A major criticism the Raiders have received during their past two games is not committing to the run. In their week three and four games in Washington and Denver, they have passed the ball at a 3/1 clip.
In Washington Carr dropped back to pass 37 times while they called run plays just 11 times with Marshawn Lynch receiving just 6 carries. In Denver they dropped back to pass 38 times while running the ball 15 times. One of those was the fake punt in which Marquette King was stopped for a 3-yard loss. That’s 75 called pass plays and 25 called run plays on offense.
Whenever this happens, the response is usually a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation, where the coaches say the team has to earn the ability to run the ball while the team’s success often hinges on the team’s ability to run it. Also see ‘you have to have money to make money’.
Successful plays create first downs which begets more plays on offense. Without success picking up yards early in the downs, it means the team must try to pass their way out of it. One thing is for certain, these things feed on each other.
Last season putting the game on Derek Carr’s arm worked out most of the time. They certainly haven’t worked out the past two weeks and this week it’s EJ Manuel stepping up at quarterback. Putting the entire offense on his shoulders would be a considerable risk.
“I think it’s huge. We always want balance,” Coordinator Todd Downing said Thursday. “That’s something that I strive to have for our play calling is good balance. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten a little bit out of balance in some scenarios, but we’re looking forward to this week as an opportunity to get back on track.”
A major issue has been third down. The team is 2 for 23 the past two weeks. Obviously to have the opportunity to run the ball, you need more downs in which to do it. And it has invited a lot of criticism over how limited the playbook has seemed.
“It certainly helps you get to some more of your plays,” Downing said of converting third downs. “When you’re not converting on third downs, you’re leaving a lot of your stuff on the call sheet. It’s funny because third downs can be a little bit of an ebb and flow based on teams you play. We were very good in the first couple of games by percentage. I think after two games, we were fourth or fifth, somewhere in that ballpark. Obviously, we’ve struggled mightily the last couple of weeks.”
One such type of play we haven’t seen much of is play-action. It works best when a team is able to set up the run. Then use a play fake to draw in the defense and it opens things up for the pass. Technically you don’t need to establish the run for it to work. But you do kinda need to be in situations where the defense actually believes it’s coming.
Downing insists the team has planned to use play-action, but just hasn’t had the opportunity. And when they have used it, it was unsuccessful.
“We have called some play actions,” said Downing, “they just haven’t resulted in the types of results that we want. That tends, as a play caller, to shy you away from those a little bit as well. We certainly have plenty in our system, and we certainly work on them. When the time is right, hopefully we get them called or I get them called and the guys go execute.”
No time like this week against the league’s 25th ranked run defense.