Oakland Raiders vs. Detroit Lions: What's the Game Plan for Oakland?

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2015

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 15:  Maurice Jones-Drew #21 of the Oakland Raiders in action against the Detroit Lions during their preseason game at O.co Coliseum on August 15, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders’ personnel decisions have heightened the stakes for one player on the Detroit Lions roster. 

Defensive lineman C.J. Wilson felt a proverbial "slap in the face" after the Raiders decided to release him earlier this month, per Detroit Free Press writer Carlos Monarrez. Big 300-pound linemen have feelings too, and Wilson will do everything in his power to best his former team. Wilson said:

I'm taking this as a personal game. It's like my Super Bowl. I take pride in getting ready this week. Everything matters, from practice to the way I watch my film this week.It's not every year you get to play a team that let you go the next week. The second week you're on another team.

Wilson started one game, played 95 total snaps and graded 1.5 against the run through four games with the Raiders, per Pro Football Focus.

Wilson's profound motivation poses a challenge for a game plan that should feature the ground attack.

Feed Murray and a Random Ball-Carrier

In Week 10, Oakland ran the ball 19 times, twice with quarterback Derek Carr, which sparked a discussion concerning the offensive play-calling, per InsideBayArea.com writer Jerry McDonald. The Raiders played the Minnesota Vikings closely through three quarters, but the ground attack became an afterthought.

According to San Francisco Chronicle writer Vic Tafur, Oakland stands a much-better chance at victory when Murray takes 20-plus carries:

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Vic Tafur @VicTafur

Curious about @LataviusM Murray's usage so I looked it up: #Raiders are 4-0 last two years when he gets 20 or more carries. 🔔🐮

Sometimes, it’s not about the number of carries, but the production accumulated within those opportunities. This season, the Raiders are winless (0-4) when Murray fails to eclipse 50 yards on the ground. 

The Raiders' rushing offense leans so heavily on Murray to produce without a legitimate No. 2 running back. Many thought Roy Helu would come in and share some of the load, but the coaching staff has kept him inactive in the previous three outings.

Raiders fullback Jamize Olawale takes a carry against the Vikings in Week 10.
Raiders fullback Jamize Olawale takes a carry against the Vikings in Week 10.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

According to head coach Jack Del Rio, running back Taiwan Jones didn’t factor into the game plan against the Vikings. Now, fullback Jamize Olawale seems to be the trending offensive weapon as a younger version of Marcel Reece.

Forget about the idea of Reece taking carries as a legitimate No. 2 running back in the near future. He’s well aware that Olawale may likely take on his role as a dual-threat fullback, per San Francisco Chronicle writer Ron Kroichick.

Pick a name out of the hat and that player will become the No. 2 ball-carrier on Sunday. Whoever it is stands a good chance against the league’s No. 28 rush defense, unless Wilson’s vengeance-fueled disruptive play factors into bolstering the Lions' defensive line.

Defending, Megatron, Screen Passes and Shedding Blocks 

Lions wide receiver Calvin Jonson stiff-arms Vikings defender.
Lions wide receiver Calvin Jonson stiff-arms Vikings defender.Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Most Raiders fans fear Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson tearing up the pass defense.

He’s still Megatron, but he’s not the same Johnson who carved up the Raiders secondary for nine receptions, 214 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. 

Oakland should defend Johnson with a double-team utilizing cornerback T.J. Carrie underneath and a high safety. However, Johnson isn’t the only offensive weapon capable of burning the Raiders' pass defense.

The key to the Raiders’ success in slowing down the Lions’ No. 8 passing offense depends on stopping wideout Golden Tate from eating up yards after the catch. He excels with elusiveness and speed similar to rookie Amari Cooper as a dangerous ball-carrier after establishing possession.

Comparing Elusive Wide Receivers
PlayerYards After the CatchRankBroken TacklesRank
Amari Cooper3334th133rd
Golden Tate27010th171st
Pro Football Focus

Lately, Oakland has done a poor job defending screen passes and shedding blocks to make a play on quick-twitch receivers like Tate. 

Film Study: Oakland Raiders vs. Minnesota Vikings in Week 10

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater executed a 22-yard pass play due to poor anticipation on a screen pass to speedy wideout Mike Wallace

Credit: NFL.com

Credit: NFL.com

Wallace stalls and secures the pass with two defenders in his pathway—linebacker Malcolm Smith and cornerback D.J. Hayden. 

Credit: NFL.com

Hayden takes a fall due to a solid block, and Smith takes a poor angle on the tackle.

Credit: NFL.com

By the time Hayden rises to his feet and Smith squares his hips for a tackle, Wallace barrels through an open lane for a 22-yard gain downfield. 

Film Study: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders in Week 9

The Pittsburgh Steelers used a screen pass to drive a dagger into the Raiders’ hopes for a comeback victory in Week 9.

Credit: NFL.com

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown comes back to the football for the reception, and fellow wideout Martavis Bryant provides a solid block on Hayden. Cornerback David Amerson cannot close the gap on Brown.

Credit: NFL.com

Credit: NFL.com

Bryant knocks Hayden to the ground. Amerson takes a swipe and misses on the tackle, which leaves Brown with a clear path to advance the ball into Raiders’ territory.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. must drill all defensive units in defending screen plays and shedding blocks. Del Rio spoke about leverage and tackling during Monday’s press conference, which plays a part in stopping ball-carriers as well as receivers on the run. 

The Raiders will likely spend hours game-planning for Johnson, but the secondary should also squeeze in extra time sharpening the fundamentals. The Raiders have frustrated teams with quick outs to Cooper in bubble screens. Now, Oakland must prepare to defend the same type of offensive design to avoid a letdown in the Motor City.


Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hands off to running back Latavius Murray.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hands off to running back Latavius Murray.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Raiders cannot afford to overlook a 2-7 team, especially when that team fields a top-10 offense featuring a strong-armed quarterback and Megatron.

This game projects to become another shootout between two struggling defenses and effective passing attacks on both sidelines. 

Detroit’s 66.9 rushing yards per game should allow the Raiders to redeem some dignity in their run defense. For Oakland, it’s important to commit to the ground attack through four quarters, unless they fall behind late.

Hopefully, the coaching staff has learned from last week’s mistakes against Minnesota concerning the lack of carries for the running backs. Oakland goes score for score with Detroit and closes the game with the ground attack.

Raiders 34, Lions 24

Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for news, updates and intriguing discussion about the Oakland Raiders.

All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus and Team Rankings unless otherwise noted. 


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