Miami Dolphins vs. Oakland Raiders: 10 Keys for Silver and Black To Bounce Back
Following a brutal loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Richard Seymour, Darren McFadden and the rest of the Oakland Raiders return home to take on a desperate Miami Dolphins team.
At 5-5, the Raiders are only one game behind in their division and hold the tie break against all three teams in their division—for now.
That said, this is still a must win game for Oakland.
To make a run at the playoffs, or even the Super Bowl, teams must do several things. The first of which is win the games their supposed to win.
The is a game the Raiders should win.
The Dolphins are ailing from injury and may again be starting their third string quarterback, Tyler Thigpen. Their defense has been decent, but not as good as expected and they were shut out by the Chicago Bears in their last game—at home.
Needless to say, their going to be ready to redeem themselves this weekend.
Let's have a look at where I feel the Raiders can hurt the Dolphins and pull off a win to move to 6-5.
Establish The Run
The Dolphins are ranked 20th against the run this season. After the Steeler game, the Raiders are still ranked 2nd in rushing offense.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this is an area the Raiders need to exploit.
I would suggest a ground game that resembles the games against San Diego, Denver and Seattle, rather than the approach that failed in Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
The Dolphins are a talented defense, but tend to over pursue and get caught out of position. Hue Jackson should call a lot of counters, traps and misdirection to take advantage of Miami's aggression.
In addition, if something fails to work when executed properly, Jackson can't be afraid to scrap it and try something else, rather than continue it like he did against the Steelers.
I have a feeling the explosive rushing attack will be back this week in the coliseum.
Get Zach Miller The Damn Ball!
Last week, Zach Miller caught only two passes for nine yards. He also had several uncharacteristic drops.
Miller is too good for this trend to continue.
Against the Dolphins, Miller should be able to take advantage of rookie Koa Misi. Misi is a very talented, athletic young linebacker, but he's not known for his coverage skills.
Hue Jackson needs to create formations that force Misi to cover Miller one-on-one. This will open up running lanes and allow Miller to control the middle of the field.
Not only will this give the quarterback a "security blanket," but it will force either the safeties or linebackers to focus on Miller and lose sight of the run game.
I Don't expect Miller to be held down forever.
Account For Cameron Wake on Every Down
Former Canadian Football League defensive MVP, Cameron Wake is a game-changing player.
This guy can flat rush the passer. With the way the Raiders offensive line has struggled in pass protection, Wake is sure to be a handful.
The Raiders will need to use the tight ends, running backs, and Khalif Barnes to help out with Wake.
Hue Jackson can't be afraid of calling Max-Protect pass plays against this guy. I wouldn't be ashamed to bring in Barnes and line him up where ever Wake lines up, then leave a tight end or a back in to help as well.
Triple teaming may be the only way to mitigate Wake's impact on the game.
Running draws and screens more than just once or twice, (like in Pittsburgh) will go a long way to slowing him down too.
Use Short Crossing Routes
Something missing from the game plan in Pittsburgh was the short and intermediate crossing route. 99 percent of the passing routes were deep down field.
Another plan like that will result in another loss.
The Dolphins are just as good at rushing the passer as the Steelers, maybe better. Running nothing but deep posts, seams and fades will get the quarterback killed.
There has to be someone running across the field at five to eight yards to give the quarterback a quick outlet in case when the pressure comes early.
Blitz, Blitz, Blitz...then Blitz Again
"If you blitz him, he will crumble."
Tyler Thigpen is not Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers. He won't hurt you too bad with broken plays. Getting pressure on him will force mistakes and turnovers.
John Marshall should put together a plan that includes Kamerion Wimbley, Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell blitzing frequently.
Also, sending Rolando McClain right up the gut to get hands and pressure in his face will cause Thigpen to do what he's known for—turn the ball over.
This could be the most critical aspect of the defensive game plan—but only if Marshall does enough of it.
Mix Up The Coverage
John Marshall can't be afraid to run more than one coverage scheme. This is an aspect that has been missing from the Raiders' defense.
Too often this season, Marshall finds a play that works once, then sticks with it to the point the opponent figures it out, adjusts to it and exploits it.
Man-to-man is, of course, the Raider staple, but mixing in different types of zones and mixed man coverage will confuse the Dolphins.
Whether Chad Henne or Tyler Thigpen start for the Dolphins, keeping them guessing will be key.
Marshall shouldn't shy away from calling plays the Raiders haven't used all season. The odds are, the Dolphins won't be expecting it.
The more off balance the Dolphin quarterback is, and the more they have to guess, the better the odds of creating a big play or even a defensive score.
Contain The Two-Headed Rushing Monster
The Dolphins are not attempting as many rushes as they have in the recent past, but that doesn't mean they won't on Sunday.
Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are one of the best running back tandems in the NFL and they can hurt you if you aren't careful.
With the Dolphins likely down to their third string quarterback, I expect them to attempt to run the ball much more than at any other time this season.
The Raider defensive line will have to continue their solid gap control and the linebackers can't be fooled by misdirection or over-pursue and allow cutback lanes.
The bottom line here is gap discipline and solid tackling.
Don't Let Brandon Marshall Run Free
Brandon Marshall hasn't been practicing, but I'd count on him playing on Sunday. A few things need to happen to get him covered.
Jam him, hit him, get in his way, do what it takes to disrupt his release and timing.
If Nnamdi Asomugha can go, (still listed as questionable) the Marshall quandary is handled. If not, it's a whole different can of worms.
Marshall can hurt a defense in many ways. He has the speed to get deep, he has the size and leaping ability to make the catch even when he's covered and he has the toughness to go over the middle and be a "possession receiver."
Assuming Asomugha can't go, the Raiders should consider using Michael Huff to help the cornerbacks by providing "over the top" coverage most of the day.
Of course, if Huff is doubling Marshall on every down, the Dolphins will notice this and take advantage. Therefore, using Mike Mitchell, Tyvon Branch and Jeremy Ware on him in different situations will be necessary.
Whatever they do cover Marshall, the Raiders can't let the Miami coaching staff pick up on any trends.
Don't Give Up The Big Return
Devon Bess and Patrick Cobbs are excellent return men that can swap field position in a hurry.
John Fassel has to have the Raiders' special teams ready to play. Giving up lane responsibilities or missing tackles could lead to the Dolphins starting in the Raiders' territory.
A game between two 5-5 teams could come down to a battle of field position. I'm sure Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski will continue to boot the ball deep, but the coverage has to be there.
Stevie Brown, Ricky Brown and the rest of the Raider coverage teams will play a big role in this game.
This is a must win for the Raiders. The Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos all have easier schedules remaining than the Raiders.
Therefore, the Raiders have to win every game they can. That starts by beating the teams they're supposed to beat.
The 5-5 Dolphins are a team the Raiders not only could beat, but should beat. They are reeling from injury and ripe for the picking.
(Don't forget, you can get the captions by hovering your cursor over the the picture.)
What do you think Raider Nation? What did I miss? What else should the Raiders do against the Dolphins? Who could be the key player? Let me hear you in the comments.