When offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was hired this season, he brought with him a zone blocking rushing scheme. Through the first two games, the Raiders have struggled to move the ball on the ground. However, Knapp feels patience is needed to let the players and scheme develop.
“Let’s keep things in perspective for a second, here,” Knapp said. “We’ve played two games in the regular season on offense. We’ve had two different centers and a right tackle that played half a game last week. We need some patience. You can’t develop a scheme in two weeks in a regular season. Especially when last week we faced the number three rush defense from 2011, and the week before, they held the number two rush offense in the league to 2.4 yards per carry in the Houston Texans. That was a good team we faced last week. The scheme will be fine, it just takes some time.”
Against the Miami Dolphins the Raiders only mustered 23 yards rushing on 14 attempts. The previous week against the San Diego Chargers, Oakland rushed 20 times for 45 yards. Explosive running back Darren McFadden has 54 rushing yards in two games this season. This Sunday the Raiders will face another very difficult defense to run against in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“It’s like we tell the players – we want success right away, but we have to also understand that it takes a little time to develop,” Knapp said. “I feel very confident that we’ll be fine. I say that because we had some success in the preseason running the ball effectively. We had success in the first half of the San Diego game running the ball. We just didn’t last week. I even mentioned last week to you guys, going into the game, that this was a good run defense. I didn’t say this part, but our best chance to win last week, I thought, was to throw the ball. Each week is going to be a week-to-week comparison. I won’t say it to you this week on what we think is best to win, that’s part of the strategy.”
Knapp boasts an impressive resume when it comes to the effect the zone blocking scheme has on the team’s rushing offense. When he was with the Falcons from 2004-2006, they had the number one run rushing rank in the league, averaging near 170 yards per game. Running back Warrick Dunn rushed for 1,106, 1,416, and 1,140 in his three years with Knapp running the zone blocking scheme. With the Raiders in 2007, Knapp instituted the zone scheme and Justin Fargas ran for his only career thousand yard season, finishing the year with 1,009 yards rushing. In Seattle, Justin Forsett averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 114 rushing attempts. Finally in Houston, Arian Foster led the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards in 2010 under Knapp's zone blocking scheme. In 2011, Foster followed with 1,224 yards.
“At four different places, Atlanta, here, Seattle, and then in Houston it was already in play; there was a different running back, five different linemen, and a different coach,” Knapp said. “It depends on that group of players. We’re a little bit younger right now on the O-line than I have been at other places, so it takes a little bit longer for them to learn the nuances. A lot of the experience goes on Sundays, so much on game days. When you think about it, we’ve faced one defense for the last six months, our own. Now we’re playing different teams. So you’re going to have some learning parts that go through game experience to help develop the offense.”
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