Six lessons from the trenches moving to the Titans: Raiders versus Cardinals film breakdown

The Raiders loss to the Cardinals was even harder to relive in film on the all-22. We all know the game told a story of two teams. Vegas dominated the first half before the Cardinals willed their way to a comeback win.

However, there wasn’t too much difference in how the lines played in the first or second half. The defensive line looked out of gas and the offensive line looked even more out of rhythm in the second. Both showed cracks even with the team putting up a big lead in the first quarter.

The defensive line showed up in the box score by holding the Cardinals to 3-of-13 on third down attempts. They contributed with a sack and pressures. The Raiders defense walked away with one interception but should have had more.

That was all negated by the Cardinals converting two different two-point conversions. Arizona was also successful on 3-of-5 fourth downs.

Offensively, Josh Jacobs found seems and lanes to cut back but he did not get much push from the offensive line. Jacobs ran his hardest but still only registered 69 yards on 19 carries.

Quarterback Derek Carr was only sacked once, an improvement over Week One. However, Carr deserves some credit for getting the ball out quicker. It still felt like he forced the ball but at least he helped his line by getting the ball out a quicker, particularly in the first half when the offense was scoring. Here’s what else we learned from the tape.

What’s up with Chandler Jones?

Time to address the $51 million dollar question in the room. Chandler Jones, age 32, played 90% of the Raiders defensive snaps but came up with zero sacks through two weeks. Players like Jerry Hughes, Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, and Von Miller are all over the age of 30 with more than two sacks.

Watching the tape, Jones finds his way to the ball and into the play. Yet, he hasn’t shown the same consistent explosion rushing the passer or setting the edge. Jones is still a solid player. He won some reps but Jones has not shown the same elite abilities many hoped he would bring opposite Maxx Crosby. It’s hard to tell if it’s just rust bouncing back from last year’s injuries or if father time has caught up to him.

Jones was limited in practice this week due to rest. Hopefully, he can get his legs under him and show the consistent disruption the Raiders need. There’s too much pressure on Crosby as the team’s only respectable pass rusher.

Last year, Jones registered five sacks versus the Titans in Week One with the Cardinals. This time, Tennessee is expected to be without three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan went down with a knee injury versus the Bills. Let’s see if Jones and company can take advantage of their matchups.

More on Maxx Crosby

It’s hard to fault Maxx Crosby for much because he’s the team’s only consistent pass rusher. Keeping contain was a bigger priority versus Kyler Murray anyways.

Crosby did break into the box score with a sack and he continued to bring the heat via QB hurries and pressures. However, he could’ve walked away with at least a couple more sacks if he got his pads down and played with a little more control. Of course, tackling Murray is easier said than done. Plus, Crosby’s fire might make him whiff a few times but it also keeps him impacting plays.

Crosby found ways to consistently keep the right tackle on his heels with a barrage of power moves and lower techniques. Arizona had no answer for Crosby in pass rush situations. Thus, the great third down performance by this defense.

The Cardinals had no problem running right at Crosby. He also got beat on the option and almost got killed on a couple of read fakes.It’s not all on Crosby and the plays he made makes up for the plays he does not. He needs help.

Yet, for all the fire that Crosby brings, the Raiders need it on the big downs. They also need him to show a little more discipline in the run game, especially with more mobile QBs in the Raiders’ forecast. That’s how Crosby takes the next step as one of the greatest edge players in the league.

Where’s the defensive tackles?

We all saw the TikToks and Reels showing the Raiders tackles outran by Kyler Murray. They say the average play is about eight seconds but that infamous Murray run was twice as long. I don’t fault the group for that play. That was the wrong package for that moment in the game, even if they were prepping to stop an inside run.

The Raiders defensive line as a whole did solid at keeping Murray contained in the first half. They could have had a similar result if their offense converted some long drives or their secondary held onto an interception. Instead, they looked out of gas and got picked apart by Murray.

Arizona got away from the run game due to the big lead. However, the Raiders run defense was nothing to brag about. Upfront, the Raiders created a lot of seems and cutback lanes not playing discipline. They also missed some tackles and looked tired coming off the ball.

Johnathan Hankins and Andrew Billings were stout again but neither brings much as a pass rusher. Billings gets off the ball but his motor and athleticism is limited. It’s hard to keep Billings out there on pass downs but Hankins brings even less as a pass rusher.

Most of the big gains in the run were to the outside or due to missed tackles. Bilal Nichols looked solid in moments again. Him, Kendal Vickers and Clelin Ferrell can look disruptive one play and pedestrian the next. Vegas really needs someone to step up from the interior. They need constant disruption from the interior, other than Billings.

Vegas is not always going to be able to pick the best package versus the run and pass. They need the four best motors on the field in those big games.

James was missed

The Raiders offensive line struggled for the second straight week. They were down starting center Andre James. Unsurprisingly, the group struggled getting up to the second level and in blitz pickup.

The Left Side improved

They did a better job getting a body on body, specifically on the left side. Kolton Miller had a bounce back game, shaking off last week’s poor performance. He looked much more in control, using his feet and punch versus a group of pass rushers that weren’t as talented as the Chargers’ dynamic duo.

John Simpson got off the ball, got down field on screens and did better using his feet in pass pro. Simpson still got caught off balance and high a few times. He stopped his hands and his feet a few times in the run and pass. It was a better game for him but we still need more strength and power from him in the run game, both at the line of scrimmage and second-level.

Another rough outing for the collective

Rookie Dylan Parham struggled starting at center. His lack in size and anchor showed as bigger nose tackles pushed him around. Parham’s athleticism allowed him to get in front of people and he did his best to maneuver penetrating defenders. He did not do great getting push on double-teams. In fairness, he looked better at guard last week. Parham is learning trial by fire. It’s all about his response moving forward.

Tackles Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford continued to show their limitations. Munford is still really raw, evident by his three penalties. Eluemunor gave up two sacks. He is limited by length, size and strength. If you have two tackles splitting time, it’s cause you lack a good one.

Arizona relied on blitzes for pressure and the Raiders did a better job identifying those even if they didn’t win their individual assignments. This could have been a much worse performance if Arizona’s defensive line was better. The Cardinals lack an elite edge rusher. It could have been much worse.

Help is on the way?

That’s why they traded a sixth round pick for tackle Justin Herron and a seventh round pick. Herron started a few games with Josh McDaniels as the offensive coordinator. There’s hope he will compete for the starting right tackle spot or slide into the slide tackle role. Herron can’t be any worse than what the Raiders had the past few weeks.

Moving forward to the Titans

I wouldn’t rule Eluemunor out at right guard if Herron slides into the ride tackle role. Eluemunor won’t have to worry about as much speed at guard. It can work but he will have to worry about leverage versus more power players. He will bring more size inside to the Raiders offensive line if Parham keeps playing center. Lester Cotton Sr. is solid in pass protection but he does not give them much push in the run game.

If the Raiders get Andre James back, that will be a big boost for the Raiders offensive line. They will need him versus Jeffrey Simmons, one of the best nose tackles in the league. Simmons can also rush the passer.

All three Raiders running backs ran hard and effectively, despite uninspired blocking. Hopefully, the Raiders can establish the run versus the Titans. That starts with keeping Simmons on the other side of the line of scrimmage. The Raiders have struggled getting push and Simmons is fast off the ball and plays with strong hands.

Titans edge Bud Dupree isn’t the same elite player from a few years ago with the Steelers. He might not even play due to a hip injury. However, Dupree can still rush the passer and he has the speed and length to the give the Raiders right tackles problems.

What we learned from the trenches in Week One

Under 100 yards rushing and six sacks will not cut it for the Raiders.

The offensive line and defensive line played better than the box score indicated. It doesnt take all-22 to see a lot of the sacks were due to the quarterback holding the ball. The offense was able to convert some big plays.

The d-line was effective enough to force four punts and a failed fourth down. Los Angeles was under 50% on third down conversations. They impacted Chargers QB Justin Herbert more than the zero sacks indicate. Here’s what else we learned from the trenches in Week One.

The offensive line was beat from the jump

Los Angeles came out with much more swagger. Vegas was cheating in their stances before the snap on pass plays. Kahlil Mack’s leverage and strength was a problem from the jump. Joey Bosa’s length and hands also put fear in the Raiders tackles.

Kolton Miller didn’t regress

Miller finished with his worst PFF grade in years. He took a big shot in the back in the first that probably hurt him. His feet looked better than initially thought. Miller did well in blitz pickup. He got thrown to the ground and beat a few times because he stopped his hands or his feet. His poor outing was more of an indication of the entire group.

Guard play was not good

The guards didn’t get push on their double teams and struggled in blitz pickup. That is why this team did not run the ball effectively. Poor guard play also did the tackles no favors in pass pro.

John Simpson got caught leaning. Dylan Parham brought some extra juice when he came in. His speed was as advertised but he also got caught stopping his feet. Cotton Lester wasn’t much better. None were consistent with their pulling efforts. The Chargers tackles seemed unphased most of the day.

Andre James continues growimg

James looked more comfortable in blitz pickup and presnap. He made a few key blocks that helped spring Josh Jacobs. The second-year starter had a noticible spark off the ball. James used his hands and head placement well. A noticeable performance despite the chaos from the rest of his colleagues.

Right tackles are who we thought they were

Jermaine Eluemunor is a solid or adequate tackle but he is honestly better at guard. He doesn’t have the length or strength to really matchup with elite edges every play. Mack and Bosa both gave him problems. Eluemunor took his lumps but he kept fighting. That’s more competitive toughness than some other recent Raiders tackles.

Thayer Munford came in. He showed his youth jumping offsides. Munford got beat but he did show some potential. He has the length and feet to play tackle. It’s still unclear if he can develop fast enough to do it everyday this year. Punch timing was a little off and he gave up a little too much ground. He can fix that with some reps.

D-Line solid but not great

Andrew Billings continued to be a problem. His hands and anchor showed up in the run defense.

Maxx Crosby was also a problem. He did a lot to pressure and hurry Herbert.

Chandler Jones was solid. Both ends missed some tackles. Nobody got home.

They are paying Jones and Crosby a lot of money to sack the quarterback and create turnovers. Both stars failed to return that investment versus the Chargers. That can’t continue much more.

Still, the d-line did enough to keep the team in the game. Unfortunately, they just did not do enough to win the game. The group overall lacked cohession and consistent aggression needed to control the line.

Bilal Nichols made a couple plays. Clelin Ferrell showed a little resurgent energy getting off the rock. Johnathan Hankins was stout. They just needed more versus Justin Herbert’s combination of pocket presence and mobility.

What worries me is their conditioning. They used a deep rotation and guys still looked they were low on gas. Some added pressure from the inside could also help the ends finally get home.

It also worries me seeing the ends get too far upfield. They have Kyler Murray this week and four games versus Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Those issues got to get fixed or this d-line is in for some tough outs.

Don’t like Ferrell as a standup end

He looked better with his hand in the ground. The blitzes were effective and disguised well. Ferrell did not look comfortable in coverage either. It would be great to see him in the defensive tackle rotation. Perhaps he can create some pressure to help out Crosby and Jones. Ferrell just has to prove he can handle those double teams in the run.

All up from here

Ultimately, the Raiders showed good and bad upfront in Week One. The good news is they have 17 weeks to get better. The bad news is they have a lot to improve on.

Well these groups appear deeper than years past, they could still use some help. Another week in the yellow or red could mean some changes upfront.

Hence, why you saw guard Kelechi Osemele brought in for a visit and why they added center Billie Price to the practice squad. on defense, they’ve been connected to defensive Ndamukong Suh.

Hopefully, the trench play gets better this week at home versus the Arizona Cardinals. The no-preseason rust and excuses should be gone. Nobody wants to start the season 0-2. We could see some big changes on both sides of the trenches if there is not improvement versus the Cardinals.

Raiders Vs. Patriots: Josh McDaniels Scouting Report

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.  

Background

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.

Strengths

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.

Weaknesses

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.

2016 Minicamp Quick Updates

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.

Jihad Ward

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.

Max McCaffery

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.

Connor Cook

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.

Jaydon Mickens

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.

Shilique Calhoun

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.

James Cowser

Cowser is a little older for a rookie at 25-years-old. However, he made an impression with his passion, leadership and noticeable hair.

Darius Latham

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.

 

 

 

 

Combine notebook Raider Nation Edition

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.