Originally posted on Thoughts from the Dark Side  |  Last updated 9/12/13
The Raiders put up a great fight versus the Jacksonville Jaguars and the offense looked light years ahead of last year’s poorly run unit. The defense also did better than expected against Andrew Luck and a Colts offense that looks like it can score some points when it’s in sync. This week may be the only time this season that the Raiders are favored but the game comes against a Jacksonville team that is reeling after a 28-2 drubbing at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. It is also the Raiders home opener. Here are some strategies the Raiders will use to bring their season to .500 two games into the season: Offense: 1. Play to Pryor’s strengths: In his second start, Pryor showed a lot of positive improvement. One area where he greatly struggled was on deep “go” or 9 routes. There were several throws where he was very inaccurate, throwing to the wrong side of the receiver, which led to incompletions and interceptions. Instead of go routes, Greg Olson would be wise to use Pryor’s tendencies to roll out to his advantage. I’d like to see him call more crossing or “dig” routes. Because so many of Pryor’s roll-outs are not by design but by pressure, it would be good to see an approach that gives Pryor crossing options on both side of the field at different levels. If pressure flushes him either direction, he can have options towards the perimeter of the field. An example of this is the play below, which gives Pryor options at different areas over the field depending on the defense’s response:   2. Assign protection schemes around the biggest threats: DT Sen’Derrick Marks and DE Jason Babin were the only two defensive linemen that posed a threat with Marks the more serious threat of the two. The Raiders will likely double Marks on most plays with Wisniewski and one of the guards getting on Marks almost every snap. The Jags’ poor pass rush will give Pryor more time to focus on his making his way through his progressions so that he can get his receivers more involved in the game. Babin is no more than an above average pass-rusher at this point in his career so he likely doesn’t need to be doubled. The Raiders can assign a RB or FB to lineup on Babin’s side and have that back run as an outlet receiver into the flat, but chip block Babin on his way. That slight chip should be enough to buy Pryor time to throw before Babin can get around him on the edge.   3. Utilize the tight ends and fullbacks: Marcel Reece was only targeted twice last week in the passing game, which is not enough. Olson should make sure he features more in the passing game. Mychal Rivera and Jeron Mastrud had some key receptions last week and earned additional reps, as well. The Jags simply don’t have the personnel to match up against some of the weapons the Raiders have at TE and FB and it’s a mismatch just waiting to be exploited. Last week, Pryor was getting pressure on most snaps but the Jags figure to be less adept at rushing the passer than the Colts and with more time, Pryor should be able to improve as a passer.   Defense: 1. Use interior pressure to harass Henne: The Jacksonville offensive line was terrible last week versus the Chiefs. Blaine Gabbert, a former top-ten pick who as struggled significantly as a pro, was sacked a whopping 6 times in the game and was hit a number of other times. Most of the hits didn’t come from defensive ends but instead came from very shoddy blocking on the inside of the offensive line. Last week, DT Vance Walker did well with penetration on the interior line and, while Pat Sims didn’t impress versus the Colts, he did show a lot of ability to penetrate against the Seahawks in the 4th preseason game. If the two DTs can have a solid game at the same time, their pressure alone can help shut down QB Chad Henne, who gets the start this week while Gabbert is out with a hand laceration. Henne shows a tendency to throw off his back foot when he has pressure in front of him. When he does that, his passes are wildly off target and sail above their intended target. If the Raiders can get enough pressure up the gut and get Henne breaking into bad habits again this week, they can come up with their first interception of the season.   2. Stop Maurice Jones-Drew: The Raiders have been hurt by MJD before and he remains the most potent offensive weapon on the Jags team. The Chiefs were able to hold him to only 45 yards on his 15 carries last week, a 3 yard per carry average. If the Raiders can match that feet, it will bode well for their chances to win the game. The Raiders are likely to play a lot more single high safety versus the Jags than they did versus the Colts. The Raiders aren’t going to be as frightened by the Jags deep offense as they were by Andrew Luck and they know that MJD must be shut down. Assuming he’s healthy enough to go, I’d expect to see Tyvon Branch in or near the box on many plays. He’ll be a blitzer on some plays but also another body to help clog running lanes so that Jones-Drew is kept under control. In essence, the Raiders will make Chad Henne beat them with his arm. I like those odds.   3. Get your hands up: Henne throws surprisingly low for a 6’3” man and if the defensive line isn’t able to get to him before he winds up to throw, they should get their hands up for their best JJ Watt impression and try to bat down Henne’s passes. Last week in only 6 pass attempts, Henne had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage for an incomplete pass. Especially with the interior lines’ issues, the defensive tackles and ends can get some penetration and wreak some havoc even when they can’t get to the QB.
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