Aspuria’s Assertions: To Go Deep, or Not to Go Deep

Many were miffed when Derek Carr went full “Captain Checkdown” when he tossed the ball to running back Jalen Richard instead of lobbing it deep into the end zone at the tail end of the first half last Sunday. 

Count Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Todd Downing as two of the masses. With the Raiders trailing the Buffalo Bills 14-7 at the time (as well as the Bills getting the ball to start the first half), Oakland desperately needed a jolt of life. A shot of adrenaline.

“That was a called throw into the end zone, so would like to give that more time, let those guys get down there and take a shot at it,” Raiders’ coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. “That’s the whole idea. That’s what we practice. That’s what we prepared to do in that situation. It’s not a high percentage play, but you get your one in 10. We’ll take it.
“That was an opportunity there at the end of the half after we had the misfortune with the fumble go back the other way and all that to try and take a shot there. So yes, that was called and needed to be executed much better.”

Carr explained that his decision came down to simple “math”, noting the Bills were in Cover 2 and played everyone deep. Meaning it was a six-on-three scenario where defenders outnumbered the Raider wide receivers.

Nonetheless, Downing’s sentiments echoed Del Rio’s.

“I think if we’re calling a vertical shot, giving three guys a chance to go up and get the ball that we give that a shot,” he said. “Derek had his logic in that moment and I got to do a better job of coaching.”

In a contest where the deep strike worked well early and then inexplicably disappeared, much to the chagrin of fans, Carr noted he’s soaking it all in but he’ll do “what’s best for business”.

“Obviously, we lost by more than one score and again this is another one of those things,” he said. “We’re correcting everything. I take it all in, ‘Yes, sir, whatever you want.’ But at the same time, I’m going to continue to play the game how I think it’s best for our team.”

Can I be cynical for a second?

Downing can always alleviate the check-down concern by calling a five wide receiver set with routes going vertical and deep and remove the dump-off option. Just a suggestion.

V For Versatility

Bay Area News Group beat writer Matt Schneidman provided an interesting tidbit about rookie Obi Melifonwu.

“Also of note: 2017 second-rounder Obi Melifonwu working with the cornerbacks ahead of his likely debut Sunday, not the safeties,” Schneidman tweeted.

This should come as no surprise. Many teams scouted Melifonwu as a tall and long press corner while others viewed him as a rangy safety. The second-round pick cemented the thoughts by playing press corner at the Senior Bowl.

With a cornerback group decimated by injuries and ineffectiveness coupled with seventh-round rookie Shalom Luani not being a trainwreck in his first start, the Raiders are afforded a chance to see how the 6-foot-4, 224-pound Melifonwu looks as a corner instead of a safety.

If nothing else, the rook gives the Raiders versatility similar to TJ Carrie, another player who shuttled from corner to safety and vice versa.

“We were really excited about him on draft day. Really looking forward to seeing him run and use his speed and his size,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said of Melifonwu “He matches up well with the tight ends we have to face in this league. It’s just a matter of getting him on the field and playing.

Add in David Amerson reportedly having a setback in practice with a foot injury, giving the ultra-athletic Melifonwu every opportunity to contribute helps.

Changing Of The Guard

Gabe Jackson was a non-participant in Thursday’s practice and, if he does miss this Sunday’s tilt, Jon Feliciano is next man up at the right guard spot. The fourth-round pick proved to be steady when he started in place of Jackson.

Both are big, physical and nasty linemen, so in essence, the Raiders’ linemen in the trenches won’t skip a beat.

“We wish that we could get Gabe back as fast as possible, but Jon is ready to play and step in,” center Rodney Hudson said of Feliciano in a presser. “He’s done it before and we feel comfortable with him there.

“He plays hard. He’s a smart player. He works really hard. He studies. Whatever play is called, you can count that he’s going to give everything he’s got.”

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