The loss against the Colts this Sunday felt like a Jekyll and Hyde story of efficient offense followed up by poor defensive play. The offense did give up a turnover at the end of the game; putting a dagger into the Raider’s chances of winning. It was the defense however that put the Raiders into a hole that got deeper as the game went on.
Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther were quoted in press conferences this week talking about getting different defenders more playing time. Many pundits and fans alike interpreted this to mean the Raiders were attempting to get some current film on players before the trade deadline this week. Gruden denied that the game would be an “audition” for defensive players in the doghouse like Gareon Conley and Karl Joseph— hopefully he was right because both players were victimized by Colts Tight-Ends for Touchdowns.
The infusion of new starters surely added to the Raider’s defensive issues, and it seemed like players weren’t on the same page through four quarters of action. The Colts offense ran the ball at will and utilized tight-ends in the passing game, setting a record for number of tight-ends to catch a touchdown pass in a single game.
This run play is as simple as it gets and is one of the first runs installed in any youth football offense — lead weak. The Fullback leads up the weakside A gap creating another gap that stresses the defense, forcing the linebackers to fill appropriately to negate an open running lane.
Linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Marquel Lee actually do a solid job of filling the new gap presented by the fullback and it forces Colts RB Marlon Mack to bounce outside. Notice before the snap, Maurice Hurst is lined up in the B gap, his natural 3 technique position. Against the run Hurst needs to have his outside arm and leg free in the B gap in case the RB bounces in his direction but instead the rookie DT is driven back on a solo block and this is what allows Mack the room to bounce. DE Bruce Irvin also doesn’t give his best effort against this run and closes too late to be a factor.
This again is another basic run play from the Colts defense— zone stretch out of 11 personnel. TE Jack Doyle does a superb job of helping seal the DE by getting a quick chip and allowing the left tackle to secure his block. But Doyle isn’t done yet, he finds more work and gets his hands on Tahir Whitehead.
Whitehead jumping outside of Doyle’s block is the head scratcher here. Most defenses teach their linebackers to “spill” lead blocks meaning they should attack the blockers inside shoulder and make the ball bounce outside to the secondary. It’s possible that Guenther called a play for Whitehead to be the “force” man against outside run but that would mean either the safety or corner should end up inside Whitehead. That would usually only happen on a blitz or some kind of gap exchange against a mobile QB. Either way someone is out of position and theres a good chance it’s Whitehead.
This play is a little more exotic and a staple of smash-mouth run teams— TE Wham. The left guard leaves PJ Hall unblocked allowing offensive linemen to quickly climb to linebacker level. The TE in this case, Jack Doyle once again, “whams” the unblocked DT from outside in.
Whitehead is for certain the culprit of this poor defensive play. He inexplicably jumps inside the offensive lineman and leaves a ton of room for the back to work. There is a theme in 2018 of Raiders linebackers, namely Whitehead, dancing around blocks and giving runners wide open holes to run through.
Covering tight ends
Jack Doyle being the Colt’s primary run blocking tight end likely helped him get loose on this play. Andrew Luck shows play-action and you can see the linebackers flow to the left. Doyle sells a convincing down block, actually trips and get back up in the opposite direction from the flow on the linebackers.
Marquel Lee and Kyle Wilbur are at fault on this play. Lee over-pursues and is too far away from Doyle by the time he realizes its a pass play. It’s possible however that Lee is free to be aggressive because Kyle Wilbur should be playing the crossing route from the backside. You can see Wilbur get tangled up with the backside TE, fall to the ground and get completely turned around. Wilbur is a journey man special teams player, not sure what the Raiders coaching staff thought they would get out of him in this game.
But the Raiders linebackers weren’t all at fault. The 3 passing touchdowns to tight-ends came against defensive backs. On this play the Raiders are in Cover 1 which means man coverage across the board and a single safety deep. Karl Joseph draws man coverage against TE Eric Ebron. We all know how that usually ends, and Joseph’s struggles to match-up with tight ends likely is the reason for Paul Guenther being so reluctant to play the former first round draft pick.
Joseph actually isn’t in a bad spot on this play. He impacts the corner route with his outside leverage position, forcing Ebron to run around him. But a perfectly thrown ball from Andrew Luck and a spectacular catch later — Joseph yet again gives up a TD catch against a tight end.
Back to the linebackers blowing it. The Raiders are again in Cover 1 on this play. Usually when Cover 1 is played with a 4 man rush, there is a free player in the middle of the field called the hole player. This time it’s Nicholas Morrow not Whitehead who is out of position. Whitehead sees the crossing route from the backside and passes off the tight-end to the hole player. This is a type of combination coverage that is designed to help linebackers stay in leverage against crossing routes.
The problem is Morrow is an inexperienced player with limited game action and doesn’t understand he should replace Whitehead as the hole player and simply chases the crossing route across the formation. This results in a wide open Jack Doyle adding to his highlight reel day against the Raiders.
- The linebackers quite simply sucked against the Colts. They were out of position against the run and the pass for the entire game.
- Andrew Luck made some phenomenal throws against Raider’s DBs who were in solid position but the strong arm QB just made the play.
- The biggest assist to Luck’s day was the lack of pass rush generated by the Raiders defense. Luck was only hit once and had too much time to throw.
- Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall were drafted to provide an inside pass rush and save for only a couple occasions this has failed to come to fruition. But against the run both players have done well below average. They still have time to develop but so far offensive lines have their number in the run game.
- Erik Harris is the sole safety saving his place on the team. He was the only player on defense period who showed up against the run and the pass on Sunday.