Thomas Howard could be vital to a Raider win.
The Oakland Raiders will play host to Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and the Houston Texans this Sunday.
This will not be an easy game for the Raiders. The Texans have a very explosive offense, with some incredibly talented playmakers that can find the end zone regularly.
The Raiders will combat the potent Texans' offense with the third-ranked defense in total yards allowed, but that statistic is a little misleading—the Raiders are 24th in points allowed.
This is a serious problem when facing an offense like that of the Texans'.
What can be done to stop Houston? Several things come to mind.
Because this game will be won or lost with the defense, we'll start there.
Asomugha needs to simply do what he does best—cover the best receiver the opponent has.
My words to Nnamdi Asomugha before the game would be the same as before playing against Larry Fitzgerald last week—from slide nine of my Cardinals gameplan slide show.
If Asomugha can do to Johnson what he did to Fitzgerald last week (two catches, 26 yards, one touchdown), it will be a win for the Raiders.
The Raiders defensive ends must not allow the Texans' running backs to turn the corner.
The key will be defensive end play.
Ninety percent of Arian Foster's yards this season have come off tackle. He is very good at being patient when looking for running room, and bouncing outside when there's no room in the intended running lane.
To counteract this, the Raiders' defensive ends must get deep enough into the backfield to take away the bounce-out, but not so deep as to open up big lanes in the middle of the line.
Once the edges are set, the linebackers must fill the gaps and make fundamentally sound tackles.
Should Arian Foster or Steve Slaton still manage to get through the line, the safeties cannot afford to miss tackles. If they do, Slaton and Foster have the speed to take one to the house at any time.
Forcing bad thows and making Schaub uncomfortable will be important.
If given enough time to survey the field, Matt Schaub will dissect even the best defense. This cannot happen if the Raiders want to win.
Again, the defensive ends will play a big part in this endeavor, but there has to be more than pressure from the edge.
The defensive tackles need to apply pressure right in Schaub's face up the middle.
This can be achieved with twists, stunts, and fresh legs. All of this can contribute to breaking down the middle of the pocket.
John Henderson and Tommy Kelly have to play solid at the nose, and Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant have to be active and relentless from the three technique to make it impossible for Schaub to step up, or set his feet to throw.
Michael Huff will need help covering Owen Daniels all day.
Owen Daniels is a very good tight end that can change a game.
Michael Huff cannot be expected to cover Daniels all day by himself—he'll need help from his teammates.
This is a situation where Thomas Howard can pay huge dividends. Howard is the best cover linebacker the Raiders have, and he has to see extended time this week.
Another key to stopping Daniels is to rotate the person covering him—keep him guessing and frustrated. Huff, Howard, Tyvon Branch, Kamerion Wimbley, and even Rolando McClain should take turns trying to control Daniels.
The scheme must rotate as well. If Schaub or Texans' head coach Gary Kubiak pick up on any tendency at all, they will adjust and exploit it. Defensive coordinator John Marshall has to mix zones and man coverage well to frustrate the Texans.
Keep Daniels and Schaub guessing all day.
Kevin Walter must be accounted for as well.
With Andre Johnson being covered by Asomugha, Stanford Routt, or Chris Johnson will likely be responsible for Kevin Walter.
Walter has great size, good speed, and excellent hands.
Walter is a great route runner and always seems to get open when the Texans need a big play. As soon as you forget about him, Schaub finds him for a big gain.
To stop this, I suggest the Raiders jam him on every, single down—without exception. This will disrupt his timing and diminish his effectiveness—especially on third downs.
Rotating over-under zones, inside-out zones, man coverage, and even bracket double-teams will slow Walter down.
If Walter gets frustrated, it's a win for the Raiders.
The hot hand of Darren McFadden should be ridden to victory.
The Texans haven't stopped anyone in the first three games. Their run defense is better than last year, but it isn't great by any stretch.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson should just continue to do what he has been doing in the running game—calling Darren McFadden's number.
McFadden enters this game third in the league in rushing. If the Raiders execute against this weak Texans run defense, he could leave this game leading the league in rushing.
Mario Williams can ruin a quarterback's day.
Whatever it takes!
One-on-one will not work—two-on-one usually doesn't work. Using a running back will get the quarterback killed.
I would run a lot of two tight end, two back, one wide receiver sets. This will allow for the tackle responsible for Williams to have help—regardless of where he lines up, or if he shifts before the snap.
If Williams has a big day, the Raiders will lose. It's as simple as that.
Running wide receiver and tight end screens to Williams' side on obvious passing downs will also help slow down his pass rush.
Again, control Mario Williams with whatever it takes.
Hue Jackson neeeds to show me something this week.
Or should I say, be less predictable in the red zone.
So far, the Raiders are 3-for-13 in red zone opportunities, and 3-for-5 in goal-to-go situations. That isn't going to win many games.
Last week against the Cardinals, the Raiders were 1-for-5 in the red zone, and only 1-for-3 in goal-to-go situations. This has to improve if the Raiders want to win.
Hue Jackson can't be afraid to do the unexpected when the Raiders get close to the end zone. Instead of the "run, run, run, kick" theory he seems to be using now, how about trying to throw on first or second down and a run on third down?
At the very least, it will catch the Texans off guard. The way I see it, they can't do any worse than they have thus far in the season.
Kareem Jackson can be taken advantage of.
Kareem Jackson is a nice rookie cornerback, but he's still a rookie. Glover Quin is in his second year, and still has a lot to learn.
Both of these young men have been giving up receptions and big plays to the receivers they are taxed with covering.
The Raiders must attack this flaw in the Texans' defense.
Louis Murphy is coming off a big day against the Cardinals and must be over flowing with confidence. I see a big day for Murphy against either, or both of the Texans' cornerbacks.
Darius Heyward-Bey didn't light it up against the Cardinals. This can't be sitting well with him, and he's probably very motivated to take it out on someone. Jackson and Quin are great candidates.
Double moves, pivot routes, and 6-to-8-yard hitch routes should be very effective against either of the Texans' cornerbacks.
I'm not saying the Raiders should be pass happy, just that they need to be effective in the passing game to keep the safeties out of the box and allow the running game to flourish.
Penaties are nothing new for the Raiders, but they have to end.
This is something that applies to the offense and the defense alike.
The Raiders are the most penalized team in the league. They lead in penalties called and penalty yards. They're averaging 11 penalties for 96.66 yards per game.
This has to change for the Raiders to get where they want to go.
How hard is it to remember the snap count? Is it really that difficult to remember that your hands can't be outside the shoulders when blocking?
I think it's time for the coaches to pull out some drastic measures.
I use a very effective mistake deterrent when I coach. The players that make repeated mental mistakes, (holding, false start, offsides, etc...) get a special treatment.
At the end of practice, I get into the school's golf cart, put the two worst offenders on the back of the cart, and drive around the track with them while their teammates surround us as they run laps.
Works every time.
Will it work for the Raiders? Who knows? I know it couldn't hurt.
At 1-2, Tom Cable must be a stress monster at this point.
That's that—a gameplan to beat the Texans. I almost put in a slide called, "Don't put Janikowski in a position to hurt us—score touchdowns instead," but I decided on the penalty slide instead.
Janikowski is streaky and we all knew it. We can't lay all the blame for the loss to the Cardinals on him. Had the offense been able to score touchdowns, and there weren't so many penalties, the Raiders would have won anyway.
However, the kicker has to play better, but he already knows that.
Set the edge of the line of scrimmage, put Asomugha on Johnson all day, cover Owen Daniels, pressure Matt Schaub, and don't forget about Kevin Walter.
Run the ball, control Mario Williams, be more creative in the red zone, exploit the young cornerbacks, and stop the stupid mental mistakes.
Of course there is more to it than just these 10 slides, but this slide show highlights the 10 biggest keys.
So, what do you think? What did I miss? What would you remove or add? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.
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