Monday following the Raiders week three loss to the Dolphins, Jon Gruden addressed one of the major problems that has been plaguing the defense this season; the ability to defend against jet sweeps.
“When you give up jet sweeps that go for 75-yard, 35-yard touchdowns, we’ve got to erase those. We got to clean that up immediately,” said Gruden. “I know Jarvis Landry and the Cleveland Browns are looking at our film probably thinking, ‘Let’s try a few of those again this week.’”
Through three games the Raiders have seen a total of seven jet sweeps. Three of those plays have gone for touchdowns.
The NFL is known as a copycat league. Gruden knows Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley is scheming up ways to utilize rookie speedster, Antonio Callaway and Jarvis Landry on jet sweeps for when they face the Raiders next Sunday.
“If there is twenty-dollar bills being spit out of a teller down the street, you and I are going to get in line. We are going to stand in line and pick up twenties,” Gruden continued. “The Rams got us, the Dolphins got us and I’m sure Cleveland is going to try and get us as well.”
In order to better understand it, let’s take an extensive look at some of the jet sweeps ran against the Raiders defense to see why it is the Raiders struggle to defend it.
First of all, it seems obvious to me that opposing teams are targeting the Raiders weak defensive end rotation. They also have rookie Arden Key seeing a high volume of snaps.
Key was not drafted for his play versus the run. That is not the strength of his game. With the absence of Khalil Mack, Key has seen more snaps on first and second down.
Second, the Raiders lack a high end linebacker with sideline to sideline speed. The linebackers are slow to diagnose and react to the play.
Third, in some cases Raiders defensive backs are not getting off blocks. This was the case in the Rams game. The Rams offense deserves credit for their execution, especially the wide receivers for their down field blocking.
And finally, the Raiders have shown unsound gap and assignment play at times.
Here is a clip from week one versus the Rams. On this play Todd Gurley takes the jet sweep around the right end for a 19-yard touchdown.
Jet sweep 2 vs Rams. 19 yard Gurley TD. pic.twitter.com/ejg35oapaC— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 25, 2018
The Rams attack rookies Key and Hurst on this particular play. Arden Key appears to over pursue and loses contain. Gurley is able to get to the edge because of this.
Tahir Whitehead’s play recognition is just a second slow and is caught flat footed. Because of this he gets stuck on a block.
Marcus Gilchrist should also come down from his safety position to make a play.
The next clip is an example of what appears to be Raiders not staying disciplined to their gap assignments.
Jelly and Bruce attacking the C gap. Not sound gap assignment football. pic.twitter.com/ap5bQKzfGx— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 25, 2018
Brandin Cooks is easily able to get to the outside because Bruce Irvin does not maintain control of the D gap. Having two players in the C gap leaves a vacant D gap.
The third clip is again a great example of bad play by the defensive end, in this case Shilique Calhoun.
Jet sweep 1 vs Dolphins. Grant 18 yard TD. pic.twitter.com/G1AF6dtnCn— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 25, 2018
The angle at which Calhoun pursues the ball is terrible. Rather than maintaining containment he takes a direct line to the ball and Grant easily runs around him.
Give credit to Reggie Nelson who does make an effort to come up and at take on a blocker.
Again, Tahir Whitehead is late recognizing the play and is taken out with a beautiful cut block. Marquel Lee, although improved, doesn’t possess the sideline-to-sideline speed that the Raiders desperately need in a linebacker.
In the final clip, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie does a excellent job of forcing Wilson inside. This is where the Raiders need a linebacker to make a play.
Jet sweep 2 vs Dolphins. 74 yard Wilson TD. pic.twitter.com/k4Xmfa4OHY— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 25, 2018
Unfortunately for the Raiders Whitehead and Lee are both unable to get off blocks and the rest is history.
With the lack of talent the Raiders have at the defensive end and linebacker positions, jet sweeps and outside run plays are a trend the Raiders will continue to see.