After being completely outplayed in week 3, the Raiders will look to rebound against their division rival Broncos in Denver. It will be a tough task in their second consecutive road game and first division battle of the 2017 season.
The Raiders split the series with Denver last year though it is worth pointing out that Raiders quarterback Derek Carr missed the second match-up. After being embarrassed on national television last week, the Raiders should go into this game with renewed focus and a desire to regain their manhoods. Lets look at what they must do to make that happen.
Control the line of scrimage
This is a bit of a cliche in football but it is what will decide the outcome of this game. In the Raiders victory last season they dominated time of possession 41:28 minutes to the Broncos 18:32 minutes. The Raiders were able to control the game by picking up a total of 30 first downs; 12 through the air, 11 on the ground, and another 7 from penalties.
The Raiders will need to establish the run in this game to prevent the type of pressure Carr was under in the Washington game. The Broncos were certainly one of the opponents on the coaching staff’s minds when they signed running back Marshawn Lynch. That signing will need to pay off this week.
The Broncos have only allowed twelve 3rd down conversions out of 42 attempts (28%). Being able to run the ball will help keep the offense out of third-and-longs. Not allowing the Broncos pass rush to pin their ears back and attack the quarterback will help out the offensive line.
After being sacked only 16 times all last season, Carr was sacked 4 times last week. The Raiders are going to face an even better defensive front this week. Protecting Carr and opening running lanes are not going to be easy and that task starts with stopping this guy.
Broncos pass rusher Von MIller is the best EDGE player not named Khalil Mack in the NFL. When it comes to pure athleticism off the edge, there isn’t a bigger threat in the league. The offense cannot afford to allow him to impact the game. Pounding Miller with running plays should slow him down.
Force Siemian off his spot
With former Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak out and former San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy running the Bronco offense, this offense has a more vertical passing game. Quarterback Trevor Siemian looks comfortable with throws down the field. The tape did show one glaring weakness — Siemian loses accuracy if he has to move in the pocket or if his timing is a little off.
It is subtle but as you can see, if the ball doesn’t come out on time, Siemian tends to miss his throws high. This is advantageous for the Raiders defense because high throws tend to be intercepted. The Broncos are -3 in turnover differential for the season and the Raiders defense is adept at forcing timely takeaways. Press or ‘catch’ coverages could get the Raiders an extra possession or two and be the difference in the game.
Use crossing and pick routes
If there is one thing the Raiders offense seems to be incapable of, it is running crossing routes. Unless the Broncos decide to try and copy Washington’s game plan, expect them to run their man coverage defense. They rely on tight man coverage to allow their front 4 to get to the opposing quarterback.
This play from the Buffalo Bills game is a perfect example of the type of pick/crossing route the Raiders need to utilize against the Broncos suffocating coverage.
The Raiders have some great receiving weapons and should look to get them in space with the ball in their hands. It can be frustrating at time to watch them run vertical concepts against defenses designed to prevent them. This game is the first opportunity for new offensive coordinator Todd Downing to prove he can adjust the game plan to his next adversary. Running some pick and Mesh concepts will open up the Raiders offense.
This look into Chip Kelly’s playbook and use of Mesh is a great example of how the Raiders offense can use crossing routes to exploit the Bronco’s man coverages.
Kelly liked to use the running back on a wheel route and double crossing routes to attack man coverage. He would have the tight end run a hitch route as an outlet pass if the coverage was good on the first three options. The Raiders offensive coordinator would be wise to incorporate this into the game plan for this weeks divisional game.
Of course every great play must have a counter and Kelly had a great one to this base play in his offense. When the defense starts to key on the crossing routes, Kelly threw in pivot routes to beat their anticipation.
Instead of running crossing routes, the receivers would start inside and pivot outside beating the man coverage. The Raiders should incorporate this into their offense to beat man coverage based defenses like the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs employ.
The Raiders added John Pagano for the sole purpose of improving the secondary’s ability to communicate and disguise defensive coverages. He will earn his stripes in this game. Trevor Siemian has shown he can be beaten if the defense can disguise their coverages.
On this play, for example, Siemian audibles into a run on 3rd and 11. He reads the coverage as Man-2 based on the two high safety look. However prior to the snap the safeties rotate into their Man-1 defense and the run is stopped for almost no gain. Confusing Siemian while disguising coverages could lead to some turnovers for the Raiders defense.
If the Raiders have a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl run, they need to bounce back from an embarrassing performance and show they can beat a serious conference and division opponent. If the Raiders coaching staff can utilize the talent at their disposal, they should be able to end the weekend with a 3-1 record.
Who will win this game?
This poll is closed