Oakland Raiders vs Miami Dolphins: Keys For Raider Victory!
John Doublin – Dec 2, 2011The 7-4, division leading Oakland Raiders will be traveling east to take on the surging Miami Dolphins in their own house. At just one game behind, the Denver Broncos are keeping pace in the AFC West, the Dolphins playing much better of late and the Raiders are still reeling from injuries to key players.
All this suggests that Oakland is in the dreaded, "Trap-game."
That said, this is a game Oakland should win. But, what will that entail? Who needs to step up for the Raiders? Which Dolphin players should Oakland focus on containing? Where can the Raiders take advantage of the Dolphins' defense? Great questions, let's try to find some answers.
Establishing the runâ€”Darren McFadden has been seen on the practice field, but isn't expected to play this Sunday. Once again, the rushing attack will be in the capable hands of bruiser Michael Bush. Bush has substituted for McFadden extremely well and is showing the world that he could be a featured back for most teams in the NFL.
Nose tackle Paul Soliai, defensive end Randy Starks and inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are very tough up the middle of the Dolphins 3-4 front seven. They all stand up well at the point of attack and shed blocks better than most.
It will be critical for the Raiders' offensive linemen to, not only engage these men, but stay engaged and finish their blocks. The Dolphins' defensive front is very active and athletic. Failing to finish blocks on these tough, aggressive players will make for a long day for Bush and the Raiders.
However, there are ways to take advantage of this aggressive play from the Dolphins talented defensive front. Misdirection and never-before-seen formations can be used to confuse the Dolphins and keep them guessing.
The fake-toss fullback-trap play to Marcel Reece could break big for Oakland. This play has been successful for the Raiders against some good rush defenses like Minnesota and Chicago, and it will work against the Dolphins.
Coming out in the "Pro-set," (split-back) set could confuse Miami. The Raiders don't use this formation much at all and seeing it could cause confusion in the Dolphins defense. From there, "quick-hitters" to Reece and Bush can be extremely effective because these plays happen so fast that the defense never gets a chance to use its athleticism to shed blocks and make plays.
Passing the ballâ€” Obviously, Carson Palmer will be the key to the passing game. Young studs Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore are still not participating in practice. This will push Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to join Darrius Heyward-Bey on the field to take on bigger, more important roles.
With the absence of Ford and Moore comes the need for a shift in the philosophy of the passing game. Heyward-Bey should once again be the go-to-guy as far as wide-outs are concerned, but there is more to it than this.
Look for Oakland to do what they did last week against the Bearsâ€”utilizing Reece, Kevin Boss and Brandon Myers more than they normally do. With these three occupying and owning the middle of the field, it should allow Heyward-Bey, Murphy and Schilens to do what they do bestâ€”get deep. Lining Reece up as a wide receiver will force a match-up that favors the Raiders as well.
However, getting the receivers deep and open is only part of the equation. It will mean nothing if the Raiders' offensive line can't block Cameron Wake or Kendall Langford.
Whatever it takesâ€”keeping Bush, Reece, Myers, or BossÂ into block, chip and just hit these twoâ€”Wake and Langford must be contained. Jared Allen of the Vikings was shut out and Julius Peppers of the Bears started strong, but was contained later in the game, so controlling the Dolphins' pass rushers can be done.
Stopping the runâ€”Reggie Bush is finally starting to look like an actual NFL running back. He's running between the tackles and from traditional formations. Part of this is due to the Dolphins' offensive line being better than early in the season. The other part is the enormous chip on Bush's shoulders. He's out to prove to the world that he can be an "every-down-back."
The Dolphins are a power team, just like the Raiders. They always look to create a situation in which they have more men to block than you have to tackle. Countering this is going to be key. Oakland has to do a solid job getting off the blocks and flowing to the ball.
Miami isn't overly-creative in their running schemeâ€”there isn't a lot of misdirection or "trickery." However, that doesn't mean they can't, or won't do something previously unseenâ€”they were, after all, the team that brought back the "Single wing" and called it the "Wild Cat."
The Raiders have to be on their toes.
Tackling is always an issue for the Raiders, but against Reggie Bush, it will be even more important. The best way to contain Bush is to get to him before he gets into the open field. The defensive line has to remain disciplined and stay true to their gap responsibilities.
If Bush gets free, he can make people miss and juke them out of their cleats.
Containing the passâ€”Quarterback Matt Moore seems to have found his footing in the NFL. He's playing much better over the last three games and has the Dolphins on a winning streak.
Obviously, Brandon Marshall is the Dolphins best receiver. He can get deep, go over the middle and make circus catches. It will be paramount for Oakland to contain him. If that means bracket coverage, or doubling him, or using a zone on his side of the filed, then Oakland must do it.
Jamming Marshall isn't very effective as he is a big receiver that gets off the jam extremely well. This is not to say that Oakland shouldn't get in Marshall's face at the line, just that they should rely on it.
Anthony Fassano is becoming a legitimate threat from the tight end position. He has decent speed, good hands and great size. Covering Fassano and limiting his ability to get open in the middle of the field will stifle Moore's ability to get comfortable. Mike Mitchell, Tyvon Branch and the linebackers must all chip in to help on Fassano.
An area of concern for Oakland has been covering running backs in the passing gameâ€”and Bush is one of the best receiving backs in the entire league. There must be a plan in place to contain Bush on passing downs. Last week, Oakland did a great job sniffing out the screen against the Bears, and even got an interception out of it. Another performance like that would go a long way in Raider victory.
Finally, every one knows that the best way to stop the pass is to get to the quarterback. This is something the Raiders' front seven has done a good job of all year.
Even with Shaughnessy on injured reserve, Jarvis Moss listed as questionable and Richard Seymour limited, the Raiders have been dominant at the line of scrimmage. Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant, Lamarr Houston and Kamerion Winbley have been a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.
Getting Moore on the ground early and often will make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Causing him to constantly feel threatened will make him rush and panic, causing bad throws and hurried decisionsâ€”this will lead to another multiple turnover day for the Raiders' defense.
Special teamsâ€”Devon Bess is an excellent return manâ€”though he's not "Devin Hester good." Shane Lechler can and will do all things necessary to limit his opportunities. Another game like the one against the Bears and the Raiders will win the field position battle.
This game is in Miami, which means it's at sea-level. This is true in Oakland, but the air just seems to be thicker and more humid in Miami and the field is soupy. This may shorten Sebastian Janikowski's range a bitâ€”so, don't expect a 63 yard kick. Janikowski's range being shortened by five yards means he still has the biggest, most reliable leg in the NFL. Also, putting kickoffs in the endzone regularly will help contain Bess in the return game.
Disciplineâ€”Oakland is on the road and will not be getting any "homer" calls. If anything, the recent bad-press resulting from the Rolando McClain arrest will give the referees incentive to throw the flag on the Raiders more frequently. The Raiders must continue their improvement in the penalty department. Only 13 penalties in the last two games combined is a good start, and it must continue this week in Miami.
To closeâ€”In the run game, feed Michael Bush the ball, get a hat on Soliai, Starks and Dansby, use quick developing run plays and confuse the Dolphins with misdirection. In the passing game, use Reece in different alignments, get the ball over the middle to Boss and Myers and take your deep shots with Heyward-Bey, Murphy and Schilens with play action. On defense, contain Reggie Bush in the back field, don't let him get free to break tackles, get after Matt Moore, cover Brandon Marshall at all costs, keep Anthony Fassano in check with rotating coverage and jams at the line.
This is a critical game for the Raidersâ€”a game they must win to establish themselves as a legitimate playoff threat. It is also a game that Oakland can, and will win. Prediction: Raiders-34, Dolphins-13.
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