Category Archives: Scouting
When talking about the offensive scheme and coordinators of the Patriots defense, you have to begin by talking about Bill Belichick. The offense is lead by coordinator Josh McDaniels but Belichick gets just as much credit for using his offense to find mismatches versus any opposing defense. New England’s offense utilizes a versatile number of players to keep their offense unpredictable and this year is no different.
McDaniels returned to the Patriots for his second stint as offensive coordinator in 2012. He was the head coach of the Denver Broncos for the 2009-10 seasons before becoming the Rams offensive coordinator in 2011. From 2001-2008 he was held the titles of defensive assistant, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. McDaniels spent one season as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. He played quarterback at John Carroll University from 1995-98.
The Patriots are No. 1 in total offense and passing offense. The offensive line doesn’t receive a lot of recognition but the Patriots quietly have a strong group. Football Outsiders has them as the No. 2 ranked run blocking unit based on adjusted line yards. They’re only 16th in rushing yards but that is not because of the offensive line. Still, the Patriots and McDaniels are experts at exploiting mismatches. Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time due to his poise in the clutch and pocket. They can get the ball out fast and allow their skilled players to make plays in the open field. New England has four receivers with at least 374 yards receiving and two rushers with over 300 yards gained on the ground. That means Oakland can expect a balanced attack that utilizes a versatile set of personnel. Expect New England to utilize RB James White as a pass catcher out of the backfield. The Pats utilize passing plays to RBs as ways to giving their RBs touches in space over traditional handoffs. They’re also Brady’s favorite safety blanket. White leads the team in receptions and the Raiders linebackers are inconsistent in coverage. TE Rob Gronkowski is one of the best players at his position ever and the Raiders are notoriously bad at covering the TE. Thus, the Patriots will use this to their advantage especially in the redzone. Martellus Bennett recently rejoined the team and he could see some targets versus the Raiders too. Speaking of mismatches in the middle of the field, the shift Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan (if he plays) are the agile receivers that Oakland can have trouble tackling. Brandin Cooks is the speedy receiver with the highest yards per reception on the Patriots. Last season, Cooks beat the Raiders for a huge gain when he was with the Saints. He can use the same speed against the bigger Raiders DBs who have been liabilities in coverage. They should push the ball up the field and take some deep shots since the Silver and Black have given up a ton of big plays in the passing game this year. New England is also plus six in turnover differential so don’t expect them to make a lot of mistakes.
The Patriots are far from the perfect unit. Despite their strong offensive line, they’re in the middle of the pack for the running game. They could also be without RB Mike Gillislee and OT Marcus Cannon which could take away some leverage of the running game. Gillislee is their best between the tackles runner and leads the team in rushing touchdowns. That may make New England lean heavier on the pass in goal line situations. Speaking of the pass, the Patriots are only 12th in pass protection and have allowed 12 sacks, per Football Outsiders. Without Cannon, Brady will be on an even shorter pass clock. Oakland must exploit this small weakness to pressure Brady into some mistakes. He’s only thrown two interceptions this year so it’s unlikely the first defense to not score an interception through nine games will convert an int on Brady. Thus, their best hope is to rattle Brady into becoming inaccurate. The Raiders defensive line will need to create pressure to keep the New England offense from exploiting the deficiencies in pass coverage. If Brady is given a ton of time in the pocket, it is only a matter of time until he, McDaniels and Belichick find a mismatch in the coverage. Oakland’s only hope is to make Brady uncomfortable. The Patriots have too many talented pass catchers across the board for the Raiders secondary to cover so they will need some help from their defensive line.
The Oakland Raiders wrapped up minicamp this past weekend. Here is what you need to know from the three-day event. 17 undrafted free agents and 20 try-out players participated in the event, as well as some of the Raiders drafted rookies.
All reports indicate that Ward is as good as advertised. He was flying around camp, playing fast and being an imposing force.
More importantly, the second round pick remained healthy. Some teams questioned if Ward would need another knee surgery, but the Raiders gave him a clean bill of health.
McCaffery was already one of the Raiders biggest UDFA names because of his last name.
The Duke product still needs polishing in the weight room, but his ability to catch the ball was on full display throughout camp.
All signs say that the Raiders got a steal in Connor Cook. Multiple sources say Cook was impressive in camp.
Of course, it is still shirts and shorts season. It will be interesting if Cook can carry his performance into padded practices. Could he beat out Matt McGloin for second string duties? Either way, Cook is a great backup option.
The Washington product is another receiver that shined in camp. Mickens is undersized but he could bring value as a returner. He also comes from years of production at Washington. However, he did not make the roster so far.
The versatile Michigan state linemen should lineup with his hand in the ground and standing up. That is much of what he did in minicamp. He should fill in until Aldon Smith comes in.
Cowser is a little older for a rookie at 25-years-old. However, he made an impression with his passion, leadership and noticeable hair.
Latham is a big body, but he also moves well. He could be the next undrafted linemen to dominate for the Raiders… cough.. Denico Autry.
Again, none of this really matters until real training camp begins next month. Still, it is good to see the Raiders adding some practice, depth and talent.
Hopefully, Karl Joseph can get back after training camp. The first round pick should steal all the spotlight.
*All information via Raiders.com.
Here are some players and positions to keep an eye out in the NFL Scouting Combine approaching this week.
Defensive Tackles- Leonard Williams, Danny Shelton, Arik Armstead
The talent at the top of the inside defensive linemen is stacked. Williams is a special talent, but how special? The combine will show teams whether he is worthy of a top three selection. Either way he won’t get passed the top 3 picks.
The Raiders have needs on the inside, so it would not surprise me to see them take Shelton or Armstead. Both might be a reach, but a dominate combine could make either of those guys a top five pick. Or the Raiders may play it smart and move down and still get their guy.
Wide Receivers- Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker,
The consensus around scouts and media is the Raiders need weapons. Rather or not they do that in free agency, the first round, or the second round depends on how these three guys perform.
Cooper has the production, Parker has the size, and White has a combination of both. The combine will be the perfect outlet for those three guys to compete and see who will be crowned king of the receiver class. Thus far it has been cooper because of his route running and production. Still, he could be dethroned due to the other two’s size and up side.
Parker is a guy who could really rise as he had more than 800 yards and minimal drops in only six games.
Running Backs- Duke Johnson, Jay Ayayi, T.J. Yeldon, Ameer Abdullah
Even the biggest Latavius Murray and Maurice Jones Drew fans can admit the Raiders could use some running back help. If Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon slide to the second round it should be a no brainier for the Raiders.
Still, any of these guys could contribute to the team even if they are drafted in the middle rounds. I expect the Raiders to find which one’s skillset they prefer based on combine numbers, interviews, and how they measure. I like any of these guys depending on how the rest of the draft and free agency playsout of course.
Inside Linebackers- Denzel Perryman, Eric Kendricks
Miles Burris ranked among the worst inside linebackers, possibly because he was out of position. With Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. being former linebackers on staff I expect them to address that need. Perryman and Kendricks were both highly productive at the collegian level. Each of them are undersized but instinctive players. Their draft value will be determined by how fast they run in the 40 yard dash, how well they move in coverage, their bench press, and how tall they will be officially listed.
Outiside Linebackers- Vic Beasley, Nate Orchard, Shaq Thompson
What do these three players have in common? They were all highly productive players on defense who have questions about their size. Eyes will be on them to not only show the athleticism displayed on tape in position drills and agility drills, but they must also jump well, measure tall, and bench a lot.
Beasley could have been a top pick last year, but could slide to the bottom picks as it is unsure if he is a stand up or hand down end. Same goes for Orchard, but last year’s sack leader grades somewhere in the second round.
Well Thompson should go in the top half of the draft, every team should have him on his radar. The safety/linebacker/runningback is exactly the type of player you tailor a defense around. Four might be too high, but trading down to draft someone who could highlight JDR and KNJ ‘s hybrid defensive philosophies is not a bad idea.