Oakland Raiders: Red Zone Blues Should End Soon

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IOctober 1, 2010

Oakland Raiders: Red Zone Blues Should End Soon

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Runningback Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders attempts to dive into the endzone stopped by Paris Lenon #51 and Clark Haggans #53 of the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter of the NFL game at the University of Ph
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

     The Oakland Raiders are ranked number 10 in total offense and tied for second in total defense.

    Yet the Raiders are 1-2 and lost to the Arizona Cardinals.

    How do the Raiders rank in the top 10 on both sides of the ball and have losing record?

    Here's a stat that you really won't like.

    The Raiders are ranked number 26 in scoring defense and 22 in scoring offense.

    The red zone has not been too kind to them.

    But it isn't time to panic.

    There are a couple of adjustments to be made as well as players they will eventually get back. There are also players that need to step up their level of play.

    Turn the page to see what and who they are.

Player Coming Back: Robert Gallery

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 9:  Defensive tackle Shaun Cody #75 of the Detroit Lions fires off the line to take on   guard Robert Gallery of the Oakland Raiders at the McAfee Coliseum on September 9, 2007 in Oakland, California.  The Lions defeated the Raider
    Kevin Terrell/Getty Images

    A healthy Robert Gallery moves the Raiders closer to being the "bully" offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wants. Gallery is listed as questionable for Sunday after missing two weeks with a hamstring pull.

    Running on the goal line will be much easier with Gallery in the line up.

    It will also allow the Raiders to make a key adjustment you'll see later as well.

Player Coming Back: Michael Bush

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    Michael Bush adds to Jackson's "bully" movement running the ball near the goal line. Bush played sparingly in Arizona Sunday so he is now back form his broken thumb.

    Bush isn't in football shape now so he has to be worked back in gradually. But one thing the 245 pound running back can do right away is be a short yardage back.

    That is definitely a help on the goal line.

Player Coming Back: Chaz Schilens

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    Wouldn't that be great if Chaz Shilens could play this week?

    That doesn't seem too likely at this point but Cable did say that he has made good progress. When he does come back, the Raider's red zone offense will instantly get 10 times better.

    Schilens will go up and get the ball where ever you throw it. He can jump out of a stadium and he has the ability to make a circus catch.

    That combination makes him an ultimate red zone threat.

Adjustment and Player Coming Back: John Henderson

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    John Henderson is impossible too move.

    I guess that's why the Raiders play their best run defense when he is in the game. Henderson missed the week three game against the Cardinals but his chances look pretty good for playing Sunday.

    If he does play, he should start because of his play against the run. But even if he doesn't start, he will help in the red zone as stopping the run is key to being a successful red zone defense.

    We'll see what Cable does with him when he is healthy.

Adjustment: Coverage

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 25:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders breaks up a pass intended for Dwayne Bowe #82 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the game on November 25, 2007 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    What was coach Tom Cable thinking?

    The Raiders are a man coverage team and the Raiders have the best in the world at it. I have to question Cable for running a zone defense against one of the best receivers in the game in the red zone.

    Leading to that point, Fitzgerald had only one catch while being targeted five times. You have to love the percentages and most teams are in man coverage in near the goal line anyway.

    The Raiders should stay in man coverage in the red zone from now on.

Adjustment: Daniel Loper

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    Daniel Loper has done a fine job in Gallery's absence.

    Put that together with the fact that the Cooper Carlisle has been a weak spot at right guard. I fully expect Tom Cable to reward the 6'6, 320 pound Loper by starting him at right guard when Gallery comes back.

    This will give the Raiders more size inside to run the ball near the goal line.

    Doesn't that go with Jackson's "bully" approach?

Adjustment: Zach Miller

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    Zach Miller is one of the best tight ends in the game.

    Great tight ends are known to be great weapons in the red zone.

    So throw him the damn ball!

    Miller did have a 22 yard touchdown catch but that is his only one of the season. He should have more with as many times that the Raiders got in the red zone.

    Well, the real problem is getting the ball to Miller in the red zone.

    Inaccurate throws cost Miller two more touchdowns last Sunday.

Adjustment: Louis Murphy

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 06:  Louis Murphy #18 of the Oakland Raiders catches the game winning touchdown with nine seconds left on the clock while playing the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 6, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Oakland won the
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Louis Murphy has a red zone touch down pass this year but they should throw to him more down there. The red zone pass thrown to Darrius Heward-Bey at the end of the game should have been thrown to Murphy.

    Murphy proved to be a money man in the clutch last year.

    He showed that he was still that guy in week two against the Rams with a four yard  touchdown catch. The Raider coaches need to win now and turn Heyward-Bey into a star later.

    I have no idea why Louis Murphy isn't being used more in the red zone. He's tall, athletic, and goes up to get the ball like it belongs to only him.

    He also has the speed to separate on crossing routes.

Adjustment: Darren McFadden

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    OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 03:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders can't hang on to a pass as Dannell Ellerbe #59 of the Baltimore Ravens defends during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on January 3, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo b
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Darren McFadden has caught only a few balls in the red zone and that is not enough. I don't think he's been used in the passing game in the red zone in enough different ways either.

    I have only seen McFadden make catches on screen plays and in the flats.He should definitely run some wheel routes for a chance to out run and out jump a linebacker in coverage.

    He could also run a divide route. (Running back releases out of the back field and runs down the seam) Then there's the angle route. (Running back starts out to run a flat and turns back toward the middle)

    Either McFadden or Miller will be open when used in the right route combination.

    You still have Murphy and Schilens (hen he's back) outside

    Something will have to give.

Step Up: Bruce Gradkowski

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski #5 of the Oakland Raiders throws a pass during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated t
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Bruce Gradkowski is the most popular player with the Raiders.

    This is a team that has perennial Pro Bowlers Nnamdi Asomugha and Richard Seymour on it. The fans at the Raider's home opener were screaming for Gradkowski after Jason Campbell's first incomplete pass.

    It was as if Campbell had to play his way out of Gradkowski's legendary shadow.

    It's time for him to earn the adoration he has in Raider Nation by being more accurate. Accuracy is the key to passing in the red zone and Gradkowski's career passing percentage of 53 percent is no good.

    But let's forget about stats because it's all about making plays when they are there. Gradkowsi had many misses in the game but the two that hurt the most is when he missed Miller in the end zone twice.

    Those plays would have put the game away and Gradkowski knows it.

    Sunday is a good day to improve his accuracy.

Step Up: Darrius Heward-Bey

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey #85 of the Oakland Raiders has the ball knocked away by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie #29 of the Arizona Cardinals during the thrid quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Until Shilens gets back, Darrius Heyward-Bey has to his play up to help Gradkowski step up.

    Everyone wants to give him props for his improvement but it's not good enough in the red zone. He had a pass that could have won the game go through his hands in Arizona.

    That play wasn't just about hands as a defender was swiping at the ball. Heyward-Bey needs to use his body to shield the defender away from where the catch is being made.

    That's something he can start doing right away.

    He has to in order to help his quarterback the way Schilens does.

In Closing

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    The Raiders have improved on offense and defense but the scores and results don't show for it. But there's no need to panic because there is so much that the Raiders can do in the red zone to change things.

    On offense, points will be put on the board if these tweaks are made along with the players coming back. The same goes for the defense but I'm not too worried about them as they they have been good in the red zone the last few years.

    This will mean more end zone celebrations and more wins for the Silver and Black.

    And hopefully more ticket sales

    I hope you enjoyed the slide show.

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