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Eagles Preview: Five on the Raiders

The 4-2 Raiders come into Sunday's game with a solid record but uncertainty ahead with the move away from Jon Gruden due to a recent scandal

PHILADELPHIA - You can't start with the Las Vegas Raiders until you talk about what's been going on at the top with now-former head coach Jon Gruden being replaced by interim mentor Rich Bisaccia.

Gruden was forced to resign after old e-mails were leaked that, among other untoward things, revealed, the ex-head coach using racist tropes to describe NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and homophobic language to describe league commissioner Roger Goodell.

In their first game without Gruden, the Raiders persevered on the road by gaining a 10-point win over AFC West rival Denver, 34-24.

At some point, however, you would expect some kind of negative impact from losing the guy in charge in-season.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni didn't see a ton of difference pre-Gruden to pos-Gruden on defense, where Gus Bradley, who once coached with Sirianni in San Diego, or special teams, the group Bisaccia piloted before being elevated.

"Well, you got to think that Coach Bradley is still doing the same things that he had done, because there wasn't a change there," Sirianni told SI.com's EagleMaven Friday. "... in special teams, Rich is doing it. And so, didn't feel a big difference there."

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Offensively, though, Sirianni noticed some change because the guy putting things together, offensive coordinator Greg Olson, isn't Gruden even if the two worked together for years.

"Offensively, no matter how much you think like another person, right, and so I think about [Eagles offensive coordinator] Shane [Steichen] and I or I think about - back in my past about [Colts head coach] Frank [Reich] and I, like, we - Shane and I think a lot alike, Frank and I thought a lot alike," Sirianni said. "But there's going to be changes when somebody else is calling.

"There's just naturally going to - there's going to be slight, little different changes. Like, ‘Where did that come from?’ Like, it's somebody different calling it. So, if I put up 10 openers [opening plays] and Shane put up 10 openers and [Eagles quarterbacks coach] Brian Johnson put up 10 openers and [Eagles passing game coordinator] Kevin [Patullo] put up 10 openers, every one of those would look a little different. So, naturally, there are some differences there on offense and how the game is called."

Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow, and Josh Jacobs are still who they are, according to Sirianni.

"A lot of the players are the same, schemes are pretty much the same," the Eagles coach said. "But, again, you only have one game to go from. So that's where we notice a little bit of difference."

HIGH-VOLUME PASSER VS. COVER-2

Raiders QB Derek Carr is having a big season and is second in the NFL behind Tom Brady with 1,946 passing yards while throwing just four interceptions. Carr also averages an impressive 8.4 yards-per-pass-attempt and the Raiders as a whole lead the league with 32 pass plays of 20-plus yards.

Jonathan Gannon's defense, meanwhile, has leaned primarily on zone coverage to date and has allowed the second-fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards in the NFL.

The goal for Philadelphia is to force Las Vegas to be disciplined and sustain long drives.

Carr, meanwhile, is wary of the Eagles' top corner, Darius Slay.

"He’s really unbelievable," Carr said of Slay. "... he’s definitely one of the top corners in the NFL and he always presents a challenge no matter what scheme he is playing.

"Whether it’s a predominantly man scheme, you got to be careful with him. If it’s predominantly a zone scheme, you still have to be careful because he knows what he’s doing. He’s very intelligent and a very good football player.”

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DYNAMIC DARREN

When Darren Waller was a king-sized, sixth-round rookie receiver with Baltimore in 2015 the Ravens came to Philadelphia for joint practices and Waller was awe-inspiring when it came to red-zone work and 50/50 balls.

Ultimately, Waller added weight to his 6-foot-6 frame and has become one of the best flex tight ends in the NFL, a mismatch for just about everyone: too big and strong for defensive backs and far too quick for any linebacker.

Last season Waller broke the Raiders' franchise record with 107 receptions, topping  Hall of Famer WR Tim Brown's previous mark of 104 receptions. In 2021, Waller leads Las Vegas with 33 receptions through six games.

The Eagles could decide to use Slay on Waller and bracket speedster Henry Ruggs or they could go the opposite route, but goal No. 1 is limiting Waller.

WEAK RUNNING GAME

The Raiders have a big-name RB in Josh Jacobs but they've struggled to run the football with any kind of effectiveness in 2021. In fact, the top three RBs for Las Vegas, Jacobs, Peyton Barber, and Kenyan Drake, are all under 4.0 yards per carry, a landscape that could serve as a nice respite for an Eagles' defense that has too often been gouged by the running game and is No. 28 in the league, allowing 135.3 yards-per-game.

EDGE IN EDGE RUSHERS?

The Raiders thought they were getting a difference-making edge rusher in the 2019 draft when they drafted Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall. Turns out they did get a good one but it came in the form of fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby. Crosby and the well-traveled Yannick Ngakoue can both create havoc.

The good news is that the Eagles expect to have Lane Johnson back at right tackle and Jordan Mailata at his more natural left tackle position.

PREDICTIONS:

JOHN MCMULLEN (5-1, 4-2 vs. spread) - How much self-reflection went on for the Eagles' coaching staff during the mini-bye?

Maybe that's the biggest outlier heading into Las Vegas The Eagles' losses to date - to San Francisco, at Dallas, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay - weren't unexpected but the context of the setbacks, particularly the failure of the offense to grow, is an issue.

Until that changes, it's hard to imagine Philadelphia competing with teams that can score points.

RAIDERS 28, EAGLES 23

ED KRACZ (4-2, 4-2 vs. spread) - The Eagles had 10 days to stew with a loss to Tampa Bay. This is a bounce-back situation for them and a letdown situation for an organization that just lost its head coach, no matter how well the Raiders performed in their first game with an interim coach.

Besides, the Eagles seem to play better on the road than at home, where they are 0-3. Away from the Linc, though, they are 2-1.

EAGLES 274 RAIDERS 23

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.