The Raiders signed free agent tight end Jared Cook from the Green Bay Packers this off season. The assumption has been that the signing will diminish the role of tight end Clive Walford. It is possible that Cook’s addition will actually increase Walford’s role and productivity in the same way Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree benefit from each others presence on the field.
Walford’s 33 receptions for 359 yards and 3 touchdowns were far less than the Raiders had expected from his second year. Though a knee injury in an ATV accident coupled with Lee Smith being lost for the season in week 4, to a broken leg, played a significant role in those diminished returns. After Smith’s injury the Raiders utilized a 6th offensive linemen in place of Smith, leaving Walford as the only pass catching threat at tight end. Though Donald Penn may disagree.
Combining ‘12’ (1 running back, 2 tight ends) personnel with their no huddle offense would allow the Raiders offense to take advantage of mismatches, as well as preventing the defense from substituting out of those mismatches. Defensive coordinators will be forced to either defend the run with their base defense or defend the pass with their ‘nickel’ packages for an entire drive. The Raiders offensive versatility will allow them attack the defense based upon this decision.
While Walford’s receiving numbers were not great, his blocking skills greatly improved over the course of the season. Having two tight ends who can be both receiving threats as well as hold up in run blocking will allow Raiders Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing to utilize multiple formations with the same personnel.
An example of this would be starting a drive with a run play out of a standard ‘ace’ formation.
Then going no huddle and lining up in a 5 wide set with both tight ends in the slots.
The tempo of the offense will also work to wear down the defense. Carr will face less pressure as the game progresses and the pass rushers become fatigued. The Raiders already possess one of the most physical offensive lines in the NFL and a tired defense will stand little chance as they impose their will in the run game.
The addition of Marshawn Lynch will work to exacerbate the difficulty defensive coordinators will face in defending against the Raiders ‘12’ personnel. While some backs struggle running out of shotgun formations, Lynch excelled at it. This will give the Raiders the ability to run or pass out of the many formations they utilize.
Having versatile offensive players will minimize play calling tendencies and force the defense to react rather than attack. Derek Carr will have the ability to read the defense at the line and make play calls based on defensive formation as well as take advantage of personnel mismatches.