FanPost

Raider passing game: The vicious, lightening-fast, deadly hydra

I always used to think of the Raider passing game as a multi-headed hydra. Flores, Lamonica, Stabler, and Plunkett always seemed to have so many developed weapons to throw to. Consider the Stabler years. He had Branch, Biletnikoff, Siani, Chester, Casper, Clarence Davis, Marv Hubbard, etc. to throw to. The corners and safeties would double up on Branch, then what? Everybody else would get open. This hydra was unstoppable. So vicious was the hydra that Stabler became known as the most dangerous quarterback at the 2-minute warning. The Raiders would march down the field and every team no matter who it was knew what was coming and they knew they could not stop us. One little slip up deep and Branch was gone, or on shorter passes, Stabler worked like a surgeon with Biletnikoff. I have yet to see such an efficient, vaunted passing team as Stabler's game. So vicious was this attack that I recall reading in the Tribune the Raiders had reached a .800 lifetime win percentage. This percentage was so high that, not only was it higher than any other football team, but it was the highest win percentage in every sport. In those 14-game seasons, 11, 12, or 13 game wins per year was the norm. Second to the Raiders was the Boston Celtics. Sportscasters called the Raiders the Devil's Island, because other teams would go there only to get killed. The infamous pirate island of Tortuga had nothing on the Raiders. I recall HOF quarterback Len Dawson saying that no team ever beats the Raiders twice in one season as he said on national television, "Nobody ever does that to the Raiders." I recall when the Dolphins had the longest winning streak in NFL history, but it ended when they played the Raiders.

That was the Raider hydra of yesteryear. Can such a development like that be developing once again? By  looking at history, you can make sense of Al's thinking, and I believe he is trying to construct the modern day hydra not just with one Cliff Branch, but with almost a dozen of them - whew! Who is going to stop this team! With speed like Ford, Murphy, Moore, Heyward-Bey, Run DMC, Typhoon Jones, Reece, etc., they are going to be smoking people. Recall when Ford stepped into the scene at KC against a very respectable corner in Brandon Flowers? Flowers was left a burnt up smoldering mess. Say Ford acquires Branch's notoriety and gets double-covered. No team is going to have the corners to keep the other receivers covered because they all approximate Ford's speed. They can only stop us if they double-cover everyone, which is impossible to do.

Now, I'm an older fan and I have learned to have patience. The WR position can take a while, even a few years, to develop. Our receivers are so young and people sometimes tend to dismiss them because they often want instant winners. Consider Lewis Murphy. He showed promise in his first year, but in his second year he hurt his shoulder with a contusion (bruise) in his lung and the criticism started. I know better than to hold that against him and expect him to perform magnificently this year. Last year he was headed toward a 1000 yd season until he got hurt, and I expect him to pick up where he left off. Ford is only in his second year. Moore and Taiwan are in their first year, etc. With the way the offensive line is developing and provided Jason performs, who is going to stop us? Imagine what this group is going to be like next year when a real zippy chemistry has developed between them! What will they be like 5 years from now when perhaps the speedy Pryor is at the helm? I see Al's strategy and I think we are set for wonderful things.

In this hydra, and one of the reasons why I refer to it as a hydra, is because we have so many receivers that are going to develop that somehow I don't think we will have a No. 1 receiver. If these receivers are rotated, or should I say, Campbell develops the ability to look at most of his receivers and mix his passes to different receivers, there are bound to be players open due to their speed. Most receivers might catch 4 passes or so per game, which might not sound too spectacular, but if that happens with every receiver in every game, Jason is going to be all-pro. I saw some games like that last year (e.g., the second San Diego game). I find this an effective strategy because the defense will not know who to cover. Take note though, that this is just like the Stabler days. They were so successful that the defense did not know who to cover. I guess you can say that Biletnikoff was the go-to short pass receiver (though he could catch deep passes), and Branch was the deep go-to receiver, but what about Casper or Chester? It would almost be unfair to say that Stabler had a No 1 go-to receiver because he threw to everyone. I also see not having a No. 1 receiver as an advantage because on teams that have such a receiver, they go through hell when that receiver is hurt. They have to restructure their game plans differently because their No. 1 receiver is gone, which is particularly devastating if the receiver is seriously hurt and out for so many games. I foresee a similar scenario to Stabler's days formulating in today's game. Just think with all that speed the kinds of formations that could be put together. I don't think that the Raiders are going to be viewed as vanilla with all of the possibilities in offensive sets. I foresee and hear a loud, low moan emanating from the voices of other teams once this hydra is unleashed, a moan that will last for years to come. And this is the traditional Raider football.

Signed, The Psycho Hydra

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