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 Silver and Black have the privilege of beating the Baltimore Ravens the past two seasons. That means both teams have plenty of tape on each other. There won’t be a ton of surprises but the Ravens are hungry to avenge the past two narrow defeats. Here is how Oakland can win another close one at home.
Tailor the offense to E.J. Manuel
Let’s get one thing straight, E.J. Manuel came into a hostile situation and played well last week. This week he should be more mentally and physically prepared to play. Hopefully, his receivers and offensive line won’t live him out to dry this week.
Still, it would still be a mistake to call the same game plan with Manuel as we would with Derek Carr.
We always here how offensive coordinators tailor their game plans to the personel, but now is the time to see it. I’d love to see Oakland experiment with some zone reads to neutralize their inconsistent tackle play as well as the over aggressive edges on the Ravens. The Raiders should sprinkle in some reverses, shovel screens and jet sweeps to keep Baltimore’s run game on its heals. They probably load the box so it would be awesome to hit on a big play that they do not expect.
In the passing game, the Raiders should start with some screen passes to Amari Cooper. Cooper desperately needs some confidence and this might help the Raiders take the top off the defense later. Oakland should also call their backs out for routes a lot too. Between Jamize Olawale, Marshawn Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, the Raiders have plenty of good pass catchers out of the backfield. Manuel should throw to these guys early so he can gain some confidence. Let’s see what they can do in space.
Give the TEs the ball
Baltimore’s biggest liability is their safeties. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are known playmakers but they’ll fail on gambles too. Oakland should rely on their tight ends as big targets with the catch radius to make plays for Manuel’s passes.
Clive Walford should get a bigger opportunity with some three and four tight end sets. These sets are good for establishing the run, protecting the QB and getting mismatched with the plat action pass. Don’t forget Manuel has a rapport with Lee Smith from Buffalo. He should see some opportunities to move the chains.
If your defense is creating turnovers, they’re not giving up points. Our defense reminded us of that last week by keeping the Broncos from putting up points in the second half. They found ways to keep the game close. Oakland needs to do that again this week.
Last season, Bruce Irvin came up with the strip-sack fumble that turned the game for the Raiders. Who will do it in Oaklan this year?
Jor Flacco will take chances as he’s shown over his career. Even if their offense is more run focused with a back by committee situation, Baltimore is able to hit big plays with their receivers. This could be the game Jeremy Maclin or Mike Wallace gets off this season. Both players have burnt the Raiders at times.
The defense needs to bend and not bold. Find ways to make plays and get off the field. You know the stereotypical things defenses do. That gives Manuel and the offense a chance to win the game.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure why the Raiders and Redskins were in prime time. I didn’t think it would be a competitive game other than it pitting the Racists versus the Renegades (I’m talking team images of course).
Either way, the country watched as our Silver and Black got smoked mostly due to Derek Carr deflating our team’s offense from the get-go. A fact that Carr has even admitted.
Nonetheless, the Raiders must rebound versus a division opponent. Here is how the Raiders can beat Denver on the road.
Forget last week’s loss
All season long, I’ve talked about the Raiders building a championship winning attitude. Part of that attitude includes responding to the adversity that comes with a big loss. Not to get all football cliche, but Oakland needs to move on from last week’s loss. The worst thing they can do is have a hangover from the blowout loss last week.
Oakland’s receivers especially need to have a bounce back game. It is no secret that the Raiders receivers struggle with physical corners. Josh Norman proved that last week and the Denver Broncos proved that twice last year. Now, the Silver and Black get another physical test versus the best corners group in the league.
The great thing about playing receiver, it only takes one big play to re-gain your confidence. If Carr can connect with Cooper or Crabtree for a big gain, that could be the confidence booster to put this team back in rythme.
Otherwise, the offensive line had their worst game in a few seasons. The Raiders got exposed on national TV and they haven’t been all that great at tackle this year. Some of that falls on the team adapting to Donald Penn holding out. However, the offensive line will continue getting better as the season goes on, especially in the run game. Still, the line has to get it together since they’re facing Von Miller this week.
Khalil Mack’s breakout game
Don’t get me wrong, Khalil Mack has done his thing this season. He’s impacted games even if his stats aren’t stuffed.
Nonetheless, the Raiders defensive line is incredibly mediocre. They’ll rely on Mack to take over the game versus former Raiders tackle Menelik Watson. Expect the reigning defensive player of the year to get a couple of sacks and a turnover. Hopefully, Mack’s presense trickles to the rest of the defensive line. Oakland desperately needs a Bruce Irvin sighting. Ideally, one of the defensive tackles should break out if our Edge players can make some plays too.
Stick to the formula
I’ve already touched on this, but it is that important. The Raiders do not need to change their gameplan. It is simple. Take some shots to get a lead. Run the ball to kill the clock. Give your defense a lead so they can take some chances and get some turnovers. That plan should not change after a fat L last week.
Ultimately, we will learn a lot about our Raiders this week. It is our first AFC West opponent and the Broncos are playing better than people expected. This physical divisional game should let us know if the Raiders are a real contender. Can they beat a tough opponent that their familiar with on the road?
Moreover, how will the Raiders answer after a big loss. This team is more experienced and has more swagger than they have in almost a decade. Will that be lost after one big loss? The answer better be no. The Silver and Black must stay swaggy and confident if they want to beat Denver and continue on their Super Bowl quest.
As someone who has written a lot of sports headlines, I usually reserve scraps for the worst of the beatings. The Raiders have a good chance at applying that sort of beating on the Jets today. New York is clearly tanking and rebuilding while the Raiders have Super Bowl aspirations. Still, Oakland has to take care of business. How can the Silver and Black give their home crowd a victory?
Can you name a Jets offensive lineman? Exactly.
The Raiders defensive line looked good against a great Titans offensive line. This young group did a good job of holding the line of scrimmage and getting off the ball.
However, they need to finish on the quarterback this week. The Jets have the offensive line and quarterback that should give Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack a chance at multiple sacks. I’d love to see one of the defensive tackles cement themselves as the starter. The Raiders kept a steady rotation last week but that should tight up as the season moves along.
Eddie Vanderdoes looked good but he still has a lot to work on in terms of his pad level, hands and play recognition. Jelly Bean Ellis also played well. It looks like he’s finally in shape. Mario Edwards Jr. seemed like he’s fully recovered from last year’s injury. Either way, the starting DTs will be critical moving forward. Hopefully, they can get some pressure,
Protect Derek Carr
For all the things that the Jets lack, they don’t lack a strong defensive line. Between Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams, the Raiders offensive line faces a great test in run and pass assignments.
Last week, the Raiders offensive line played really well in the run game. They held double teams well and got up to backer which helped out Marshawn Lynch a lot.
Still, Oakland had a few lapses in pass protection. Overall, they played well in blitz pickup but there were some stunts that caught the Raiders slipping.
This week, I expect New York to revisit some of this stunt and twists. The Jets use a 3-4 defense like the Titans so New York will also try to create some confusing blitzes. Additionally, the Jets should use their safeties in run support as well as blitzes. Oakland can’t let these safety looks confuse them. They’ve got to protect the QB no matter where the blitzes come from.
Again, the Raiders Xs and Os aren’t going to change much from week to week. Nonetheless, the Raiders need to enter this game the same way as if the Jets were relevant. It’s the home opener and Oakland deserves to see an ass whooping considering the team will leave in plus or minus three years.
Hence, Oakland can’t come out slow or soft cause the Jets are sorry. This is the type of game that can help the Silver and Black build momentum. It is the type of game that will haunt them in playoff positioning if they are upset. This is the biggest favorite the Raiders have had in a long time. It’s up to them to have that winning mentality that exceeds those high expectations.
For months, I’ve circled this as a trap game on the Raiders schedule. The Titans are trending in the same direction that the Raiders were a year ago. Tennessee is a young team on the rise and their looking for a statement win early. Meanwhile, the Raiders have a ton of pressure on them from an offseason filled with hype.
As a matter of fact, I actually picked against my favorite team. It should come as a surprise given that Oakland barely beat the TItans in 2015 and 2016. Not to mention, the Raiders still have the same questions, at all levels of their defense, as they did in each of those seasons. Obi Melifonwu was expected to help with some of the liability in the secondary but he is headed to IR. Gareon Conley could make his debut but it is unclear how effective he will be after missing most of the offseason.
All that pessimism aside, let’s see how Raider Nation can come home with a win. Here are the Raiders keys to a victory in Tennessee.
Defensive Tackle Play
Once again, the Raiders defense will be determined by their inside interior linemen. Especially for this game, the Raiders DTs, NTs, and DEs will need to push the pocket to create pressure on Marcus Mariota. If they can do this, Mariota will be forced to the outside which will allow Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to finish the young stud QB. This also keeps the Raiders from having to blitz every play. Oakland will need extra help in coverage as the Titans employ Delanie Walker as one of the best TEs in the league. The Raiders are notoriously bad at covering the tight end so hopefully you have Walker in your DFS this week.
Otherwise, Mariota can step into the pocket and create himself running and passing lanes. Added time means the Raiders secondaries and corners could get beat by the likes of Corey Davis.
Moreover, the Raiders DTs will also be critical for protecting the inside backers. Derrick Henry and DeMarcco Murray might combine for the scariest backfield in the NFL. Their offensive line is just as scary and dominate as any other group in the league. Thus, the defensive line is in for a physical battle.
Depending who you ask, this defensive tackle group is either young or unproven. Between Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr. Denico Autry, Treyvon Hester, Jihad Ward, Jelly Ellis, Darius Latham and Eddie Vanderdoes it is unclear if any player is ready to dominate. It remains to be seen if any of those players will ever become consistent NFL starters. Either way, they have a big opportunity this week.
Pound the Football
Much of the talk is about Murray and Henry. However, the Raiders have their own slate of backs. We finally get to see Marshawn Lynch in full Beast Mode. Much of the offseason talked about him returning home. Raiders fans finally get to see their hometown hero full speed versus another team.
Added, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington should see some run too. They will be critical to spelling Lynch and keeping the defense on their toes. Both men are great pass catchers, they’re hard to tackle and they can take it to the endzone on any touch. Washington and Richard should keep Lynch fresh. We should see a heavy dose of both until one man runs away with the second RB job.
Ultimately, expect the Raiders to pound the football. Their offensive line and running backs are too good not to run the ball 60 percent of the time in this game. This will be critical to neutralizing the Titans plethora of zone blitzes and edge rushers.
Live up to the Moment
The Raiders are in a new position. Oakland is many people’s Super Bowl pick. They have a Pro Bowl quarterback and a bunch of skills players on people’s fantasy teams. The Silver and Black will have the entire mainstream watching them as they start a quest for a Lombardi Trophy with the cloud of relocation hanging over the great city of Oakland. Can the Raiders live up to the hype?
Oakland can not run from the big moments in this game or the rest of the season. Things will go wrong in this game but the Raiders have been their before. They must play like they are a Super Bowl contender from the opening kick off versus Tennessee. The Raiders need to set the tone by playing full speed even when adversity hits on the road versus the Titans.
I don’t expect this will be a problem for them. Oakland has Jack Del Rio at head coach and Derek Carr at QB. Players will run through walls for either of those great leaders. Not to mention, that duo has already lead some great comebacks over the past two seasons. Now, they must dominate games as the favorite. They got to beat the Titans like it is no competition.
The Raiders will always be underdogs, yes. Just last week CBS Sports ranked the Chargers over the Raiders. Either way, we embrace the underdog image as Raiders fans. However, this year the Silver and Black must learn to function in the spot light. This game against the playoff contending Titans is the first step in that process.
It’s Week Two of the Preseason and here are some Raiders Rants on this week’s stories.
These days, it seems like everyone gave their take on the latest NFL protests happening across the league. Hue Jackson discouraged his players from doing it. Raiders legend Tim Brown questioned why Marshawn Lynch is bringing this attention to himself. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said if it were him he would stand for the National Anthem.
Nonetheless, Marshawn Lynch sat during the National Anthem of the Raiders first preseason game. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for similar protests made by Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett.
In fact, Lynch himself downplayed it. He said it is something he has done over his entire career.
Either way, Lynch is from Oakland and he is playing there now. Oakland is historically one of the most socially conscious cities in the world. Thus, Lynch has every right to make whatever statement he wants.
As for old heads discouraging the behavior and encouraging players to stand for the national anthem… it is hard to blame them. These people came up during a different time than us. They lived in a time that was a lot less open to the human experience and less tolerant of different views. They stood in line and stayed in their lane so that this younger generation could say what they want on social media and continue to protest how we see fit.
Then again, who am I to say anything about how someone else might take offense to protestors or how old heads might see protestors. People of my shade aren’t getting brutally murdered… at least not at the same rate.
On a lighter note, Derek Carr released a hilarious teaser of a music video. It came with a full site and photo shoot of what looked to be some sort of album or EP.
Carr later said it was all a joke but the internet ran with it. Players and media entertained the tweet. Don’t be surprised if you see the Raiders QB in a meme very soon.
Either way, this is one of the reasons why Carr is the perfect face to the Raiders franchise. Besides being a great player, leader, husband and father, he does not take himself too seriously. He isn’t above trolling the internet with some well-done and harmless fun.
Hooray! Gareon Conley was not indicted on rape or sexual assault accusations. It was all smiles from GM Reggie McKenzie as he was asked about the news. His first round pick agreed to a contract with the team after the legal issue was resolved.
After the Raiders selected Conley in NFL Draft, I wrote a piece that said this entire situation should make Raiders fans uncomfortable. Of course, Conley was always innocent until proven guilty but this entire ordeal perpetuated the Raiders stereotype for drafting players with questionable character. Granted, this has changed over the past few years but that was the mainstream perspective.
On a deeper level, we can’t act like this did not happen either. At the very least, Conley is guilty of bad judgment. All accounts say that he is a great guy with great character but he allowed himself to be put in that situation. Hopefully, this is one small blemish on a perfect public persona. Conley should learn not to trust everyone or every situation. Otherwise, another mess up could completely destroy his public image.
At the end of the day, this is a very sensitive matter. Conley could easily be our brother, best friend or son. The same is said for the woman who accused him. She could be our daughter, bestie or sister. Either way, we wouldn’t want someone close to us to be on either side of the spectrum. Conley will lose the benefit of the doubt due to these false accusations. The woman will receive all types of threats and hate for these accusations.
Ultimately, this woman needs help if she made up these accusations. IF something did happen, even if the court dismissed any illegal mishappenings, she still needs help and support. Conley will need some help with his image but good football play will overcome these dismissed accusations. Just ask Ben Roethlisberger. And if Conley did get off on something than he may need help too.
Nonetheless, it is great that this ugly chapter is finally behind Conley, the Raiders and us. We can all stop talking about this and allow the two young people to continue their lives. Hopefully, they can both recovery from this situation.
Oakland concluded their first day of 2017 training camp with a press conference. Here are some notes from the first day.
Quarterback Derek Carr did not want to comment on his left tackle holding out of Training Camp. Carr said he did not want to comment on another man’s pockets. He also said he wanted to concentrate on the players who were in camp.
Ultimately, Penn is holding out of training camp one-year after signing a team-friendly two-year deal with the team in 2016. Penn has been one of the most reliable starters on the Raiders offense since he came here three years ago. At age 33, Penn is just trying to get a little more compensation for the beating his body takes during the year.
Either way, the Raiders have the cap space to get a new deal done. Penn protects the blindside of Carr so the Silver and Black need him. He is also a nasty mauler which makes him a perfect fit on the Raiders offensive line. This group is among the best in the league and they need to Penn to uphold that situation.
Austin Howard and Taiwan Jones
Penn wasn’t the only Raider missing from training camp. Taiwan Jones and Austin Howard were one of the more tenured Raiders on the roster before they were cut earlier this week.
Jones was one of the last draft picks of late owner Al Davis. Howard was a marquee free agent signing in 2014. Both players were good character guys and figures in the community.
Howard battled for the starting right tackle position the last two seasons and he was supposed to do that again. Rather, the Raiders decided they wanted to save a few million in cap space by cutting the 30-year-old tackle. The timing is weird considering Penn’s contract situation. Plus, Oakland will let David Sharpe and journeyman Marshall Newhouse battle for the right tackle position. Neither has as much starting experience as Howard.
Jones was a bay area native and one of the fastest players in NFL combine history. He switched from running back to corner and back to runner during his time in Oakland. Injuries and size prevented him from really using his speed as a runner or pass catcher on offense. Otherwise, he was a solid contributor on special teams. However, he had been phased out on that team by younger players too. Jones got cut a day after his birthday.
Ultimately, Raiders are always Raiders once they wear that Silver and Black. It is sad to see some fan favorites go but this added cap space should help the Raiders get Penn a new deal.
In the end, at least a new season is officially underway thanks to the start of the 2017 NFL Training Camp.
Forget the yards per attempt. Forget the happy feet in the pocket and the leg injury. Derek Carr is worth every penny and he hasn’t won the Raiders a championship or NFL MVP, yet. Carr and the Raiders seemed poised for both until Trent Cole sacked the Raiders QB and ended hopes for either.
But this 5-year, $125 million extension isn’t about Carr’s past. It isn’t about Carr being the Raiders most stable quarterback since Rich Gannon or the most promising prospect since Kenny Stabler. It isn’t about Carr’s comeback wins or low interception rates. It isn’t even about the viable comparisons to Aaron Rodgers.
This extension is about Carr’s future as the unquestioned face of the Raiders franchise. I know he will share that title with Khalil Mack for most of their careers, but Carr plays the position that touches the ball the most. He will be a Raider until 2022 which means he will lead the team to their relocation to Las Vegas.
Carr is already renowned for his community work as well as sharing his beautiful family on social media. Just look at all the respect he got from opposing players and coaches. Todd Gurley and Kyle Long both congratulated him. This is because the California native is the face of the modern Raiders era. He understands what it takes to be an NFL quarterback because he watched his brother flame out but he also understands what it means to be a Raider on the field and the community.
For Raiders fans, we’ve witnessed Andrew Walters, Aaron Brooks, Dante Culpepper, Jamarcus Russell and so many other QBs who were not worthy of the Silver and Black. On countless Sundays, we watched the most important position let us down. For decades, we cringed as QBs couldn’t keep us in games or bring us back. Therefore, you can’t put a price on the intangibles that Derek Carr brings.
Many people have called this one of the best days in Raiders history. Many have broken down the contract and found that it is a fair deal for many. In fact, Carr might not even be the highest paid player for much longer if Kirk Cousins cashes out.
Either way, Carr is worth every penny. You can dive into the stats like everyone else. However, every Raiders fan can tell you he is worth it. You can’t put a price on feeling like your team has a chance against anyone. You can’t put a pricetag on knowing that your team is never really out of a game. This is the effect that Carr has on the Raiders and it is a wonder that he fell into the second-round.
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie understands how lucky he was that Carr turned out alright on and off the field. Like Raiders fans, he does not take that for granted. He locked up Carr and now it is time for the Raiders QB to deliver on his side of the bargain with an NFL MVP and Super Bowl.
Nonetheless, props to McKenzie and Carr for getting the deal done before we all sweated about it into the season. This is how contract negotiations should go on both sides. Teams should play their players and good players should want to stay with great franchises. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Carr has been a textbook franchise quarterback since he landed in Oakland.
God Bless DC and the Raiders. Just Spend Baby!
On June 15, the Warriors will parade their newest NBA Championship for their fans in the Bay. While they sport the name Golden State and rock the Golden Gate bridge, the Warriors play in Oracle which is in Oakland. Let’s not forget that.
Still, Oakland is about to lose the Warriors and the Raiders in a span of a few years. The Warriors are headed to San Francisco while the Raiders are headed to Las Vegas. Considering Oakland has a history as a strong sports town and a hub for social movements, this city deserves as many championships as possible.
Already, the Oakland Raiders are talking about being inspired by their neighbors dominating season. Now, it is time for the Silver and Black to deliver a title.
Over the past few seasons, Raider Nation has supported the Raiders threw quarterbacks like Jamarcus Russell and Aaron Brooks as well as head coaches like Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable. Despite the poor football product, Raiders fans showed up.
The same applies for Warriors fans. They supported the teams through the Monta Ellis and Adonal Foyle eras. Now, they get a team that projects to dominate over the next few seasons. Golden State can continue winning championships before the franchise moves across the Bay.
As for the Raiders, they are also young enough to contend over the next few seasons. Thus, the Silver and Black need to bring a championship to Oakland before they bounce for Vegas.
Oakland is a blue-collar town that is reflected in the culture and colors of the Raiders. No matter where the team plays, they will always embody a piece of Oakland. Hence, the Raiders need to bring another Super Bowl trophy to the Bay. The Raiders must double-down on the Warriors’ championships.
Who knows, maybe the Raiders can win two Super Bowls in three years like the Warriors did? Or maybe they can win three in a row. Either way, one Super Bowl would be great for the city that has supported its sports teams through thick and thin.