Coming out of the bye week the Raiders travel into hostile territory visiting Lambeau Field, a place that is notoriously hard to win with the tall task of trying to take down one of the best teams in the NFL.
The Raiders surely have some tricks up their sleeve and inside intelligence after trading for Trevor Davis who spent all off-season with the Packers. Green Bay also has their own inside man with the recent signing of former Raider WR Ryan Grant. The Packers are seriously banged up at WR but Grant was likely prioritized for his familiarity with the Oakland scheme.
The Raiders need to impose their will on the ground against the Packers defense that is giving up almost 125 yards on the ground a game, good for 10th worst in the NFL. That being said, Aaron Rodgers on defense will make his fair share of plays and the Raiders offense will have to pass the ball at times to stay in the game. On defense it will be about staying disciplined in the pass rush and coverage to limit the big plays Rodgers is bound to make.
Overcoming Packers pass defense
The Packers are 5-1 largely because of a renaissance on defense. Thanks to an influx of talent on the defensive side of the ball the Packers are one of the toughest teams to pass against. The pass rush has been getting home often due to the Smith brothers, check out how Green Bay deploys them on passing downs.
ZaDarius Smith and Preston Smith aren’t really brothers, but the chemistry they have together makes you think they are. On obvious passing downs they often play on the same side of the line much like how Guenther uses his defensive ends, only better...way better.
This pass rush game is one stellar example, Preston Smith on the outside uses a subtle move and inside-look that makes the left tackle think he’s looping inside. Instinctively the left tackle looks to take ZaDarius Smith but quickly realizes it wasn’t a twist. The moment the blocker takes his eyes off the outside rusher it’s over. The Green Bay pass rush has done this frequently this year, the Raiders will have a huge problem if they can’t stay balanced running the football.
The Packers are tied for 3rd in the NFL with 7 interceptions. Their secondary has played lights out this year disguising their zone coverages and simulated pressures to throw quarterbacks out of whack. The example above shows the slot corner make a fantastic play on the ball to haul in an interception. The heady coverage mixed with a great pass rush can create problems for the Raiders offense.
Slowing down Aaron Rodgers
The engine that makes the Packers go on offense is elite QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has all the physical and mental traits you look for in a QB. He’s the type of player who makes the play-calling look better than it actually is with quick decisions or off-schedule plays.
When a defense goes up against Rodgers they must stay disciplined and often for more than 6 or 7 seconds. Gruden said Rodgers was “unbearable” to watch for this reason, he will extend plays past the defenses breaking point and take the chunk plays that inevitably open up as a result. The above clip shows that it can be done, but it takes a defensive line keeping Rodgers in the pocket (easier said than done) and a secondary who can stay with their man for longer than usual.
Even with the rash of injuries crippling the Green Bay WR corps, Rodgers can get it done with the 4th and 5th receivers. Alan Lazard was the recipient of some Rodgers magic last Monday against the Lions. The average height of the Packers pass catchers now that Devante Adams has been officially ruled out is over 6’4. Even if they aren’t established veterans they will have the height advantage over Lamarcus Joyner and Karl Joseph in man coverage.
Winning field position battle
The Packers have forced the 11th worst starting field position for opposing offenses this season. Much of that credit is due to great directional punting from JK Scott.
The Packers do a good job of calling punts that pin the return man to one sideline or another. The punt coverage also does a great job of getting downfield. Gunners Will Redmond and Kadar Hollman have proven to be almost un-coverable one-on-one and their presence on the outside has been a big factor in the field position game.
The plan is obviously to run the ball on the Packers defense to slow down their pass rush and keep Rodgers off the field. It’s worth wondering how long that strategy will hold until the Raiders need to throw the ball on offense. Rodgers will make plays.
The Packers blitz more frequently than any team the Raiders have faced thus far. How well Carr does under pressure will be a good indicator with how far he’s come in Gruden’s offense.
The linebackers for Green Bay are their weakest link in pass coverage. Look for the passing game to flow through the TE’s and maybe the backs can get more involved.