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Breakdown of seven select Darren McFadden runs vs Broncos

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Play 1 Over-Powered on the Power Play

A power play off-tackle to the right. The Raiders get two double-teams at the point of attack and should create a nice hole for DMC to run into. Unfortunately, there will be three defeated blocks (Gurode, Wisniewski, Pashos) and a missed second level block (Brisiel) that makes life difficult for DMC. The initial running lane is clogged up and when DMC bounces it, there are three unblocked Broncos pursuing.

Still 1 :

Double teams on #97 DE Malik Jackson and #56 LB Nate Irving. Brisiel will release his double team to try to get to #52 MLB Wesley Woodyard

Second Still :

The C-Gap is a mess. Malik Jackson has taken Pashos to the outside while #99 Kevin Vickerson is overpowering Wisniewski. Those two force the bounce-out. Also notice the unblocked backside contain defender.

Third Still :

There's a mess in front of him and so DMC tries the bounce-out, but there's an unblocked defender there, as well as linebacker pursuit :

Fourth :

There are now 3 Raiders blocking LB Nate Irving (?!) while two Broncos are left unblocked to attack DMC. Also, Gurode has missed his block on #59 Danny Trevathan so there's a 3rd Bronco coming to help clean things up.

Fifth :

Crunch.


Play 2 : Running Free

Looks like an inside zone to the weakside. At the point of attack there will be one defeated primary block and two missed second level blocks that allows three Broncos to disrupt the play and tackle DMC.

First :

Wisniewski gets overpowered by #99 DT Kevin Vickerson again. Brisiel attempts to get to #56 Nate Irving at the second level. Irving is too quick and he easily avoids Brisiel's block attempt. Not to be outdone, Andre Gurode also misses his block on MLB Wesley Woodyard.

Somehow the Raiders end up with a double team on the least important LB, the WLB #59 Danny Trevathan (?!)

Second :

Vickerson takes away the initial run lane, forcing DMC to cut up early, but there are two Linebackers filling. You can see the Raiders' Guards have released and are trying to block them, but Brisiel and Gurode in space are helpless against the quicker and faster LBs.

Third :

DMC cuts up into the Linebackers.

Fourth :

Irving nearly overruns the play, but because of the trailing 2nd linebacker, they are able to combine on the tackle. Also, Vickerson again powers Wis and pushes him backwards into the play.

Play 3 Pashos is Overpowered

8 in the box against 8 blockers. With a double-team, this means there will be an unblocked defender. This also means that there will be Big-on-Big a couple of places and the Raiders have to win that to get a running lane. There will be one defeated block and a free runner.

Still 1 :

Again, it's #99 DT Kevin Vickerson causing problems. This time he destroys Tony Pashos and shoves him 3 yards deep. This forces DMC to cut back into the unblocked backside defender.

The intended gap the C-gap outside Pashos. That's where Jamize Olawale is trying to lead. This plays should be well away from that unblocked Bronco (#56 Nate Irving), but notice that Vickerson disrupts that.

Second Still :

Vickerson shoves Pashos in between DMC and his lead blocker Olawale. There might be a running lane out in the D-gap, but DMC can't get there. Notice that if DMC were able to follow Olawale to the right side, he would be running away from Irving. But he's cutting back into the pursuit. At the same time, #95 Derek Wolfe is standing up McCants at the point of attack.

Third Still :

Irving makes first contact, but he's not alone. Derek Wolfe sheds McCants and also gets in on the tackle.

Fourth :

Nowhere to go.


Play 4 Communication Breakdown

7 in the box against 7 blockers. The Read Option play should eliminate one defender from blocking assignments and so this should be a favorable matchup. There will be one defeated block and a communication/assignment problem which releases a Bronco to run free.

Still 1 :

The Read defender is #90 LB Shaun Phillips.

#96 Mitch Unrein manhandles Wisniewski.

#94 Terrance Knighton is doubled by Gurode and Barnes. Both Gurode and Barnes will release off Knighton to take on a filling Linebacker. This sets Knighton free to make the play. Because Reece is used on the Option fake and because there is a backside double-team, one of the playside linebackers is unaccounted for.

Second :

There's an initial gap, but two filling linebackers.

Third :

Reece and Pryor are both running the fake to the outside.

Gurode and Barnes have both left Knighton. Gurode tries to take #52 Woodyard and Barnes is eyeing #59 Trevathan. Also Mitch Unrein is collapsing Wis on the play.

Fourth :

Woodyard, Knighton, and Unrein collapse the hole on DMC.


Play 5 Two Quick, Too Quick

There's one Bronco left unblocked, two Broncos beat their men and get into the gaps right away and one other defeats the intended block. That leaves four Broncos running free. DMC has his initial gap taken away immediately and then cuts back into another defender.

Still 1 :

#94 Terrance Knighton and #95 Derek Wolfe will win right away. #94 takes an outside swim move and leaves Andre Gurode waving at air. Wolfe splits Pashos/Mastrud with Mastrud not able to reach him and Pashos giving almost no help. On the outside, #91 Robert Ayers toses Khalif Barnes to the ground.

Second :

DMC doesn't even have the ball yet and there is penetration.

Third :

As DMC gets the handoff, Wolfe has taken away the initial gap. Knighton is running free past Gurode. Barnes is getting thrown to the ground.

Fourth :

DMC cuts back but there are three unblocked defenders directly in front of him (and four total). Notice how Wolfe is able to scrape down the line because #25 CB Chris Harris has the outside contain.

Fifth :

Nowhere to go and two linemen lying on the ground.


Play 6 Marcel Reece Got Blowed Up

This looks like a designed counter lead. it initially looks like an inside zone play and is designed to draw the linebackers into the initial gap, but then DMC follows the lead on a planned cut to the outside. Unfortunately, two thinkgs happen : first #59 Danny Trevathan shoots the gap unnaturally quickly (owing partly to #99 Kevin Vickerson again disrupting things) and #56 Nate Irving destroying Marcel Reece in the backfield. DMC gets caught between the two linebackers.

Notice that there are 10 in the box on this play.

Still 1 :

Kevin Vickerson will attack Brisiel's inside shoulder and take him well to the inside, opening up a huge gap for Trevathan to run into (The more I watch, the more I hate/respect Kevin Vickerson). Trevathan runs free. Irving attack Reece's lead.

Second :

Gigantic hole in front of Trevathan is caused by Vickerson; this gives Trevathan a clear line to run freely at DMC. Irving crashes quickly from the right side.

Third :

Reece engages Irving and DMC cuts to the outside. IF Reece gets the block, DMC has a chance to outrun Trevathan to the outside. But instead...

Fourth :

Reece is shoved backwards a couple of yards, blowing up the whole play. Irving makes first contact and Trevathan cleans it up.


Play 7 Gurode Blocks Air

It's tough enough when you get your assignments right, but in this case, it looks like Gurode gets confused trying to decide who to block. His hesitation ends up with him blocking no one and letting 2 linebackers run free into the backfield. Mitch Unrein pushes Wis into the play and the CB #25 runs free again.

Still 1 :

Brisiel and Wis double on Unrein with Brisiel releasing to try to get #52 Woodyard. But Brisiel can't get to him. This leaves Wis one-on-one with Unrein and Woodyard running free. Gurode releases immediately to the second level.

Second :

Woodyard or Trevathan? Gurode appears to initially want to block Trevathan. Also Reece is used to block the Edge defender #91 Robert Ayers (who is playing contain on Pryor). This means that even Gurode makes a block, there's a free defender.

Third :

Gurode seems confused as both Woodyard and Trevathan run by him. Unrein shoves Wis into the play also. Meanwhile, there are three Raiders blocking Shaun Phillips (?!).

Fourth :

Three Broncos combine to gang-tackle DMC.

Finale

Like most Raiders' fans, I was very frustrated to see my beloved Raiders lose to the Broncos and doubly frustrated that the running game was so ineffective. And while I initially lashed out at DMC, it's far too clear upon review that the offensive line was problematic against Denver. Furthermore, there's a huge talent gap between the offensive line and the Denver defensive line. The line could not deal with one-on-one block on any of the front line defenders.

In particular, Kevin Vickerson was ruining the day; whenever he had one-on-one, he was able to shove that guy around. Wisniewski continues to show that he does not have the power to match up with the bigger, stronger DTs. This has been true for his entire career and is now more painfully evident as the Guard play sags even more.

The combination of size (on the Broncos' DL) and their speed (LBs) showed up and played exactly to the Raiders' weaknesses. The DL were able to overwhelm their counterparts, like when Unrein 2-gaps against Wis. And then the LBs (in particulary, Nate Irving looked outstanding) were able to attack so quickly that the slow footed Brisiel and Gurode had no chance to engage them in space. That's not really their fault, those OGs gave it all they had, but they just can't do it. The Raiders would need someone more like Wis at the OG position to handle those speedy linebackers.

This was a rude awakening, but on reflection is it really that surprising? If I were to tell you that Kevin Vickerson would dominate Tony Pashos, would you really be so shocked? The question in front of Greg Olson and Tony Sparano is how to manage this rag-tag crew until they can start getting players back.. Would a healthy Veldheer, Bergstrom, and Watson have made a difference?

I'm not quite sure what to make of the Denver front seven. They looked absolutely fantastic against the Raiders' offensive line; they were big, strong, quick, fast, explosive, disruptive, breaking open holes, and really working in conjunction. They had big guys gashing lanes for the second level guys to run into and those second level linebackers were reacting extremely quickly to their keys. And unlike the Jaguars, they were attacking their run gaps directly neither over-pursuing nor reacting too slowly. They looked like the proverbial well-oiled machine. And this without their biggest weapon on defense!

I will say this, though. The biggest sign of respect for an opposing player is to give them a big "I hate him (but wish he were on the Raiders)." I gave this to Derrick Thomas, to Neil Smith, to Bill Romonowski, to LDT, to Junior Seau, and Von Miller (among many others). In reviewing the run plays, I give a hearty "I hate him" to Kevin Vickerson and Nate Irving. These guys are hardly household names, but Damn did they ruin the Raiders' day.

What is clear about the Offensive Line is that the lack of depth (for various reasons) combined with the injuries have forced the Raiders into a difficult position with the lineplay. Nix played poorly two weeks ago and Gurode was pretty brutal this past week. Pashos was a pleasant surprise against Indy and Jax but against Denver, he looked like a guy who had been out of footballl for a year.

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