Oakland Raiders vs. Tennessee Titans: What's the Game Plan for Oakland?

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2015

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Rashad Jennings #27 of the Oakland Raiders rushes up field past Alterraun Verner #20 of the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum on November 24, 2013 in Oakland, California. The Tennessee Titans defeated the Oakland Raiders 23-19. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders hope to break through a sudden lull on offense against the Tennessee Titans in another road challenge on Sunday.

It’s hard to believe the offense projects as the main focus of emphasis for a once potent passing attack. In Week 11, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr recorded his lowest passing completion percentage (52 percent) and failed to throw a touchdown pass against the surging Detroit Lions.

Now, Oakland faces the league’s No. 3 pass defense and No. 6 overall defense in yards allowed. Tennessee logs a poor record, but let’s not classify this game as an easy win.

How can the Raiders dissect the Titans’ top-tier defense?

More Jamize Olawale?

Raiders fullback Jamize Olawale outrunning the Steelers defense.
Raiders fullback Jamize Olawale outrunning the Steelers defense.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
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Raiders fullback Marcel Reece could officially wave goodbye to his carries. The Raiders have seemingly moved on with a younger version of the Pro Bowler.

According to ESPN’s Bill Williamson, fullback Jamize Olawale reminds the staff of Reece, and he’s likely to see more carries as the season progresses.

Oakland must force the safety to step into the box and play the run. Anything less than 20 carries won’t fulfill that objective. Latavius Murray averages slightly fewer than 16 touches as a ball-carrier, leaving Olawale with about 10 rush attempts to encourage more run support up front. 

One more defender in the box helps clear passing lanes for Carr in the middle of the field and on the perimeter.

Cycling Through Reads: Finding a Third Target

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throwing against the Detroit Lions defense.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throwing against the Detroit Lions defense.Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Typically, young quarterbacks build a strong rapport with one or two targets and lean on those offensive weapons to carry the passing attack. Carr, who’s attempting to take the next step in his progression must cycle through his options to break through a slump.

Against a solid secondary, it’s important to toss in a few different looks and integrate previously underutilized offensive weapons to loosen the defense.

Derek Carr's Passing Distribution
Michael CrabtreeWR96
Amari CooperWR85
Latavius MurrayRB30
Mychal RiveraTE29
Seth RobertsWR29
Marcel ReeceFB27
Clive WalfordTE22
Andre HolmesWR16
Roy HeluRB10
Lee SmithTE10
Jamize OlawaleFB7
Taiwan JonesRB7
Rod StreaterWR1
Donald PennLT1

Carr’s primary weapons, wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, average eight to 10 targets per game. The third-most targeted option in the passing offense only sees approximately three looks per contest. The drop-off behind the starting wide receivers suggests a void the offense must fill to reach another level. 

A dynamic tight end has become the hidden gem in today’s NFL through mismatches on linebackers in coverage, something the Raiders know all about.

Raiders tight end Clive Walford completes a reception against the Detroit Lions.
Raiders tight end Clive Walford completes a reception against the Detroit Lions.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s time to remove tight end Clive Walford’s training wheels on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has spoon-fed him enough. It’s time for Walford to eat at the table with the big boys. 

The Titans have surrendered a touchdown pass to tight ends in three consecutive games and allowed significant overall production in those outings.

Raider Nation buzzed about possible two-tight-end formations with Mychal Rivera and Walford, but we’ve yet to see that as a mainstay in Musgrave's game plan. It’s an offensive design that should be effective in Sunday’s matchup.

Defending Short Passes

The Raiders shouldn’t fear the deep ball when defending the pass. ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky tweeted a useful infographic on Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota's efficiencies and inefficiencies as a passer.

Paul Kuharsky @PaulKuharskyNFL

Marcus Mariota QBR by area. https://t.co/Lv8SyEQGBb https://t.co/Am75CAbdPg

As illustrated, Mariota can hurt a defense in the middle of the field, targeting linebackers with poor coverage skills. The Raiders struggled with tight end play early in the season, but defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. somewhat quelled the issue over the past few weeks. 

This situation presents a slightly different dynamic. Mariota heavily depends on his tight ends for production. The tight ends contribute more than a third of the team’s receiving yards.

Delanie Walker leads the tight end group and the team in multiple receiving categories with 53 receptions and 617 yards.

Norton should emphasize covering and tackling in open space, specifically for the linebackers. 

The Raiders should rush four, drop three linebackers in coverage and utilize a safety to prevent the Titans from gouging the heart of the defense. In recent weeks, Tennessee has started all three tight ends as key components within the offense.


Raiders defensive lineman Khalil Mack (No. 52)
Raiders defensive lineman Khalil Mack (No. 52)Duane Burleson/Associated Press

Can the Raiders stop the opposition’s obvious weapons? Typically, they’ve failed.

In this particular case, the defense faces an inexperienced quarterback without a highly productive rushing attack to divert attention away from his throwing tendencies.

The Titans will test the Raiders' intermediate pass defense with some success, but Tennessee doesn’t score enough points to capitalize, ranking 30th in points per game.

Oakland's passing offense won’t return to its robust form against a stingy secondarybut should move the ball enough to outscore the opposition. The Raiders will finally allot 25-plus carries for the ground attack to chip away at the defense and edge Tennessee on the road.

Raiders 23, Titans 16


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