The football gods are sadistic. After slowly climbing out of the depths of obscurity, the Raiders finally are contenders. Not only that but the football gods have to tease us with the possibility of a super bowl run before throwing a wrench into the machine with a cruel twist of fate. Penn’s first sack allowed all season was the one that Derek Carr broke his fibula on.
Things look bleak but alas there is hope. The defense has been playing better, held the explosive Colts offense to 14 points before Carr’s injury, and looks to continue their upward trend. The main concern right now is how the offense will perform without Carr at the helm. The organization seems to genuinely have a lot of confidence in Matt Mcgloin and fortunately, the burden won’t be completely on his shoulders. The run game has stepped up late in the season and the offensive line is getting in sync. They aren’t only adding new schemes into the mix, they are making adjustments, correcting each other mistakes, but most importantly they are working together as a unit.
The Raider run game have been good all season, but with all of the talent on the line they were underachieving. The only offensive line that could rival the Raiders individual talents are the Dallas Cowboys, yet the Raiders spent the middle season outside of the top five in rushing. They would hit big plays, but could not consistently get efficient runs. On any given run play, two or three players would dominate but someone would miss a block which would lead to no gain or negative yardage. The Raiders seem to be getting in sync though, averaging 157 yards per game in the last four games.
The big gains on the ground are now coming in bunches and a large part of that has to do with how comfortable the offensive line is becoming with the scheme and each other. When they could play fast without thinking, there is no stopping this line.
The Raiders have not had much of an outside run game to compliment their punishing inside zone game, but against the Colts, they ran the sweep to perfection. In the second quarter, they ran they play three times in a row, each time with different adjustments, to get into scoring position.
The first time the Raiders ran the play, Carr saw the front and checked into the play. Mcgloin has a reputation as a tireless worker and student of the game, so hopefully he would be cognizant enough to make the same types of checks. The sweep play involves the center and guard pulling outside and getting to second level, while the rest of the line would pin or reach depending on the defensive alignment.
The sweep is to the left. Left tackle, Donald Penn, is supposed to reach the defensive end for the pullers and running backs to get outside of him, but he sees that the end is lined up to wide for a reach, so instead he wisely kicks him out to create a gapping hole. The pulling center, Rodney Hudson, sees this and goes into the hole Penn created and instead of going outside. Osemele who is supposed to pin the defensive tackle misses his block (a rare occurrence) but the pulling guard, Gabe Jackson gives him an assist by over taking his block instead of getting to the second level. The hole created is so big that even though Jackson didn’t get to the backside linebacker, running back, Jalen Richard, is able to squirt through for a nice gain.
On the next play, the Colts are in the same look, so Carr figures to check into the play again.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Osemele thanked Jackson for the assist on the last play, but told him, “Now, I got this!” because instead of pulling around, Jackson takes a downfield cutoff angle to block the backside linebacker. Osemele makes his block, Jackson gets to the second level, and Watson is able to make a difficult block on the backside to spring Richard for another nice gain.
For the third play in the row, the Raiders would run a sweep this time they run it to the right to the strong side (tight end side).
Tight end, Clive Walford, who is making big strides in the run game, makes an excellent reach block on the defensive end. Jackson gets outside of him and to the second level, while Hudson takes the cut off angle to the backside linebacker. The key block is Osemele on the one technique defensive tackle. This is extremely difficult because the Tackle is lined up closer to the play side than Osemele is, but he is not only able to get in front of the tackle, he is able to turn him into the opposite direction, which creates yet another clean lane for Richard to run through.
Angle Opposite with Backside Fold
As I talked about before, the Raiders bread and butter run play is the angle opposite play. Against the Colts, coach Musgrave added a fold to the play that garnered some big results
The Raiders lined up with a tight end, extra offensive lineman (Jon Feliciano), and wide receiver (Andre Holmes) all next to the line, to the left of the screen. The adjustment is that Feliciano would kick out the end, while Holmes would fold inside of him and act like a lead block right into the hole. The offensive line all step to the right of the screen, which influences the linebackers to that way, leaving a gap to the left. The only defender there is the safety (32), who Holmes lays a devastating block on, to spring Washington for a wide open touchdown.
Little adjustments and creativity like this are going to be key down the stretch, as Mcgloin and the offense are surely going to see extra defenders in the box.
Last week, I talked about how the Raiders are running more of the “power” concept which makes a lot of sense because the Raiders have maulers upfront. They continued to run power with success this week, which is a good sign moving forwards.
One thing to note is that not only is the line getting in sync with the run game, the tight ends and wide receivers are as well. On the play side of the play, Walford, Roberts, and Crabtree all make key blocks on the frontside.
It’s one thing to run a lot of concepts, but quite another to run them all well. The Raiders are running multiple concepts well and that shows in their consistency and how they are able to work in sync to make adjustments on the fly. This will a hard running game for defenses to prepare for and it will certainly be Mcgloin’s best friend against Denver and going into the playoffs.
With that said, I will leave you with a couple of GIFs from Gipsy Safety that highlight Richard and Washington’s playmaking ability. The Raiders will need to see more of this in week 17 and in the playoffs.