Nnamdi Asomugha and the secondary will have their work cut out on Sunday.
This Sunday, Tom Cable will lead the Oakland Raiders into the desert to take on Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
On paper, this game is a dead heat.
Both teams are 1-1, the Raiders are up and coming, the Cardinals are somewhat falling from power, and both the Raiders and the Cardinals won close games against the St. Louis Rams in previous weeks.
NFL games aren't played on paper.
This is a very winnable for the Raiders, but only if they create the right game plan and execute it well.
Let's have a look at what this old coach feels are the keys to the Raiders leaving the desert with a win.
Here we go...
The Raiders should continue to feed McFadden the ball.
The Cardinals gave up 221 rushing yards to the Atlanta Falcons last week. This bodes well for the Raiders.
There are some very good players on the Cardinals' defense. Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson, and Kerry Rhodes are the most well known.
Porter is a pass rushing machine and must be accounted for. The best way to go after a great pass rusher is to run right at him. I say Oakland should do just that—run around left end, and through the tackle/guard gap with power plays.
It won't work every time, but Porter must be kept honest and thinking about the run game. If not, he'll be on the quarterback all day long.
I see running left early and often as the lynch pin to a Raider victory. This should not only gain decent yards, but also set up the play action pass.
If Michael Bush and Robert Gallery are able to play, that will just increase the effectiveness of this theory.
Zach Miller has only seven receptions for 92 yards thus far in the 2010 season. This has to change for the Raiders to continue winning.
In Week 1, the Rams' tight ends combined for seven catches for 53 yards against the Cardinals.
I'm confident that if Miller had six or seven catches in a game he'd turn it into more than a measly 53 yards. Miller's 13.14 yards per reception proves that.
If the Cardinals' linebackers have a weakness, it's in coverage.
The Raiders should exploit Clark Haggans and Daryl Washington with intermediate dig and out routes to Miller.
Only Porter and Paris Lenon have the speed and agility to cover Miller alone. Therefore, forcing Washington or Haggans to cover Miller is a win for the Raiders.
It is possible to force a match up with both route design, and formation. The Raiders should use both.
Murphy could have a big day against the Cardinals.
In Week 1, Mark Clayton had a big day against the Cardinals' secondary. More specifically, against cornerback Greg Toler.
Louis Murphy and Darius Heyward-Bey have a big opportunity. Either, or both of these talented young receivers can take advantage of Toler.
Toler is young and inexperienced. Against the Rams and Falcons, he bit hard on multiple double move routes. The Raiders need to take advantage of that.
However, the quarterback, (it looks like that will be Bruce Gradkowski) has to be smart with the throws. The Cardinals have two very good safeties lurking in the secondary.
One errant throw and the game could change in an instant.
Bennett should provide a breather for McFadden
...unless Michael Bush plays. Bush has been taking part in full practices this week and is a game time decision. If Bush plays, he should get the bulk of the power runs at the interior of the Cardinals' line.
This would be the best scenario for the Raiders.
A lot of the Falcons' Jason Snelling's yards last week came off left guard. Raider fans need to hope that Daniel Loper can have another good game in Robert Gallery's stead.
If the Raiders simply run around the edges all day, the Cardinals will adjust and stop it. Therefore, giving Bush, Cartwright and Bennett the ball on isolation and lead plays right up the gut will keep the defense honest.
Of course, McFadden has been proving the critics that said he couldn't run between the tackles wrong—this writer included.
McFadden should also get some of these interior runs. If he doesn't get some runs up the middle, the defense will know what's coming when McFadden is in the game and stuff it.
Bruce "Almighty" has MORE than earned his shot to start!
I am one of the many Raider fans that were elated when the Raiders signed Jason Campbell. I liked Gradkowski, but thought Campbell gave the Raiders the best chance to win.
I was wrong (Did you hear that, haters? I admitted being wrong.)
All Gradkowski has done since coming to the Raiders is play his heart out, lead the team to victory over some very good teams, and lifted the spirits and play of his teammates as soon as he steps into the huddle.
The biggest part of the "Bruce effect" is his fire for the game. The fans and players never have to wonder if this guy wants to win.
Gradkowski is willing to "let it fly." He gets rid of the ball quickly and decisively, and his mobility will help out the depleted offensive line.
Moving the pocket with short roll out, (or "waggle") plays can give Gradkowski some extra time. He is good on the run, and always seems to make something happen when a play breaks down.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson must let Bruce "do what he do."
He was the best quarterback on the team in 2009, and in one half of football against the Rams, he's proven to be the most productive quarterback in 2010.
Mr. Davis, Mr. Cable...this was a good decision.
I'm on the "Grad-Wagon!"
Anderson has repeatedly shown that he will make mistakes.
Derek Anderson had one good year—2007. He passed for 3,787 yards, 29 touchdowns, and made his only Pro Bowl.
Since then, Anderson has been mediocre at best—terrible at worst. Bad throws, awful decisions, and losing are what he is known for now.
The Raiders have one of the better secondaries in the league. The Raiders' solid defensive back field could be the difference in the game.
I would attempt to confuse and pressure Anderson all day long.
Twists and stunts from the defensive line on obvious passing downs, disguised blitzes from different positions, and a continually changing coverage scheme will cause Anderson to turn the ball over.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Stanford Routt, and safeties Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch have to be ready to make a play on the ball—because they will get their opportunities.
Mitchell's big hits can help the Raiders in short yardage.
This kid can, and will bring the pain. The Raiders need to utilize it.
Mike Mitchell is not a great coverage safety. He's a hitter—a BIG hitter. Leaving him to play only on special teams seems like a waste.
On second or third down and four yards or less, why not bring in this "Mack Truck" in place of Michael Huff to fill gaps and make plays?
He's good enough in coverage to play in certain situations. Besides, his cover skills are not as bad as Huff's tackling skills.
Let the kid play.
Everyone knows that to beat the Cardinals, you have to control Larry Fitzgerald. You can't stop him, or even contain him, you have to just limit the damage he does.
Nnamdi Asomugha is one of only two or three cornerbacks in the league that possesses the skills to do that.
This is not the situation in which the Raiders should leave Asomugha on one side of the field. The coaches must let him follow Fitzgerald all over the field.
If Fitzgerald lines up in the slot, Nnamdi should be there. If the Cardinals try to put him in motion, Asomugha should follow.
Here is what I'd say to Asomugha before the game:
"Nnamdi, Fitzgerald is your man. Stick to him like corruption on a politician. If he makes a catch that hurts us, it's your fault. Don't let it happen."
Getting Asomugha some help from the safeties from time to time is fine, but it can't happen on every play. If it does, Steve Breaston and the other Cardinals receivers will make plays, move the chains, and score points.
Sendlein is young and should be exploited.
Left tackle Levi Brown and left guard Alan Faneca are studs. Right guard Deuce Lutui is solid. Center Lyle Sendlein and right tackle Brandon Keith are the weak links in the Cardinals' offensive line.
The Raiders need to make it as difficult as possible on these two players.
Having Richard Seymour back will be huge, but keeping fresh legs at the defensive tackle spot will be very important too.
John Henderson and Desmond Bryant coming in to spell Seymour will not give Sendlein a break.
Sending Rolando McClain on A and B gap blitzes will put further pressure on him as well.
Getting after Keith can be done in much the same way. A steady rotation of Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy, and even Kamerion Wimbley or Quentin Groves will wear Keith out and force some mistakes.
I'd also like to see some outside linebacker blitzes to Keith's side. Wimbley, Groves, and Scott all do a nice job on the edge and can collapse the pocket.
This should produce sacks. More importantly, it will produce pressure. Pressure causes mistakes. Mistakes from an opponent lead to victory.
I know it's only week three, but the Oakland Raiders are ranked ninth in total defense. That's right—the Oakland Raiders are a top-10 defense.
Despite giving up big yards to Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans, the Raiders are vastly improved against the run in 2010.
This trend has to continue to beat the Cardinals.
I'm sensing Ken Wisenhunt is getting frustrated with his quarterback and will turn to the running attack. The Raiders should expect Tim Hightower to get more carries this Sunday than he has thus far in the season.
It is imperative for the Raiders to stop the run early on, and not allow Hightower, Chris Wells, or LeRod Stephens-Howling to get rolling.
Seymour is back, Henderson is showing some fire, and Tommy Kelly is finally playing up to his potential. The Raiders' front seven must hit the Cardinals' backs hard, stop them early, and take away their confidence.
If the Cardinals are allowed to get the play action game going, Anderson has an arm that can hurt a defense deep. Stopping the run early will reduce that risk.
Tom Cable has a lot riding on this game. The return of Richard Seymour, the potential return of Michael Bush, and a new starting quarterback.
In this game, Cable can be proven right, or find himself on the hot seat—if he isn't feeling the heat already.
The good news is, the Cardinals are ripe for the picking—can the Raiders pluck out a win?
If they follow this game plan, (or create and execute one similar) the answer is a resounding yes.
What do you think Raider Nation? Will this work? Will the coaches institute something similar? What would you add? What would you take away? Let me hear you in the comments.
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