Tom Cable will bring the Oakland Raiders home for their first game of the 2010 NFL season at the Colosseum against the St. Louis Rams.
Raider Nation will be in full throat and regalia when the Raiders take the field on Sunday afternoon.
Following a tough loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Rams could provide some much needed confidence building. However, these are not the same old Rams, as evidenced by their strong showing in a tough loss against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.
The Rams are a team that finds itself in the midst of a rebuilding process.
A rookie quarterback, questionably talented offensive and defensive lines—a deficiency of talent at nearly every position except running back and safety for that matter.
The Rams could be the proverbial "Lambs to the slaughter," if you will.
With all that said, make no mistake, any NFL team can beat any other on any given Sunday. It would be wise to take the Rams seriously. If not, an upset could happen.
So, just like last week, I'll lay out where and how the Raiders should attack the Rams to give them the best shot at victory.
Beginning with the offense...
The Rams gave up 112 rushing yards to the pass-happy Cardinals. The Raiders earned 135 rushing yards against a very good Titans team.
This is a good omen for Raiders fans.
Darren McFadden looked much improved against the Titans and did a nice job. With Michael Bush listed as "questionable" for Sunday's game, McFadden may have to be the work-horse again.
Rams' defensive tackles Fred Robbins and Gary Gibson are not dominant by any means. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is talented, but young.
Most of the yards Tim Hightower rolled-up last week were right between the guards. McFadden showed last week that he's much better inside than anyone thought.
I see beating up the middle of that defensive front as a key to a good rushing day. The Raiders should go right at the Rams' front seven with isolation and power lead plays.
The key will be whether or not Marcel Reece chooses to actually use his shoulder pads. Reece has shown me nothing to suggest he will. He has to hit some one for the inside running game to work. Thus far, he hasn't.
If Robert Gallery's hamstring is healthy, if Reece shows that he can be physical, and Jared Veldheer can make the right pre-snap line calls, the Raiders can have a big day on the ground.
Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher are decent young cornerbacks that possess great size and physical talent, but they are far from elite.
The Rams' safeties, on the other hand, are more than talented—they're down-right good.
Oshiomogho Atogwe and Craig Dahl are ball hawks that can hit. Both are good in coverage and very solid tacklers. Jason Campbell must be aware of where they are on every down.
Deep seam routes by Zach Miller, Brandon Myers, or both, will keep the safeties in the middle of the field and allow the Raiders' wide receivers to work one-on-one outside the numbers on short and intermediate routes.
The safeties will have a choice to make: Let the tight end run free and give up a touchdown to them, or leave the corners on an island. This is good, because, last I heard, none of the Rams' cornerbacks have "Revis" or "Asomugha" on the back of their jersey.
Eventually, the mediocre Rams' cornerbacks will bite on the double-move, and the safeties will be in the deep middle with the tight ends.
Nick Miller deserves a chance to shine.
Both Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford can be explosive receivers when given the opportunity to get the ball in space. Miller has the better hands, but Ford may be just a bit faster.
One of the Rams' most glaring weaknesses is depth of personnel, especially in the secondary. Backup cornerbacks Kevin Dockery, Justin King, and Jerome Murphy are vulnerable and must be exploited.
Getting the ball to Miller or Ford on "swinging gate" screens and one-step-drop swing passes can be very effective. Miller and Ford are both excellent in the open field and can make people miss.
With the solid down field blocking shown by Heyward-Bey and Murphy, Ford or Miller could even take one or two of these "instant" plays the distance.
This type of play will also go a long way to slowing down the pass rush, relieving the pressure from the offensive line, and provide Jason Campbell with some much needed confidence.
This is where I think having a fullback like Marcel Reece helps a team. He isn't going to destroy defenders in the running game, but he can hurt a defense with the screen.
Darren McFadden is also a good receiving back, but the Rams' defense will surely key on him after such a good performance in Nashville in Week 1.
Perhaps a play-action fake to McFadden one direction, followed by a screen to Reece or Rock Cartwright the other would work well.
Most teams expect eight- to 12-yard drop-back passes on third down and intermediate distances. A screen can make a lot of hay in this situation.
The Rams' linebackers are pretty fast and athletic, but if executed correctly, it won't matter.
Campbell needs to do a better job releasing the ball high enough that the defensive linemen can't get their hands on it, and the offensive line needs to sell the screens a lot better than they have.
The offensive line also needs to do a better job slowing the defenders down before releasing into the flat. Failing to do this killed the Raiders last week in Nashville.
Again, the run blocking skills displayed by Heyward-Bey and Murphy can make the screen game a huge positive for the Raiders on third down.
Mario Henderson was awful against the Titans, but is still likely to start against the Rams.
Even though the Rams don't have any high-profile pass rushers, they can still apply pressure on the quarterback. They proved this by getting two sacks against a very good Cardinals' offensive line.
Defensive end James Hall is more known for his ability to play the run, but Howie's son, Chris Long, and backup C.J. Ah You have some speed.
Ah You showed his speed by beating Cardinals' left tackle Levi Brown to earn a sack of Derek Anderson.
Mario Henderson has proven repeatedly that he is not capable of dealing with speed rushers. Until this glaring weakness is fixed, teams will continue to exploit it.
Cooper Carlisle was pretty bad last week too. He consistently let pressure get into Campbell's face. Using short motion with an extra tight end or fullback will help Carlisle cope in pass protection.
This was not even attempted against the Titans—and we all know how that worked out.
Raiders' offensive coordinator Hue Jackson may choose to do what he tried against the Titans—bring in another offensive lineman. It didn't work against the Titans, and it won't work against the Rams.
The Raiders can bring in an extra tight end to extend the edge of the pocket by helping Henderson with the rush. That way, the tight end can release once Henderson has control and act as a relief valve for Jason Campbell.
Besides, the Raiders' offensive linemen can't seem to remember the snap count from the huddle to the line, what makes us think they can remember to report eligible on every down? Nothing.
NFL games are won up front. This will no doubt play out yet again this Sunday in Oakland.
On to the defense...
Arm tackles never work, especially against a back like Steven Jackson.
Much like the Titans, the Rams' offense goes through the running back position. Steven Jackson isn't the big-play threat that Chris Johnson is, but he is still an elite back in the league.
The Rams offensive line is not nearly as good as the Titans, so the Raiders have a much better shot at stopping Jackson then they did at stopping Johnson.
Rookie Roger Saffold is starting at the all important left tackle spot. It's likely the Rams' will attempt to run to the left early to allow Saffold to get comfortable and build some confidence.
It will be on Trevor Scott or Matt Shaughnessy to not allow that to happen.
The Raiders' right defensive ends must play strong at the point of attack and keep Saffold from getting encouraged about his chances.
Also, the Raiders must play disciplined, mind their gaps, and wrap-up.
If the Raiders tackle like they did against the Titans, Jackson could have a big day. He's bigger and more powerful that Johnson. Sloppy technique will result in a big day for Jackson.
However, they must also be more aggressive than they were against the Titans. Corner and safety blitzes at the right times will also go a long way to slowing Jackson down.
Bradford won't complete many passes in the NFL with his eyes closed like this.
Sam Bradford is pretty darn good—for a rookie.
He hasn't played enough or seen enough to be ultra-successful in the NFL yet. Getting pressure on him early will be the key.
On obvious passing downs, the Raiders should use complicated blitz packages, unusual formations, and exotic twists and stunts to prevent this rookie from seeing what's coming.
I have a feeling that no matter how prestigious the college he comes from, and no matter how tough the Big 12 is, he has never seen the likes of an actual NFL pass rush.
The Raiders must show him.
Rams' recently acquired wide receiver Mark Clayton seems to have some nice chemistry with Bradford.
Clayton managed to rack-up 10 catches for 119 yards against the Cardinals last week. This cannot be allowed if the Raiders want to win this game.
I suggest the Raiders put Nnamdi Asomugha on him all day. The rest of the Rams' receiving corps is talented, but not anything that can't be handled by Chris Johnson or Stanford Routt.
"Asomugha Island" is a lonely place for a receiver. Leaving Clayton stranded there will keep Bradford from having his security blanket.
Take that away and he could crumble.
Danny Amendola could prove to be a sleeper that can hurt defenses.
In his second season, Danny Amendola is starting to show that he is a viable option in the passing game for the Rams.
Bradford seems to have taken a liking to him, and they've developed some rapport. That relationship culminated in a six-reception, 67-yard day against the Cardinals last week.
Also a second-year player, Laurent Robinson is showing more than he did last season. He was fairly quiet against the Cardinals, snaring just three catches for 18 yards, but he did score the Rams only touchdown—Bradford's first career touchdown pass.
Both of these young receivers are good route-runners with decent hands. Robinson is a bit more elusive, and Amendola has the better hands.
However, they both possess the ability to make people miss in the open field. Again, the secondary must tackle well and limit the run after catch yards.
Billy Bajema may not be well known, but he's still a player that must be covered.
"Billy who?" It's Bajema—Billy Bajema.
If the Raiders do what I suggest and stop the run and cover Clayton and the other receivers, that leaves only one other weapon for Bradford to use—the tight end.
I have been a critic of the Raider linebackers' coverage abilities. Last week, Bo Scaife proved me correct.
Granted, Bajema is not Scaife, but he's an NFL starter that can move the chains.
Quentin Groves, Kamerion Wimbley, Thomas Howard, and Trevor Scott have got to cover this unknown player.
The Rams' No. 2 tight end is Brandon Fells. He's more of a blocker at 6'4", 272 pounds, but is still eligible and has decent hands.
If the tight ends are the only players that can get open, Bradford will find them often and move the chains all day long.
Hopefully the Raiders players will have a bad taste in their mouths after being beaten up pretty badly in Week 1.
A team with something to prove always plays a better.
If the Raiders can control Steven Jackson, pressure and confuse Sam Bradford, cover Mark Clayton, and respect the tight ends and other receivers, they can put themselves in a position to win.
The Raiders should run the ball, run the ball, run it again, then run it one more time. Oh! Did I mention they should run the ball?
Supplementing a run-heavy attack with quick screens to Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford, surprising the Rams defense on third down and intermediate with screens to Marcel Reece, Michael Bennett, and even Rock Cartwright, should lead to enough points to beat the Rams.
So, what do you say Raider Nation? Will this plan work? Will it fail? Will the Raiders' coaches implement something similar? Am I missing something? Let me hear you thoughts in the comments.
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