The 2022 Raiders have the makings of being a far more reliable offensive team than they have been in years.
The Raiders broke 30 points in 6 games last season, a mediocre sum. When you understand that hitting the 30-plus point total in 4 of those 6 games came because of play beyond regulation, the phrase "putrid sum" becomes the most accurate summation.
We kicked many a field goal last season with reclamation project Daniel Carlson performing those duties at a high caliber, but Raider fans would be as happy if the muscles in Carlson’s legs atrophied from riding the pine too often and too long. The AFC West portends many a miserable Sunday afternoon for those teams that cannot get the pigskin to cross the goal line with regularity.
Arguably, the bar to being better is low but I am suggesting that we’re not simply going to be a better team on offense but a far more consistent and higher-scoring team than past ones -even with all those revamped and stacked defensive teams we’re expected to face.
The question, obviously, is why. Why do I feel so assured that I’d stick my neck boldly out there to make such a claim?
There’s the obvious to begin. Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Derek Carr make for a potent set of weapons. Renfrow registered a magnificent season even as teams understood he was just about our only option in most games. He was almost unstoppable, a Cooper Kupp lite, if you will. Barring injury, he’s going to continue to be the player opposing fans "effin hate." Waller is another reclaimed player who’s shined these last few seasons and only health concerns can keep him from doing the same this year. Add to this mix a three-way stable of runners bearing the names Zeus, Baby Rhino, and Drake and we have young men capable of churning out hard won yardage. Oh yeah, there’s also Davante Adams who’s resume and mature understanding of how to play his position as well as be a team member will finally remove the last elements of foul taste FAB left behind. Imagine the team we will be if Bryan Edwards finally puts his mental capabilities together with his physical capabilities.
Then there is the slightly less obvious to note, the concept-minded Raiders management group of Dave Ziegler, Champ Kelly, and Josh McDaniels. I’m going to come back to that term, concept-minded, in a bit.
First, I want to take a side trek on Champ Kelly because his name is rarely mentioned, even as he holds a prominent spot in the Raiders organization as the assistant GM. Among his many duties, he is a major part of the scouting department and likely had his hand in this year’s selections as much as McDaniels and Ziegler. Kelly spent 7 years scouting and managing player personnel with the Chicago Bears and 8 years with the Denver Broncos scouting college and CFL players for them. He’s got a solid resume as a scout too. It is worth looking over the draft picks for each team to get a sense of his draft record. While the Denver years were mixed, they did manage to win 4 of 5 AFC West titles. In Chicago, with several years under his belt and not many top end picks, he and the draft department churned out plenty of deep-dive players of note. I’ve got links for each team’s draft record during Kelly’s time working for them as follows: Denver: 2007-2014. Chicago: 2015-2021. Right, he is not the sole arbiter in the draft room but no less a significant one as lead scout. I’m sure he helped Zeigler get to the picks we made this season. End of digression.
The other less-obvious parts, which give hope that our offensive will be a better operating machine, are the shift in who to draft and the types of players being brought into the fold. We watched this year’s draft be the kind we needed to have after decades of odd ones. No reaches, only those players who were taken within their expected draft range. We also witnessed a team, doing what every team does, drafting their BAP based on needs. (Although, I do take some umbrage with the idea that we needed to draft Brittain Brown. I’ll chalk that up to the team seeing 2023 as one where half or more of our RBs are released.) I was elated by the concentration on the offensive line overall. Following FA, no positions were in more need than C, RG, and RT. The new leadership has also brought in a few former players (Bolden, Harmon, Jakob Johnson, Hollister,and Chandler Jones) who understand the new systems to be employed to make learning, yet another new set of terms and concepts, easier for all. This last part is the part I have been leading to, the new concepts the Raiders offense will need to adopt.
The least obvious reason for believing the Raiders will be a formidable scoring unit any given Sunday comes from the offensive conceptual scheme we’re likely to employ this year.
Yes, it is right out the of Patriots system as that is after all what people do. They bring with them that with which they found success with. You can still despise the Pats all you want and feel some discomfort in knowing we are going to be winning using the system they employed mercilessly on others, but me-thinks you will feel a whole lot easier with it all when we’re deep into the playoffs, regularly.
After too many paragraphs, here is the magic item coming to Vegas and the Raiders that is going to push our offensive success into almost all conversations media personalities have about the 2022 Raiders. It is two words: Erhardt-Perkins.
The Erhardt-Perkins system was first developed in the 1970s by the Patriots staff. It lost it’s appeal quickly to the Coryell Air Raid and Bill Walsh West Coast Offense systems for a time. Both are likely well known to you as a fan but here’s the skinny version for each, like really skinny.
The Air Coryell system is based on massive repetition of a relatively small playbook. Players learn their assignments to a T and must execute for this fast-paced system to work. It can rightly be credited with fleshing out the modern-day root tree. A good offensive line is also a must since many plays require time to develop as the idea is to stretch plays both vertically and horizontally. (BTW, the Coryell system is really the WCO system in its infancy and without the steroids.)
The WCO is incredibly complex with terms, plays, and timing needs. It made short-passing as a form of running all the rage for a long period of time. Because most of the plays happen in a shorter range of the field (i.e. it is a horizontally planned attack), complexity comprises a large element to the system and has likely prematurely ended more than a few careers for those players who couldn’t learn a team’s massive playbooks well enough. In the WCO, specific players are called upon to end up in specific spots and timing is nearly everything as most of the action happens within 20 yards of scrimmage.
Gruden employed the WCO offensive, albeit with some wrinkles, during his tenure with the Raiders. He wanted to have speed to open the underneath, but he also wanted Carr to strike deep. He was lucky enough to have Derek Carr who could handle all the complexities of Gruden’s bifurcated system. When it worked, it was fun as hell to watch. When it didn’t… well, we all watched as Carr and Chucky exchanged dirty looks on the sidelines, or as Carr delivered some withering look of disbelief to a teammate who’d not run the right route. Egads, how many times did we see Carr call a timeout because the clock was nearly gone or because there was too much confusion regarding an audible. Football is as much a game of seconds as it is inches, and the McDaniels system we’re going to get back precious seconds.
Under McDaniels and company, it is unlikely Carr is going to have to memorize as much or be asked to both manage the game short and go deep, which I believe was frustrating as all get out for Carr. All of our players are going to have it easier, and this is because the Erhardt-Perkins system is concept based. (See? I said I’d get back to this. It just took several hundred words for me to do so.)
Here's the skinny on this system which highlights it’s beauty. One, as noted, it is far simpler than the WCO. This will make it relatively easy for players to understand their roles. Two, the system also allows for almost any variety of players and player-packages to step into any play and do their job. Third, the Belichick/McDaniels version used by the Patriots for years is not tied to any one philosophy. It can be a hurry-up, switch to a ground-pound method, be WCO-like, or hit on the Air Coryell setup depending on the team being played and the personnel at hand any given week or season.
Here's a little more on each point.
Point 1: EP is less complex than WCO. In the WCO offense, and especially Gruden’s version, a play called into the huddle might look like what follows: Green Right X Shift to Viper Right 382 X Stick Lookie or Scatter to West Right Tight F Left 372 Y Stick Z Spot. I will not attempt to break either down anymore than to explain that the terms are meant to explain formation and individual assignments for all players. It is highly specified and so all players absolutely must know their assignments from lineup spot to ending spot. It is inflexible.
The Erhardt-Perkins (EP) strategy employs less specifics. A play from this plan might look as follows: Deuce Mesh Left. Already, the eyes tell the tale on how much easier this is to understand and transmit. This one I will take a shot at explaining since this is one of the single biggest reasons why I believe we're going to be a much-improved offense in 2022. Deuce Left lets players know that there will be 2 receivers in a 2×2 look. The left signifies where to align the running back in relation to the QB. Mesh signifies that the 2 inside receivers will run drag routes and the 2 outside receivers will run Go routes. The running back will likely settle in the middle of the defense. That's 5 routes called by the QB using one word, "mesh". The blocking set-up is straight forward pass-blocking and only adjusts to either include the RB staying to help or settling in the middle for a possible catch. Dirt simple.
Point 2: EP reduces the need for every player to be specialized. Players largely remain TEs, RBs, WRs, etc. but they can as easily lineup in other positions while in formation. A team can step out of the huddle into an I formation and then audible for a 5-WR set where the RB might step onto the line as a WR. Most teams would prefer not to do this as it’s not the right personnel group and they don’t know if everyone will know their assignments. The Patriots did it regularly. By way of another example, Waller can be inline and online, get a Carr audible, and then step into the HB spot and stay to block or be a WR out of the backfield. At first blush, Waller may be a little freaked about being in the RB spot but the simplified, concept-laden, play call of Deuce Mesh Left lets him know he’s there to block or run into the middle. He doesn't need to have already memorized the RB playbook. He also doesn’t have to know if he’s running a hook or cut right when he runs to the middle. He just finds a soft spot and squats there. In most case, he’s not really going to be a RB but a potential receiver from the RB spot who has an area he needs to get to. Simple.
If you’ve watched enough Patriots games (and being in CT I have, painfully so), you know this is 100 percent accurate. The Pats have put position players on offense in seemingly out-of-position spots many, many times. We did it too this last season albeit in the dumbest way possible, putting Carr out as a WR while lining Mariota under center. I mean, c’mon, you know the DB is eyeing Mariota and thinking I just need to break off Carr and beeline to Mariota. Carr ain’t getting the ball. Dumb. I digress.
There are gobs of opportunities that come from enabling players who come into the lineup as RBs to jump over to a WR spot. You can have those two and three TEs sets stay on a field and not tip your hand that it’s run or pass. You can begin with two RBs on each side of the QB, audible, and put them both on the line to be WRs and none of them need to worry if they know all the assignments of the WRs because the play is known to all offensive personnel already. RBs know the WRs routes and RBs know the RBs routes because they’re simplified, single pattern calls and not complex route trees. You can also adjust very quickly to a defensive alignment and not worry if you have the right personnel grouping on the field. Over the course of a season, you can even cover for injuries a little better as players perform from in multiple spots on the field.
Digression: This is one reason I believe the 2022 Raiders have brought in so many RBs. They’re going to be lining up all over and sharing time on the field. I’m less sure there will be a workhorse type unless a guy is simply ripping it up. This system also explains why the Patriots use individual people so well. When they had Randy Moss they called simple go routes to open the field and trust his ability to make the catches. It was a wide-open offense those years. When he was gone and one big vertical threat vanished, they used the multiple TEs sets to become both a running and shorter zone receiving team. When the TEs were injured, they let a speed guy like Welker run the roost on crosses while sending RBs into flats. The talent matters but not as much as the concept that players on offense need to accept that they might be lining up in almost any spot on the field to perform their job for a play. This is why the Patriots haven't bothered to sign too many of their studly guys to monster contracts over the years. End of another digression.
Point 3: Although the EP system was originally designed to have the Patriots run often to control the game clock and then strike deep unexpectedly, it never seemed to work well or long enough. So, it became something else. (BTW, this is not very different from Gruden who wanted to grind up the clock with running and hit long TDs.) When Belicheck got his mitts on the EP concept-driven system he realized it could be almost anything because of how the players could move into new spots easily and because play calls could be swapped rapidly. Brady’s ability to process the defense quickly and trust that his (ever rotating and changing) players would be RBs when they were drafted as TEs or be WRs when they were RBs made it child’s play for him with his accuracy to dominate. Carr gonna dominate too. Maybe not Brady level but much better than before.
Carr is going to thrive under this simplified, concept-driven, play-calling because the EP system is a QB-centric system and not a coach-centric one.
Yes, McDaniels is going to have a plan design for each team on each Sunday and he’s going to call in each play, but he’s also going to expect Carr to adjust often. And Carr has shown a penchant for calling audibles using a far more complex system already. True, Gruden expected the same of Carr, but imagine the stress of being told those highly specified Gruden calls in the huddle and then having to audible the play and then hope everyone grasps their specific assignments with seconds left. No wonder we had so many miscommunications over the years. Now, Carr can choose in the huddle to still call the play quickly, run to the line and either back off to audible or simply run the play quickly, and these are simplified play types he’s imparting to all. He’s going to feel like he has hours to make his play calls this season.
Hoo’boy, I think I’ve gone far, far too long but that’s what it took for this simpleton to explain why the 2022 Raiders have nothing but great things coming to them on the offensive side of the line.
There’s a great article here, which details the Erhardt-Perkins system over the Patriots best seasons.
If you read this far, I appreciate you for taking valuable time to do so.
Best to you.