Thursday, September 29, 2005

Look Under The Hood, Norv

The Raiders running game is no longer just leaking oil. It’s parked in a ditch, gaskets blown. The Raiders now rank 31st in rushing offense. How is this possible? Jesus, bring back Napoleon Kaufman (and, as a Christian, I mean that sincerely).

I know it’s not all LaMont’s fault. I know it’s all interconnected, the offensive line, the playcalling, time of possession issues, game situations, etc., until it all becomes a freakin’ football Rubik’s Cube where every “They should…” is countered with a “Yeah, but…”

Yeah but nothing. We need a running game. I don’t care about the particulars at this point. This is supposed to be one of the most wicked offenses in the NFL, and we're south of the 49ers and Cardinals in rushing?

In this article, Coach Turner is quoted as saying: "We had a number of plays Sunday and the week before in the running game where we're one play, one block away." His team puts up 21 yards rushing yet they're "one block away" from breaking things wide open? Sorry, but that's just delusional. You need to go back to the chalkboard and rethink the machine. Did you see Shanahan and gang cut the Chiefs into ribbons on Monday? I loathe Shanahan and the Broncos, but the fact is that their playcalling was fresh and imaginative, and thus they prevailed where we failed.

Coach Turner, please get in touch with your inner mechanic before it's too late for all of us.


Blogger js said...

The Raiders certainly do need a better running game, but I don't know that the Broncos are the model to follow. Shanahan's blocking schemes have long been--well--legally questionable. Could the Raiders get away with them? I wonder.

Pittsburgh and Cincinnati might be better models to follow. The Pittsburgh offensive line has been able to open lanes successfully for three runners with very different styles. They're big and physical, and they handle run blitzes well.

The Raiders may also want to return to more two-back sets. A good blocking fullback could read the linebackers and take out a blitzer at the point of attack, opening a wider alley for Jordan.

One of the key players of the Gannon years, sadly unsung, was Jon Ritchie. He didn't carry at all from 2000-2002, but he could throw a great block and was usually good for a seven yard pop catching out of the backfield. When the Raiders led the league in rushing in 2000, (Wheatley and Kaufman combined for over 2,000 yards that season), Ritchie was the one clearing lanes for them.

He plays for Philadelphia now. Oh well.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

I think Ritchie got booted from Philly? Maybe we should pick him back up. ;)

I refer to Shanahan and Monday night in a more organic sense. They followed our home game against the Chiefs with their own home game against the Chiefs. It makes for a timely comparison.

For example, they went for it on fourth and goal with a big lead, and had Plummer run a naked bootleg for the score without a Chief in sight. That's just one example of playcalling that is aggressive and imaginative.

I'm not saying we should imitate them (after all, Collins doesn't run like Plummer), but that the Raiders need to become more aggressive and imaginative in their own context if they're going to improve the running game.

If we had the Steelers' offensive line, the solution would be simpler. But the fact is that what we're doing with what we have right now isn't working. That's why I think some creativity is in order.

Coach Turner says were a block or two away from breaking things open (right after averaging less than one yard per carry). So much for creativity.

2:14 PM  
Blogger js said...

I didn't catch the Monday night game--I'm TiVo-less and work nights, but you're right. The Raiders need to mix it up more in the running game.

On the other hand, it's hard to be too creative (in the sense of coming up with wild, weird plays) when you're running one-back sets and your quarterback has the grace and mobility we normally associate with the Empire State Building. (If Ritchie's available and still healthy, I'd make a grab.) The defense can key on Jordan. Jordan's options are to dive, cut back, run off-tackle, or sweep. Jordan and the line need to be able to execute all of these, but the key here is to read the defense and figure out what's most likely work given their behavior.

Are the linebackers staying at home and defending a gap? Run toss sweeps to get them moving. Does the defense key on the flow of the play? Mix in some cut-back runs to punish them. (On ESPN they had some great footage of Cadillac Williams doing exactly that). Too much pass rush? Run draws. Lots of blitzes? Run traps.

Where the Raiders can best emulate Shanahan is in looking at how approaches the game strategically. In his first drives, he wants to score of course, but he also wants to test the behavior of his opponent. What is the opposition trying to achieve defensively? What plays does he have that can best disrupt that strategy?

For me, Turner's failures so far come from his slowness in adapting to what defenses throw at him. This shows up in both the running and passing games. Yes, defenses roll their coverage to Moss. Who wouldn't? Don't complain, and don't keep doing what you're doing. Put Moss in motion and mix in some pick plays. Put him in the middle of a trips bunch and make the defenders guess.

Turner's public comments leave me wondering about his preparation and game planning, aspects of coaching that Shanahan has certainly mastered.

I'm in Seattle, so I won't get to see the Raider game on TV. (I guess you will. A sellout! Are there a lot of Dallas fans coming to Oakland, or a lot of really optimistic guys in spikes and black leather?) Here's hoping Turner improves his pregame work and makes the thing worth watching, because you know that Parcells will be ready.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

And that, amigos, is why JS has been named an official Raider Take Technical Advisor.

5:36 PM  

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