Raiders vs. Dolphins: Sketching out a Game Plan for Oakland

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystSeptember 14, 2012

Tyvon Branch should be a bigger factor on defense because the Dolphins don't have a tight end like Antonio Gates.
Tyvon Branch should be a bigger factor on defense because the Dolphins don't have a tight end like Antonio Gates.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders will fly approximately 3000 miles to Miami to take on the Dolphins on Sunday, less than six days after they played in the final game of Week 1. The two teams are 0-1 and both teams are desperate for their first win.

It was in Miami last year where the wheels fell off the Raiders’ season. Rolando McClain was arrested just days before the game and the Raiders came out flat and were dominated by the Dolphins.

Oakland is looking for a win and revenge from last year, and the plan of attack might look a little something like the Houston Texans’ attack from last week.

When the Raiders Are on Offense

Play No. 1

The Raiders struggled running the ball on Monday night, and Darren McFadden had just 32 yards on 15 attempts. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp brings with him a similar offense to the one Houston used against the Dolphins last Sunday.

Miami did a good job of limiting Arian Foster, who had two touchdowns and 79 yards rushing on 26 carries. Part of the reason the Dolphins were able to limit Foster was because they were playing from behind for much of the game. The Phins stacked the box knowing that the Texans were just going to grind down the clock.

Before that happened, the Texans hit on a few nice runs, including Foster’s first touchdown.

It’s 1st-and-10 from the 19-yard line, and the Texans are going to run a stretch play to the right.

The left tackle will let the defensive end get a free release and will go block a linebacker. The left guard is trying to hold position while the rest of the line is blocking to the right.

Notice the defensive end crashes hard on the run. This opens up the roll-out pass play to the left, which can be run from the same formation.

Notice the center, he’s helping the right guard and Foster is already reading the play. Foster can follow his fullback or cutback up the middle and, considering how condensed the right side is, he already knows what he is going to do.

Foster waits patiently for his center to get the block on the linebacker and with his next step will plant and burst through the hole.

On a play designed to look the same, but be a pass play, the tight end could fake the block and run to the center of the field. The defensive end committed to the run, so Matt Schaub could have used play action, rolled out to his left and found the tight end wide open running across the field.  This is a run play, so the tight end will block and Schaub will just act.

Foster uses his burst to get through the hole and, because he was patient, every player that could make a play is blocked except the deep safety.

Foster will hurdle the safety and get in for the touchdown.

The defense can’t over-commit or the Raiders will use this same run play to set up the roll-out pass. If the Dolphins stay in their gaps, Oakland should have running lanes to the outside or a cutback opportunity.

The key to this working was the play of the offensive line. The left guard, right guard and right tackle sustained their blocks while the left tackle picked off a linebacker. The center did a great job of getting to the second level. The Raiders aren’t sure if Alex Parsons or Stefen Wisniewski will start at center, but whichever one starts needs to be able to execute on play like this one.

Play No. 2

The Raiders had some trouble getting the passing game going on Monday night. Carson Palmer dumped off to McFadden a lot, but the Raiders did not got much going deep. Oakland also didn’t get the tight ends involved until late in the game and Marcel Reece didn’t get involved at all.

This is a play the Raiders could use to get Reece involved in the passing game. The tight end will run a 10-yard out and the fullback will cut underneath of the tight end.

This play is against two deep safeties, a look the Raiders faced a lot on Monday night and never solved.

In this case, James Casey gets the linebacker thinking he is going into the flat and cuts back to the middle of the field. The same play would be even more effective with Reece because of his speed.

Schaub sees Casey with a lot of open space in front of him. It’s a simple, safe throw and nets 17 yards before the linebacker drags Casey down.

Using Reece in a similar capacity might net more yards, because the linebacker would not be able to drag the Raiders' versatile fullback down from behind. Reece would use his speed and the two deep safeties would have to come up and make the tackle.

Attacking this zone with Reece and the tight ends will open up things on the outside for the wide receivers and force the safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

When the Raiders Are on Defense

The Dolphins ran a lot of quick slants and other simple reads for quarterback Ryan Tannehill from short drops. The Texans adjusted by dropping linebackers into the short zones and telling the defensive linemen to get their hands up.

The result was several batted passes that turned into interceptions. The Raiders should get their hands up anytime Tannehill uses a short drop. Oakland’s defensive line is plenty tall enough to bat passes out of the air, as they average just a shade under 6’5” tall.

If the Dolphins give Tannehill deeper drops, it will be at the expense of easy reads and the short completions underneath, the Raiders simply need to follow the same game plan.

If the Dolphins shift to deeper drops, the Miami offensive line will have to keep Oakland from getting to Tannehill, which was a problem for them last Sunday. The Raiders' defensive line generated surprisingly little pass rush against the Chargers, but Tannehill is a rookie and is not even close to the same level as Philip Rivers.

Reggie Bush is the only dynamic player the Dolphins have on offense and the Texans had trouble limiting him early in the game. Bush averaged nearly five yards per carry and caught six passes.

Oakland’s defensive ends need to pinch down and force Bush to run between the tackles where the linebackers can bottle him up for short gains. To limit Bush getting open space in the passing game, the Raiders will have to use more zone coverage than they did against the Chargers.

Tyvon Branch had to shadow Antonio Gates against the Chargers, but he should be free to roam and make tackles against the Dolphins like he did for much of last year.


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