Oakland Raiders vs Minnesota Vikings: Keys For Raiders Defense
John Doublin – Nov 19, 2011Carson Palmer and the Oakland Raiders will travel to Minneapolis to take on Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday. The Raiders' defense is ailing with a few critical injuries. This will make the job of containing the best running back in the league much more difficult.
Can the Raiders stop Adrian Peterson and the Vikings? Of course they can, but there are several keys that must be achieved for that to happen.
Let's have a look at what the Raiders' defense must do to win this inter-conference game on the road.
Stopping the runâ€”Defensive tackle and team leader Richard Seymour is listed as questionable and hasn't practiced this week. This is a pretty severe blow to the Raiders' defense, but one that can be overcome.
The Vikings run a similar rushing attack as the Raidersâ€”powers, leads, traps and wham plays. To contain this, it will be absolutely critical for the defensive ends, Lamarr Houston and Jarvis Moss to hold the edge of the line. Eliminating Peterson's ability to bounce outside and forcing him back into the middle should keep the big plays at a minimum.
Peterson has the speed to rip off big gains if he's allowed to get outside. And frankly, it makes much more sense to have the linebackers attempting tackles on Peterson than to have the cornerbacks trying it.
When Peterson does run inside, it is imperative for the defensive line to "own their ground." That is, if you can't get penetration, don't get pushed off the line. The "Stack-and-shed" philosophy is the most sound technique in this case. Henderson, Bryant, Moss and Houston have to be strong at the point of attack. Standing their man up, reading the play, then shedding the block and squeezing the running lane will do more to stop Peterson than anything else.
When the Vikings run their "inverted wishbone" formation, there are some keys that will help Oakland diagnose the play. There will be two fullbacks on the field. Read the full back on your sideâ€”follow him to the ball. Nine times out of ten, the fullbacks are attempting to lead the play. Stuffing him in the hole, will force Peterson to adjust. Assuming the defensive ends are executing on the edge, Peterson will have nowhere to go, but down.
If the fullback on your side goes across the field, let him go and maintain your containment responsibility. Trying to crash down and chase the play from behind will open the edge up, giving Peterson the ability to cut back and make positive yards. It is important this doesn't happen.
The single most important thing in containing Peterson is the same for every back in the leagueâ€”"just tackle baby!" If anyone thinks that Peterson can be brought down with arm tackles, bad pursuit angles, or big hits without wrapping up is sadly mistaken. The Raider defenders must get to him, break down properly, engage him in good tackling position and most important, wrap him up.
It takes just one missed tackle for Peterson to look back at you from the endzone with a grin on his face and six points on the board for the Vikings.
Against the passâ€”Once again, containment will be important. The Vikings are led by rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. Although he's not known as a "running quarterback" ala Cam Newton or Tim Tebow, but he is plenty mobile enough and throws well on the run. Look for the Vikings to roll him out and slide the pocket to get Ponder away from interior pressure.
On obvious passing downs, the replacement for Seymour is likely to be Desmond Bryant. Bryant does a good job of getting penetration and rushing the passer from the interior. Along with Tommy Kelly, the Raiders can apply good pressure in Ponder's face. This will cause the Vikings to call the roll-outs and "waggles" described earlier.
To counter these moving pockets and roll-outs, the Raiders once again must maintain their containment responsibilities. Defensive ends Houston and Moss, as well as Trevor Scott will need to play a disciplined game and not allow Ponder to set his feet when outside the pocket. Kamerion Wimbley lining up as a defensive end will add speed, and help keep Ponder and the Vikings honest.
In the secondary, the Raiders' best cover safety Michael Huff has been injured and is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. His replacement, Matt Giordano has been practicing and is likely to play. This is a coverage down-grade from Huff, but better than not having a true free safety at all.
The Raiders are also hurting at the cornerback position. Promising rookie Chimdi Chekwa was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, and his rookie draft mate, Demarcus Van Dyke is also nursing a hamstring and is listed as questionable. Things are getting pretty thin at cornerback for Oakland to say the least.
This leaves good, old standby Stanford Routt, new Raider Lito Sheppard and recently acquired Brian McCann as the only cornerbacks on the roster. There will be a lot of pressure on these three men to cover the Vikings receivers.
The Vikings' biggest threat in the passing game is Michael Jenkins. He has the size, speed and hands to make plays for his team. If the Raiders are going to double or "bracket" one receiver, Jenkins should be the guy.
Another legitimate threat in the Vikings passing arsenal is Adrian Peterson out of the back field. He's not known as a great receiver, but if he is being contained in the run game, the Vikings will look to get him the ball in other ways. Oakland must use solid tackling technique to bring Peterson down as soon as he touches the ball. If not, Peterson can break free and rip off big yards.
With all that said, the best way to stop the Vikings passing attack is to pressure their rookie quarterback. Oakland will need big games from Moss, Houston, Wimbley and whomever else they send in to rush the passer. Ponder's performance thus far in 2011 has proven time and again that when he is rushed hard, he panics and makes mistakes. When the Raiders get pressure on him, the secondary must make the plays.
There can be no repeats of the dropped interceptions we saw in the Charger game. Giving the Vikings second chances to convert and score is the worst think Oakland can do. There is nothing that will kill a defense's morale more than having to play another down when they had the chance to get off the field.
Play-callingâ€”There is a place for blitzing. However, it is not on every third down or long-yardage situations. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan must "pick his spots." The Raiders' players must also do a better job of disguising their intention to blitz. If Ponder sees a safety or cornerback blitz coming, he's young, but still savvy enough to check to a quick route and burn the Raidersâ€”much like Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills did in week two.
The Raiders are good enough up front on defense to pressure the quarterback without having to blitz all the time. Judicious use of blitzing will be important.
Summaryâ€”To stop the runâ€”stand up your man, "own your ground," squeeze the lane, maintain your gap and containment responsibility and use good pursuit and tackling fundamentals. To stop the passâ€”keep Jenkins in your sights, make solid tackles to eliminate run after catch yards, pressure Ponder, don't let him get comfortable and maintain containment responsibilities whenÂ the Vikings try to move the pocket or roll out.
This is a game the Raiders can, should and must win. The Broncos are surging with the emergence of Tim Tebow, the Chiefs are playing better and both of them are closing in on the division leading Raiders. This game will keep the Raiders lead at just one game. A loss will give Bronco fans hopeâ€”hope they don't deserve and Raider Nation shouldn't have to deal with!
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