Normally during the season, today the team would be taking the field again to prepare for their next opponent. Not for the Raiders this week as they enter their bye week. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have responsibilities in their week ‘off’.
Monday, head coach Jack Del Rio spoke of the team’s approach in their extra week to prepare for the stretch run which will begin with the Patriots in Mexico City on November 19.
First thing on the docket: Self-scouting
“We’ll get a little bit of a review of who we are and what we need to do better,” said Del Rio.
“We’ll do a little bit of self-scouting over this bye week, not that we wait very long to get into that, we’re going through it all the time, but we’ll get into that self-scouting aspects and get a little extra on the Patriots going forward.”
Looking back at what the team has put on the field thus is not a luxury teams have on a weekly basis. It’s on to the next. After the Raiders’ win over the Chiefs two weeks ago, Derek Carr said he went right home, fixed himself something to eat and put on tape of the Bills.
The coaches and players will have this week to take a look at their season thus far and hopefully find ways to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative before the mess with Mr Brady and Mr Belichick.
“We’re gonna look at everything,” said offensive coordinator Todd Downing. “We’re gonna take our time and dive into it. I can probably answer that better next week. I don’t want to put necessarily a priority on things. I want to take some time and dive into it, look at myself first as the play caller, where I called things, why I called things and make sure I’m very thorough in that process.”
There’s been some tinkering with the offensive game plan, but it hasn’t been consistent. One of the issues has been not running the ball as much as they should. And particularly, not giving Marshawn Lynch enough carries. Lynch got 14 carries last Sunday, which was his highest total since the opener.
“Wanted to get our rush attempts up around 30,” Del Rio said after the game Sunday. “I think we got that done. That’s going to be a factor for us as we go through the second half of this season.”
Committing to the run, along with play action, has proven to be successful for the Raiders and they don’t do it nearly enough. One set of plays in particular against the Dolphins perfectly encapsulated that.
Midway through the second quarter, Marshawn had two yards on five carries. Despite those numbers, the call was to hand Marshawn the ball on third and three. Marshawn picked up the three yards, and drove through defenders to pick up three more. On the next play, the Raiders went with play action to Marshawn and then threw deep to Johnny Holton for the 44-yard touchdown.
“Whenever you can pick up a third down off a run, I mean, as a defense that’s kind of like ‘Dang!’,” Derek Carr said of that third down run. “They’re sitting there getting their blitz package ready on that down and distance, they’re sitting there getting their coverage schemes ready for that down and distance, ‘who’s where? How are we gonna cover this?’ and then you run it on them, that kinda throws it out of whack. It mixes the calls up.
“So, then we get the next play and they play a two-high coverage, but with the safety to match Johnny. We had the opportunity. If that safety was ten yards deeper, we wouldn’t have been able to throw that ball, but the fact that he was down there, possibly run, and my eyes went right to him. I’m making my fake and my eyes are right on him. As long as he stays at a certain level, we were gonna have a chance. So, it definitely goes together.”
So, yeah, first and foremost this offense needs more of that. All of that.
On the defense, it’s primarily the play of the secondary that has been problematic. They are giving up catches so quickly, the pass rush can’t get to the quarterback before he finds an open man.
“We’ve got good pass rushers,” said Del Rio, “we need to have a little tighter coverage so that the quarterback has to hold the ball. If he’s able to get it out on time and comfortably, throw it in front of us and then make guys miss and get big plays, then why would they hold onto it to look down the field? That’s where I say leverage and tackling is huge for our defense.”
Tackling has actually been pretty good for the Raiders this season. It wasn’t as good against the Dolphins, but much of that had to do with how slippery the field was after so much rain. They have the tackling stuff down. Time for the defensive backs to defend some passes and maybe, I don’t know, get an actual interception.