With their loss to the Buffalo Bills last week the Raiders dropped to 3-5 on the season. They stayed on the east coast, practicing in Florida this week to prepare for their Sunday Night Football match-up with the Miami Dolphins.
It’s the Raiders’ second Sunday Night game of the season and they will need to perform much better than they did last time when they were completely dominated by Washington. As always the Raiders have the talent if they can put it together. Lets take a look at how they can deploy it to steal a road win.
This will be music to Derek Carr’s ears. The Dolphins have a very good defense as the rank 7th in yards given up and 15th in scoring. They do show a weakness on film to the fade route though and the Raiders are certainly the team that will look to exploit it.
We have seen how Carr loves to check to fade routes anytime he gets a single high man coverage and he should get that opportunity very often this week. Outside of the one good performance against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders offense has struggled over the last 6 weeks to say the least.
Shrink the playbook
This may sound strange to those in the fan base that feel like the offense is too simplistic. The film shows signs of the offense trying to do too much and is most likely caused by excessive volume without enough time to perfect concepts.
Starting with the first play in this clip we see receivers in the same spot on the field. This should never happen. Proper route spacing and depth is perfected through practice reps. This is a very common occurrence on film and seems to indicate an offense not completely comfortable with the playbook.
The team has played 12 games counting the preseason and should be proficient with most of their scheme by now. Having to think so much on every play instead of simply executing could explain some of the drops, missed passes, and inconsistent performance.
The second clip is a perfect example of what this offense is capable of when they are on the same page. Receiver Michael Crabtree is double covered on this deep in but perfect timing and anticipation by Carr makes this completion look simple.
Getting receiver Seth Roberts back this week after he missed last weeks game with an illness will certainly help with that familiarity. Despite his drop issues, Roberts is one of Carr’s favorite targets and his absence last week certainly hurt the offense.
“Seth is extremely valuable,” Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing said Thursday. “He’s a really, really good slot receiver in this league. He understands coverages extremely well. He understands how to fit into the timing concepts extremely well verses different looks and navigating zone defenders in those underneath routes and so on.”
Pressure, pressure, pressure
The Dolphins offense ranks dead last (32nd) in yards as well as scoring but have the ability to put up points in a hurry. They scored 17 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to come back and beat the Jets 31-28 two weeks ago.
It looks like quarterback Jay Cutler starting at quarterback. He will face a Raiders secondary that will be shorthanded and this match-up could decide the winner of this game.
Expect the defense to start the game playing zone coverages allowing their defensive line to test out the Dolphins offensive line. The Raiders will be in trouble if their front 4 cannot generate pressure.
Cutler is not afraid to attack a secondary and with weapons like wide receivers Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and tight end Julius Thomas, the Raiders will have their hands full.
The defense will not want to get caught in too many man coverages due to the Dolphins talent level and the Raiders depleted secondary. If the defensive front can get pressure on Cutler consistently that philosophy may change. Cutler is well know for his interception tendencies. The Raiders defense has yet to secure one this season but the staff believes that streak will end soon.
“It’s going to come,” Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr said. “We know it’s going to come. It’s just about working, keeping the belief and knowing that we know what’s out there. It’s just a matter of when. We’d like to see it sooner, but we aren’t in charge of when it comes. We’re ready to roll.”
This game could give the Raiders the opportunity to regain that “mojo” head coach Jack Del Rio was talking about this week. With the team staying on the road to prepare for this game, it should eliminate any outside noise or distractions and help them focus.
The Raiders have shifted from ‘must-win’ to ‘do-or-die’ at the halfway point of the season. A loss this week will not mathematically eliminate them from the playoffs but they cannot afford to lose any more ground in the race for the AFC West or wildcard spot.
If they win these key areas they can at least get a better vibe going within the organization. They have a long way to go to be seen as the team most people envisioned at the start of the season but every journey begins somewhere. For the Raiders, it starts in Miami this Sunday night.
Who wins this game
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