For the Oakland Raiders to win and make the playoffs in 2012, their offensive efficiency in the red zone needs to improve.
Last season, the Raiders ranked ninth in the league in total offense averaging 375.5 yards a game—among the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys for comparison. This means that the Raiders are doing a fine job of gaining yards and moving the ball down the field.
Conversely, when it comes to offensive points per game, the Raiders rank 16th in the league with 22.4 a game. This ranks in the neighborhood of the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears, who aren't exactly offensive juggernauts. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski also tied for fifth in the league in field goals made.
It becomes quite apparent what type of offensive plays the Raiders need to run in 2012—plays that finish drives and put touchdowns on the scoreboard as opposed to field goals.
The following are plays the Raiders should consider running in 2012 in an effort to punch the ball into the end zone and no longer settle for field goals.
During his time at Arkansas, running back Darren McFadden played in one of the greatest upsets in recent college football history, beating No. 1 ranked LSU in triple overtime in Baton Rouge. How did McFadden, along with speedster Felix Jones, beat then thought unbeatable LSU?
By having McFadden run the wildcat.
Now, I have long been a critic of the wildcat among my friends. I believe that it's a fad and no NFL team will ever see the success the college level has seen using a spread and wildcat option. The NFL is too fast and there isn't enough disparity in size and athleticism between the offensive and defensive side of the ball as there is in the college rank.
But I do understand the use of the gimmick offense every once in a while to keep the defense on their toes. I think of it the same way I think of the flea flicker and the eephus pitch in baseball—a way to steal a first down or strike.
McFadden and new backup Mike Goodson, provide two strong running options, and assuming McFadden can still throw the ball, safeties will still have to respect crossing tight ends.
Although it should only be used on a monthly basis, snapping the ball directly into the hands of one of the most electrifying players in the league (McFadden) should definitely be in the Raiders playbook for disposal.
And if it's in the playbook, when better to bust it out than in a goal line situation?
Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore are fast—actually, some of the fastest in their draft classes. Being able to send these speedsters down the sideline will be a weapon that Carson Palmer can audible to throughout the season.
But "go routes" are extremely ineffective for finishing off drives, and these days, cornerbacks are causing jump balls and back shoulder passes to be less effective. Therefore, new offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp is going to have to find creative ways to get the fastest skill players on the field more involved.
My proposition: out routes and slants, and for that matter all other routes Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh and the entire West Coast Offensive movement used.
The key with fast offensive receivers is one of two things: getting them a step ahead of their defender, or getting them in open space. Outs and slants are what playmakers thrive on and are partly why receivers the size of Moore and DeSean Jackson are effective.
A simple Palmer three-step drop will get the ball into these receivers hands with momentum going forward, and they will find avenues to get to pay dirt.
Let's get back to the bread and butter, though (especially for the red zone), and that is McFadden.
If you aren't going to go with the traditional hand-off, or the nontraditional wildcat, the Raiders must find another way to get the ball into McFadden's hands.
My suggestion: halfback screens. Placing a back like McFadden in open space with blockers in front is a recipe for success.
If the Raiders can consistently run screens, this will relieve pressure on Palmer and allow the offense to run more smoothly.
Whatever the play calls are, though, for the Raiders to make the playoffs in 2012, they need to generate touchdowns and stop proving Janikowski is one of the greatest kickers ever.