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Analysis of Greg Olson's offensive system

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We don't need to waste time rehashing how bad last years offense was, it was bad from top to bottom. The main issues stemmed from the red zone offense and the inability to run the football. Dennis Allen has brought in Greg Olson to re-establish the power blocking scheme and improve the red zone efficiency. While I don't have a copy of Olson's playbook, it has been well documented that Olson's biggest influence was Jon Gruden... and I do have a copy of that playbook. While it is reasonable to assume that Olson's playbook is different than this one, one can still glean insight into personnel groupings and philosophies from Jon Gruden's book.

Personnel groups:

It's interesting to look at the different groupings to imagine who might be on the field. Below is the complete list of Knapp's and Gruden's groups.

KNAPP PERSONNEL GROUPINGS
-Regular: 2WR-1TE-2RB
-Ace: 2WR-2TE-1RB
-Posse: 3WR-1TE-1RB
-Tank: 1WR-2TE-2RB
-Jumbo: 3TE-2RB
-Flush: 5WR

GRUDEN’S PERSONNEL GROUPINGS
-Regular (2WR-1TE-2RB)
-Pony (2WR-1TE-2TB)
-Ace (2TE-2TE-1RB)
-Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)
-Houston (3WR-1TE-1RB)
-Jet (4WR-1RB)

-Quads (4WR -1RB)
-Heavy (1WR-3TE-1RB)
-Tank (1WR-2TE-2RB)
-Jumbo (3TE-2RB)

First of all, Gruden implemented nearly twice as many personnel groupings; variability can confuse defenses and help keep players fresh. However it does make the QB position more complicated, but nothing that Matt Flynn isn't used to. First thing that jumps out at me from the Gruden/Olsen playbook is that there are no empty sets. Keeping McFadden, a dynamic play maker, on the field at all times is a good idea. A running back can offer extra protection or a quick outlet in the west coast scheme. Next, Gruden's playbook utilizes 4 different groupings with two or more tight ends. It will be important for the young inexperienced group to come along quickly to produce in these sets. That being said a grouping of Rivera, Ausberry, and Kasa could yield good returns on third downs and goal line situations. Next, Gruden liked to utilize more than one HB at a time, this could become intriguing with Murray and McFadden in the same backfield. Finally, Gruden's playbook never used more than 4 WR's so the position may be overcrowded come cut down time.

Goal Line:

Knapp's offense tended to use the 'Tank' package frequently in the red zone, where as Gruden's offense utilized the Jumbo package. Considering that the Raiders do not have any big powerful blocking receivers it is probably best to utilize the TE's in this area. When Gruden passed in the red zone the seem routes, outs, and double moves were frequently used. Knapp utilized slants most often. Having a QB who is smaller in stature, such as Flynn, makes slant routes difficult to complete without being deflected. Furthermore, Knapp used the following run plays in the red zone: stretch, lead, split dive, naked boot. Aside from the fact that we know that the zone schemes didn't work in Oakland, it is common belief that zone runs fail in the red zone league wide due to lack of aggression. The stretch play in particular leaves the running back susceptible to being tackled for a loss. The stretch utilizes a pulling guard or tackle who opens a whole on the weak side. Gruden utilized lead, lead G, power O, and power sweeps in his offense. Gruden's runs lend themselves to McFadden's style to either slam it inside quick or beat the opponent outside with his speed.

Passing O:

First, Gruden's offense uses almost no shotgun formations. This lends itself nicely to Matt Flynn's strength of quick throws on short to intermediate routes. Another interesting point, is that Gruden's route tree had a heavy dose of 'zone' passes. Zone passes are were the receiver sits down in a gap between the secondary's coverage. I see the zone passes being a big area for players like Rod Streater and Connor Vernon to excel. Another concept Gruden used was 'get double' which sent to receivers at the same coverage man and forced him to choose. The get doble routs will help to get Denarius Moore open down field. Knapp's system was heavy on 'hi-lo' concepts which sits to players at different depths in a zone. Flynn may struggle with hi lo throws due to arm strength concerns.

Full Back:

Gruden always had the luxury of dynamic full backs. Whether is was John Richie or Mike Alstott, Gruden used them as another tight end in the passing game and on numerous wheel routes out of the backfield. Obviously these type of plays will work out with a player like Reece.

While this analysis does make a lot of assumptions regarding how much Olsen has borrowed from Gruden's playbook, it will most likely not be far off. There are only a few different schemes within West Coast used throughout the league. Knapp's brand of the west coast was derived from Shanahan's (from the Dan Reeve's tree) playbook, whereas Olsen comes from the 49ers tree which extended through Gruden, Mike Homgren and Andy Reid. Regardless of how closely the actual playbook this year is to the one used in 1998, it is certain that Olsen learned from these tendencies and will try to replicate the success that Gruden had.

Take a look at Gruden's playbook.... if nothing else it is a fun piece of nostalgia

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