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What to expect from Greg Olson’s play calling — and how he can help Raiders’ offense

Olson’s first job is to fix the Las Vegas vertical passing game and get the Raiders back on the right path

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Seattle Seahawks v Las Vegas Raiders
Greg Olson
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders are full of drama after offensive emails led to Jon Gruden resigning on Monday. The move then led to Rich Bisaccia becoming the interim head coach and the rest of the coaching staff saying on board.

The Raiders still have a game scheduled against the Denver Broncos at Mile High, with both teams going from 3-0 starts to now being 3-2. The Broncos will be ready to play, and the Raiders will need this to prevent a free fall.

The offense has been ugly the past two matchups. In the last two weeks, they are 30th in EPA per play. The passing offense has taken the worst hit. They started the season 8th after the first three weeks but 31st the last two weeks using RBSDM.com.

Raiders have become dependent on explosive plays, and in the last two games, they just haven't been there. The offense ranked second in explosive passing plays Weeks 1-3. According to SharpFootballStats.com, they ranked 15th Weeks 3-4.

Derek Carr's aggressiveness that was a gift the first three weeks of the season and is now a curse. Here are Carr's numbers on deep passes over 20 plus yards in the air from Pro Football Focus.

Week 1 - 3/8

Week 2 - 4/4

Week 3 - 5/10

Week 4 - 1/5

Week 5 - 1/8

If you ever wonder as a Raiders fan how the Seattle Seahawks wore down at the end of the season, there is your answer. Football offenses must be multiple and not reliant on just winning one type of way.

That's where Greg Olson comes in as the new play-caller for the Raiders. Olson has worked with Carr before as a play-caller during his rookie season and beat Vic Fangio back in 2014. Olson’s first job is to fix the vertical passing game and get the Raiders back on the right path.

Olson's track record as a play-caller isn't extraordinary when you look at the numbers. However, he maximized the quarterback play he had before him, creating career years from Blake Bortles and Josh Freeman; he then helped Jared Goff go from terrible as a rookie to leading a team to the playoffs in his second year. He has a great history of getting the best out of quarterbacks and helping them reach their potential.

What is Olson's offense?

Olson's offense is the Raiders' offense. After watching his scheme, Gruden brought him in to design the offensive passing plays. He must have been the passing game coordinator because Jacksonville Jaguars were running the same concepts and designs. Olson updated it after his time with Sean McVay back in 2018, which is why the Los Angeles schemes are similar from a pass concept perspective.

Here is the play example below. Jaguars are running a similar HB choice concept to the Raiders in Week 1 vs. the Baltimore Ravens.

The elements of the Raiders passing game is all over the Jaguars' offense's film. Olson is an able play designer and caller himself who understands how to attack defenses in certain situations.

Here is a play variation we see from the Raiders called the stick nod. The play is designed for a double move in the middle of the defense and works well against two high coverages. The Raiders struggled this year vs. two high with terrible performances the last two weeks.

The 3x1 set will correct a one-on-one with the stick nod with the middle of open. Bortles can find it after a great route from Allen Hurns for the big play.

Olson loves spread formations out of 11 personnel, which will be a change from Gruden. There won't be too many of the TE packages fans are used to seeing from the Raiders. The deep concepts will be an improvement overall.

This one, for example, Jaguars are facing single high while the offense will be running a Sluggo/post concept. What's beautiful about this one is the post occupies the safety in single-high, which leaves the one on one outside for the Sluggo. It creates separation, and the space made by the post route allows for a clean window.

Run Game diversity.

The Raiders run game has been nonexistent for almost two seasons. After finishing 24th in DVOA, they are now 30th in the NFL. Since Week 9 of 2019, they averaged a DVOA ranking of 28th — which has halted this offense.

Gruden's run game has been simple for a while and could be Tom Cable as well. Greg Olson's run designs are more diverse with different looks.

First, here we got counter play from the Jaguars. Raiders fans haven't seen counter in years.

Next up is the mid zone, which is a Raider offense staple at this point. The design is a cousin of the wide zone with the running back outside foot pointed to the c gap and not the d gap.

Power 0 is a pure gap scheme concept that fits this offense well. John Simpson and Leatherwood could move vertically and pull as guards in open space.

All of this can help out a stagnant run game that hasn't been good in almost two years.

Play Action Passes

Play-action passes have been nonexistent in this offense which makes no sense. The Raiders are last in the league in play-action drop backs%, but Carr on those drop backs has only been under pressure 27% of the time compared to 34% without play-action using SIS.

Olson has used play-action consistently during his time in the NFL. In 2013, Terrell Pryor ran play-action 28% of his drop backs which was 6th in the NFL. Carr's rookie season ranked 12th in the NFL in play-action drop backs with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Bootlegs are plays we haven't seen much of either and are a part of Olson's identity. The Raiders run a high split zone, and the split zone action with the bootleg can create an easy YAC for Darren Waller.

Here is a play-action concept the Raiders use called bang, which is a skinny post read. Hunter Renfrow was the target of this concept in Week 1, and Carr missed him Week 4.

These elements can help the Raiders offense get back on track. It will be needed if this team wants to do anything as we advance this season.