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Tom Cable is not simply a ‘Zone Scheme’ guy and Raiders offensive linemen are just his type

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NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are those who bemoaned the addition of Tom Cable as offensive line coach when Gruden brought him on board this off-season. The naysayers are quick to point out Cable’s underperforming offensive line in Seattle as one reason not to get hopes up about his return.

It is true that Russell Wilson was running for his life often the past couple season and Cable could never get that unit in a place to protect the QB. This piece from the Field Gulls site however points out how the Seattle front office did not put a premium on offensive line talent. A problem Cable surely doesn’t have in Oakland.

Another argument against Cable was his identity as a Zone Blocking coach. The Raiders’ offensive line is built around big heavy linemen whom at first glance seem to better align with a Power Blocking scheme.

Cable cleared this up when asked if he was over-identified with zone schemes.

“Yeah. Think about when I was in Atlanta, we did something amazing there. It was like ninth all-time rushing total in the history of football. All we did was run a wide zone play,” Cable responded.

“Then we come here and [Raiders] were last in rushing and they went to a top-10 and stayed there... If you remember there was a lot of counters and powers and all of that. You’d like to have a good mix. I’ve probably been labeled that, but that’s OK. We run the ball pretty good.”

Tom Cable’s Raiders team was ranked 2nd in rushing in 2008, Cable’s final year as Head Coach in the NFL.

When Cable showed up as Offensive Line Coach in Seattle they were ranked 31st in rushing yards. Cable turned that unit around to the tune of 4 consecutive top-5 rushing finishes from 2012 to 2015 before Seattle’s lack of emphasis on the offensive lines caught up with them.

Fast forward to 2018, Gruden’s repeated emphasis on returning to a more smashmouth style of football, there are high hopes Cable can be a part of similar results.

Cable heaped high praise on the existing offensive line, especially the interior road graders that fans are quick to point out fit better in a power blocking scheme.

“I like size. You remember when I was here last time, I think that last line [Mario] Henderson was like 340, [Robert] Gallery was like 325/328, Langston [Walker] was 370. So, I like big humans, I got no issue with that, but they got to be able to move,” said Cable.

“It’s funny because I heard, I read, when I was coming here ‘oh, they’re going to run a wide zone system with Tom and they can’t do that.’ You ought to see these freaks do this. I mean it’s really cool. There really ain’t nothing they can’t do. They can gap scheme, they can man scheme, they can zone scheme, at the end of the day they can block.”

These comments double down on league wide praise of the interior linemen on the Raiders football team. Left guard Kelechi Osemele, center Rodney Hudson, and right guard Gabe Jackson take pride in their abilities and wouldn’t want to portray themselves as one dimensional blockers.

“Those three guys inside are a pleasure to be around,” said Jon Gruden. “Can’t say enough about the physicality of Osemele. He’s rare that way. The guy in the pivot is a sensational player.

“Rodney Hudson makes us go. He’s the straw that stirs the drink. He’s a great athlete. He’s smart. He doesn’t miss a snap. He doesn’t miss a call.

“Gabe Jackson is the most underrated guard. For him not to be in a Pro Bowl, there really should be an investigation, honestly. We’ve got three really good players in there. It’s important that these young tackles, whoever it’s going to be, Donald Penn, whoever it’s going to be at left tackle and right tackle, we’ve got to catch up to them. If we do, we’ve got a chance.”

Those are strong words from Gruden, especially about the team’s Pro Bowl center.

“I’ve been in a lot of schemes in my career, but I wouldn’t say it’s more [difficult],” said Rodney Hudson. “I’ve been playing for a while now, so my expectations of what I’m supposed to do is pretty high.”

That doesn’t sound like a linemen who only plays in one type of blocking scheme. The sentiment is echoed by Kelechi Osemele who sounds up for the challenge tackling the new scheme Gruden and Cable are installing.

“It’s a team and it’s all about accountability,” Osemele says. “When you have guys that you can trust next to you, it just makes it that much better. . . Just having three guys that you’ve been playing with for a while. As far as chemistry and as far as elevating and getting to that next level of play and having another year together, that’s always good. I’m feeling pretty confident right now.”

Osemele in particular seems to mesh with Cable’s style of coaching even going so far as to throw a jab at Mike Tice’s approach in the past. Whatever scheme is installed, this offensive line sounds bought into Tom Cable’s approach and is ready to run the ball.