Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders
It is like the first day of school for these Raiders. They got their new playbooks Thursday and will now have the weekend to look them over before reconvening on Monday. Up to this point, they could only hypothesize what those playbooks would look like based on their what their coaches typically run.
On the offensive side of the ball, Carson Palmer had been watching tape of the Texans offense to get an idea of what he might expect from Greg Knapp's offense. He has also been working with a few Raider receivers over the summer including tight end David Ausberry, wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Eddie McGee, and some other guy who showed up named Terrell Owens.
A week ago, Carson Palmer was chomping at the bit to get in to speak with his new coaches and work with his new teammates. As he told Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, he had been watching film of Greg Knapps offense and had been trying to practice it. But until he got to the facilities and had the playbook, he couldn't really work on the specifics and terminology.
"I am fired up to get my playbook," Palmer said. "We have a lot of work to do. We have a new offense and a new defense. New terminology. But we're very excited. Personnel-wise, we have as good an opportunity as anybody to win the whole thing."
The running backs are as much a part of this as they will be the focal point of this run-first attack. Darren McFadden will carry a heavy load as the feature back with Taiwan Jones expected to add another dynamic. McFadden remembers when the Raiders ran the zone under former coach Tom Cable. He struggled in it early in his career but broke out in 2010 to have a Pro Bowl season.
Add the X-factor Marcel Reece, and the Raider have a potent offensive attack from the running back position. The possibilities have Palmer extremely excited as he expressed to the Bay Area News Group.
"I think it's really going to fit the personnel we have." Said Palmer. "The style of play with the offensive line and the zone running scheme, and the speed we have in the backfield, it's built for making a read, making one cut, and getting vertical and putting pressure on the defense with our speed and our running backs just heading north when they find the hole in that zone.
"I spent time talking with Darren (McFadden) and Taiwan Jones about it, and obviously the running game is going to be big for the Oakland Raiders this year. And what comes off the running game is really cool. All the play-action stuff really utilizes what we have on the outside. There's not a lot of routes where guys are stopping. They're using their speed, they're on the move. It's going to fit the strong suits of a lot of guys we have on offense, including myself."
This new style will have the Raider receivers' faces stuck in the new playbook over the weekend as well. However, their roles may not change much. Darrius Heyward-Bey had already found his niche as a short yardage receiver, Jacoby Ford is already slated as the team's slot receiver, and Denarius Moore will continue to present that deep threat who can catch balls in traffic. Now, like Palmer, it is simply the specifics and terminology with which to become familiar.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly doesn't see the defense changing much. As Kelly told Jerry McDonald; "We're going to do what we always do-- run four man. I'm just assuming. Heard he's a guy that mixes it up, so you never know."
The plan has been to run a hybrid style. The question is simply of ratios. Would it be a 3-4 base or 4-3 base? With the current personnel, a 4-3 certainly makes more sense. But the plan is still to make a shift to more 3-4 alignments. And that would mean they have to add more linebackers and a solid nose tackle. I still look for them to do that in the draft and/or free agency prior to camp. And a weekend of playbook study may mean Kelly won't have to assume so much as to what the defensive identity will be.
The secondary is expected to switch to more of a zone scheme as opposed to the man cover style that has become synonymous with the Raiders throughout their existence. The revamped cornerback corps is indicative of that.
Last Monday was a big day for this new group of players and coaches. This coming Monday will be no different.