he could be an outstanding nickelback for the defense. Also Lynn Bowden Jr. is a player that will be able to line up at multiple positions and make plays.
KH: The Raiders offensive line has been highly regarded among NFL media. Is this belief warranted or are media resources overblowing the hype here?
LF: I think when healthy the Raiders offensive line is definitely one of the best in the league. With Trent Brown at right tackle dominating and Kolton Miller improving every year the line will be even better. Rodney Hudson, the anchor, is always at the top of his game. Richie Incognito is coming off a pro-bowl like season and will be back. The key is Gabe Jackson, he will be healthy and ready to go. With those five, I can see the Raiders offensive line being the best in the NFL
KH: Where would you say your faith currently lands with John Gruden and the overall status of the franchise on and off the field?
LF: Some have lost faith in Jon Gruden but I still believe. He is trying to build a team, and this season he will have some speed to play with and improved defense, the Raiders should be better. The only thing I would like to see is Gruden being more aggressive in his play calling. Off the field Gruden is a likeable guy, players will play for him.
KH: The Chiefs have been big spenders this off-season, so is there any worry around Raiders fans about the ability to contend in the AFC West with Kansas City keeping steady with their Super Bowl roster? Also, what are your thoughts on the Patrick Mahomes deal?
LF: To be able to contend with the Chiefs you have to be able to score points and be fast on defense. The Raiders have speed on offense now, but a lot of the players are young, so there may be a year or two away to fully contend with the Chiefs. The Raiders added speed and veterans on defense too, so the games against the Chiefs should be a little more competitive.
I applaud the Chiefs on not waiting to pay Patrick Mahomes, he is young and got a lot of good years ahead of him. You got to take care of your good, young players, so you won’t have a situation like the Cowboys and Dak Prescott.
KH: Lastly, a lot of our viewers are fantasy footballers, so if there were one player you’d encourage our audience to invest in this season, who would you suggest?
LF: I would invest in Josh Jacobs, the Raiders were careful last year because he was a rookie and hurt his shoulder. This season will be a different story. Jacobs will get the ball a lot and will have more of a role in the passing attack.
Thank you for visiting ArrowheadLive.com and giving Beyond The Kingdom a read! Check back next week for more stories and interviews. You can find me on Twitter @ArrowRant!