Oakland Raiders Failed Game Plan: Darren McFadden Solid Despite Bad O-Line
The Oakland Raiders offensive line looked horrific against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon in Nashville Tennessee. Darren McFadden had a total of 103 yards in the first half—the rest of the offense combined for just 33.
Great for McFadden, but not the way for a team to start a season. A lot of the weaknesses Raider Nation has been screaming about for weeks reared their ugly heads.
From my previous slide show:
"There is no way for me to know what head coach Tom Cable, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, or defensive coordinator John Marshall are planning for any opponent. The best I can do is offer up my ideas and observations."
In the aforementioned article, I laid out a game plan that contained 10 keys to a Raider victory—five for the offense and five for the defense. The Raiders managed to achieve almost none of those. In fact, they only attempted three of them.
In this slide show, I'll revisit each of the 10 keys from my game plan article to determine where the Raiders succeeded, where they failed, and where they didn't try.
- What follows was not my game plan -
I'll be brutally honest and name names. Buckle up, because this won't be pretty.
Protect Jason Campbell—Unmitigated Failure
"Look out Jason!"
Once again, left tackle Mario Henderson handled the power and bull rushes just fine, but looked like a sloth against the speed rush. He's is getting beaten off the ball, and simply doesn't have the slide step or back pedal he needs to compensate.
It looks like he hesitates to see what the defender is doing and loses a step. He could be failing to recognize what angle gives him the best chance to gain leverage. Tom Cable needs to diagnose and address whatever the problem is immediately.
Henderson's inability to control the speed of defensive ends Jason Babin, Derrick Morgan, or Jacob Ford resulted in three sacks, two fumbles, and a terrible offensive show in the first half.
Head coach Tom Cable is apparently sold on Henderson's talent—Raider fans (including myself) are not. Admittedly, I was more optimistic about Henderson than most people were—but only for a time.
His play on Sunday has changed my stance.
It wasn't only Henderson failing on the offensive line. Campbell's only interception was forced due to heavy pressure as right tackle Langston Walker virtually gave the defensive end directions to where Campbell was going to be set in the pocket.
What can be done? New talent, shake up the roster, move people around, or look at some of our young guys. I won't know for sure because I'm not at practice or in the meeting room.
Establish The Run—Mediocre Success
"D-Mac" is finally beginning to show that he can play in this league.
When your favorite team is getting slaughtered, you look for silver linings. I found Darren McFadden. None of the negatives that plagued McFadden last year seemed to follow him into this season.
His feet stayed under him, he ran with power, didn't miss any obvious running lanes, and held on to the ball. All good signs.
This is the only one of my 10 keys the team actually executed on Sunday. I suggested that the Raiders hit the edges with McFadden and use him in screens, sprints, and draws. I suggested they use Michael Bennett or Rock Cartwright to attack the middle.
The coaches chose to leave McFadden in and see if he can run between the tackles. He not only can, he did. It was a good decision.
It wasn't spectacular, but if the rest of the game plan had been executed, it would have been enough to win. It was in a word, solid.
McFadden—18 carries, 95 yards, 5.28 yards per carry, six catches, 55 yards, a touchdown, 9.17 yards per reception—Total: 23 touches, 150 total yards, 6.52 yards per touch. That ain't a bad day.
Get Zach Miller Involved Early—Fail
There were multiple attempts to get the ball to Zach Miller, but the ball rarely made it to him. It wasn't Jason Campbell's fault; it was the offensive line's fault. The pocket broke down before Miller could get open.
Campbell didn't have time to get the ball to anyone.
All I can say is—if the offensive line can play like actual NFL team, rather than a disinterested, unfocused, collection of individuals, we'd have a real weapon at the tight end position.
The coaches must hold the offensive line accountable and call them on it. Somehow, they must play as a group with support for their teammates. Period.
A Successful Screen Game—Epic Fail
This key was attempted, but failed.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson tried to run screen plays, but to no avail. There are several reasons they weren't as successful as we saw in the preseason.
The first is that Jason Campbell's release point seemed to be too low. He almost threw the ball right at the oncoming defenders. Easy fix.
The second is the Titans' rushers did a great job getting their hands in the air to knock the passes down. You can't control the other team's talent, but you can prepare for it—the Raiders didn't.
That's a coaching issue.
The last is the Raiders' offensive line releasing into the flat way too early. Normally, an offensive lineman is supposed to get a piece of the defender to slow them down before releasing. That didn't happen.
"This is the NFL, not pee wee league—Make and effort."
Attack The Secondary—Fail
Once again we find ourselves discussing how poorly the offensive line played. I feel like I'm "kicking a dead horse."
It's getting old.
No quarterback in any league can complete a pass from his butt. Yet this appears to be exactly what the offensive line expects Campbell to do.
To quote my coaching mentor and high school coach, J.D. Covington:
"You seem to think that your job is to score touchdowns or make big hits, it's not. You have only two jobs on our team—play hard, and play to make your teammates proud. No more, no less."
It's not a difficult concept to grasp, is it?
The wide receivers were working hard to get open, but only caught eight passes. Unfortunately, they dropped a few too, but not as many as last year—that's improvement, no matter how small.
Don't Let Chris Johnson Beat You All By Himself—I Give It a "D-"
Yes, CJ2K got 142 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't a complete disaster.
If you take away the one 74-yard run that was the result of an uncharacteristic missed tackle by Tyvon Branch, Johnson averaged just 2.53 yards per carry. Branch was in position and got juked out of his socks.
He's Chris Johnson, it's going to happen, the Raiders shouldn't beat themselves up about it.
The fact is—we can't change what happened in the past, and I'm not big on "moral victories," but I saw some things that give me some hope for the future of the run defense.
Had the rest of the game plan been successful, Johnson may not have been the difference in the game, but it's impossible to say for sure.
There's something there, the coaches just need to access it.
Don't Let Vince Young Out Of The Pocket—Fail
The great pass rush we saw from the Raiders in the preseason was virtually non-existent against the Titans on Sunday. The Kamerion Wimbley hit you see here was the only time Young got touched.
Young was able to break containment repeatedly—seven times to be accurate, and he ran up 30 rushing yards. The biggest problem with that was most of his yards came on third down, but Young was able to convert them into first downs.
Gains like this from a quarterback are a killer for any team.
I'm not sure if the lack of pass rush was due to the plan to stop Johnson limiting the pass rush, or if the Titans' offensive line is just that good.
You can plan for talent, but you have to be creative and aggressive—the defense didn't do that.
Is that Al Davis changing the game plan days before kickoff? I don't know, but whatever it is, it must be fixed.
Limit The Big Passing Play—Fail
Stanford Routt was his usual, inconsistent self. He made some nice plays, got some deflections, but gave up a huge play to Nate Washington early on in the game.
It was a well-designed and executed misdirection, play action play that caught Routt out of position.
That one play seemed to take the wind out of the Raiders' sails—even more so than the big CJ2K run. The Titans later tacked on a 28-yard pass to tight end Bo Scaife.
That's only two big pass plays, but it was enough to demoralize the Raiders.
It might be time to let "the other" Chris Johnson have his starting job back.
Confuse Vince Young—Fail
I lay this one squarely on the shoulders of defensive coordinator John Marshall. If you believe the rumors, we could also blame it on Al Davis. You decide.
I didn't see the dreaded single high safety on every down, but I didn't see a lot of blitzing or creativity either.
On some downs Young had time to write a book, bake cookies, and eat a hot dog in the pocket. He invariably found a receiver and delivered the ball, or took off running for a big gain. Not hard to do when you have 15 seconds to throw the ball.
Young wasn't confused in the slightest. In fact, he looked confident and in control the entire game.
Raider fans need to hope this doesn't become a trend throughout the season.
Rotate The Defensive Line—Success! FINALLY!
Richard Seymour, John Henderson, Tommy Kelly, Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy, and Lamarr Houston all got time on the defensive line in Sunday's game.
Unfortunately, the more rested defensive front never really got turned loose. It seemed as is they were told to just stand up their man, don't worry about penetration, and just stop Johnson. That's fine on obvious run downs, but all day, every play?
Maybe the coaches should have told them to keep an eye on the quarterback too. I feel that Young's rushing yards hurt us more than Johnson's. Just opinion though.
They were able to contain CJ2K on all but one play, but they were very ineffective rushing the passer.
They were fresh, but not fantastic by any means.
McFadden finally showing up to play was great. He should feel good about his performance—I do. The run defense is better, but still has a scheme issue that gets them burned once in a while. However, they have something to build on for sure.
Okay, that's all for the "success summary." Onto the "fail" category.
There is a lot of work to do before the Raiders can call themselves contenders again. The offensive line is still the biggest weakness on this team. Without improvement there, the fans will never get what they truly want—a winning season.
Maybe it's time to:
a. Beg Kevin Mawae out of retirement or go after Justin Hartwig, and move Veldheer to right guard,
b. Give Bruce Campbell and Khalif Barnes a chance to start at left tackle, and have Henderson compete with Langston Walker for right tackle, or
c. try both a and b.
We could see what we have in our youngsters. Start Campbell, Robert Gallery, Alex Parsons, Veldheer, and Barnes, and see what happens.
Let the old starters know how it feels to lose their jobs. Maybe they'll pick up their play.
Since I'm not at practice or in the team meetings, I don't know what the solutions are, but I know they exist.
Cable and his staff better get to work, because the Rams look a lot better than anyone predicted. They will be bursting with confidence when they visit the Black Hole next weekend after nearly upsetting the Arizona Cardinals.
Hopefully coach Cable will see what most of Raider Nation sees and act accordingly.
Will he? I have no idea.
What do you say Raider fans? Would my game plan have worked? Am I being too hard on the offensive line? Not hard enough? Let me hear you in the comments.
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