Oakland Raiders Week-3: Silver & Black Plan of Attack!
John Doublin – Sep 20, 2012
The Oakland Raiders return home to renew one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL, as they will host the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend at "The O."
Oakland is coming off an embarrassing dismantling at the hands of the lowly Miami Dolphins and are suffering injuries to several key players.
Now is not the time for "fluff-journalism." It's time to get down to brass tacks and tell it like it is...the way Raider Nation expects it.
This game is a "must win" for the Raiders. Yes—a must win game in only the third game of the season. The Raiders are 0-2 and less than 12% of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. That number drops to less that 1% when they start 0-3.
Therefore, the idea that there is such a thing as a "must win" in Week-3 is not an over-statement.
Injuries are always a concern, but when your two starting cornerbacks, starting middle linebacker, your best kick returner and your dominant, veteran, Pro Bowl defensive tackle are ailing, "the injury bug" takes on a whole new meaning.
It's time for "the next man up" to step in and show why they were selected for this team. Should these second string players fail to perform, the Raiders have virtually no chance to win this game.
To quote Raider Nation Times blogger, Captain Jack Rack 'Em, "ALL HANDS ON DECK!"
There is one thing and one thing only that will decide the fate of the Raiders offense in this game: The running game. Will there even be one? Will there be more than the average of 17 attempts in this game? Will Darren McFadden finally be used properly? Will the offensive line finally "get" the zone blocking scheme, (ZBS) and open holes for D-mac?
Answering these questions boils down to offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Does he recognize there is a problem? Does he realize that his unwillingness to run plays that suit his players is costing the Raiders games? Will he finally do what's necessary to win? Is he willing to admit that his system is failing and make the necessary adjustments?
The Raiders are listed as the 4th best passing team in the league with an average of 324.5 yards per game. On paper, this sounds great. Unfortunately for Raiders' fans, this is an inflated stat. The fact is, the passing game is moving the ball, not because it's so great, but because that's all the Raiders are capable of doing right now.
People want to blame Carson Palmer for the team not scoring points or pushing the ball deep downfield. The fact is the Raiders don't have any receivers open downfield.
Because the Raiders' running game is so predictable and so ineffective that opposing teams don't have to commit their safeties to help against the run. This allows them to keep their safeties deep, away from the line, and simply play coverage all day. This eliminates the deep pass; something the Raiders rely on to score.
Until the running game produces, all that Oakland will be able to accomplish is the short "dump-off" passes fans have seen in the first two games. That isn't good enough to win.
Knapp has to be willing to install run plays that actually work—whether those plays come from his precious ZBS or not. This will open up the play action and the deep ball; two things the Raiders have done better than most teams for the last 40 years.
There is also the matter of getting the game-changing players involved.
Why has Marcel Reece—perhaps the most difficult match up for defenses in the league—only touched the ball five times in two games? Why has David Ausberry only touched it twice? Why hasn't Juron Criner touched it at all?
Play makers must be put in a position to make plays. For that to happen, they have to be on the field and the offensive coordinator has to be willing to use them. At the moment, Knapp appears to only recognize McFadden and Palmer as legitimate weapons.
That isn't going to work.
|Year||Pass Yds--NFL Rank||Rush Yds--NFL Rank||Points/Gm--Rank|
|2011||247.6 -- 11th||131.9 -- 7th||22.4 -- 16th|
|2012||325.4 -- 3rd||34.0 -- 31st||13.5 -- 31st|
The above table illustrates how the Raiders' offensive production has dropped off from last year. Plus 77.8 yards in passing, minus 97.9 yards in rushing, and minus 8.9 points per game. And remember, those 2011 stats were without Darren McFadden for nine games and without Denarius Moore for three games. Those two are back now, and the offense is regressing anyway.
What's the difference? The man in charge of the offense and the scheme he's implementing. That's it.
Well...it's certainly a "new era." The once balanced offense with a dominant rushing attack is now an ineffective, pass-happy bottom feeder.
FIX IT—before it's too late!
The Steelers' offensive line is about as healthy as the Raiders' secondary—not very. This is an interesting paradox because, Ben Roethlisberger may not have much time to throw the ball, but his receivers could be wide open in short order.
The Raiders have to apply pressure to "Big Ben." However, getting to him is only half the battle; he needs to "go down...and go down hard." Roethlisberger is a big man and is very tough to bring down. He uses that to his advantage by breaking tackles, escaping the pocket and buying time for his receivers to get open.
The fact is, even the best secondary can't cover the likes of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders for 10 seconds on every play. The Oakland defense has to not only get to Roethlisberger, but get him on the ground.
One way to accomplish this is through confusion. Go back and watch the Atlanta Falcons vs Denver Broncos game from last week. Peyton Manning looked downright human, throwing three interceptions in the first quarter. Why? Because Atlanta didn't "tip their hand" before the snap.
There was no way for Manning to know for sure where the blitzes were coming from, or what kind of coverage would be employed because the Falcons were using the "Amoeba defense" utilized to perfection by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the now stout Houston Texans defense under Wade Phillips.
Constant movement near the line of scrimmage before the snap and disguising coverages creates indecision and confusion for the quarterback. If it worked on Manning, it can work on Roethlisberger.
Oakland should attempt this strategy. Don't get set until just before the snap, bring blitzes from everywhere and at unpredictable times, and most importantly—WRAP UP when tackling.
Hopefully, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has spent considerable time this week working on the fundamentals of tackling and pursuit angles. Failures in these two areas killed the Raiders' defense last year under Chuck Bresnahan, and they reared their ugly head again in Miami, making Reggie Bush look like Barry Sanders.
Finally, the Raiders have been giving Michael Huff repetitions at cornerback. This could be good and bad. Huff has some experience in college at the corner spot, but it's been a long time. It's also a totally different view of the game. This throws a lot of players off when moving from safety to corner. Hopefully, Huff will have all the techniques he was taught in college come flooding back to him in a hurry on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, safeties Matt Giordano and Tyvon Branch have to be disciplined in their pursuit, solid in their tackling and true to their coverage responsibilities. Roethlisberger will throw the ball deep, whether he has anyone open or not; it will be up to the safeties to help the cornerbacks out with good, over-the-top coverage.
This one is simple. Play disciplined, don't hold or block in the back on returns, and let Philip Adams and Taiwan Jones "do their thing." Last week, Adams had two big returns called back by stupid penalties.
The field position battle is one that must be won by the Raiders. Starting inside their own 20 on all but one drive last week put the offense in a hole. That cannot happen against the Steelers.
Remaining true to lane responsibilities will be critical as well. The Steelers have good returners that can break a big one if the Raiders fail to cover punts and kicks with discipline. Do your job and make a solid, fundamental tackle when given the opportunity.
The bottom line is the Raiders' offense must get the running game going. If not, all the other stuff becomes moot.
No rushing attack, no play action. No play action, no big plays. No big plays, no respect from the safeties. No respect from the safeties, no deep passing attack. This will lead to more three-and-outs and no points. No points, no win. No time of possession, the defense wears out. The defense wears out, no chance in...well, you know.
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