The OaklandÂ Raiders are coming off a poor performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 8 and have pinned themselves in a corner. With half the season now over, Raiders will most likely have to go 7-1 in the next eight games to have a shot at making the NFL playoffs.
One game at a time should be the motto from here on out for the Silver and Black; otherwise, the task of going 7-1 might seem too steep. Step one is to show up in front of a national audience this Sunday night and redeemÂ yourself as a team.
Below are four ways the Raiders can defeat the Dolphins in Miami and start the uphill climb on Sunday Night Football.
1. Find creative ways to pressure Jay Cutler
Raiders were last in sacks last year with 25. This year they are on pace for only 24. With both Gareon Conley and David Amerson out, the Raiders defensive line cannot allow any quarterbacks to get comfortable in the pocket. Although the Dolphins rank last in the league in point scored (92 through seven games) per Pro Football Reference, the difference between the best team in the league and the worst is only a few plays. If given time, a veteran signal caller like Jay Cutler will shred an injured and weak cornerback group like that of the Raiders.
Last week against the Bills, on a few plays, quarterback Tyrod Taylor sat back for at least four seconds before throwing completions. On average Taylor had an average 3.21 seconds to throw, per PFF. That was the third-longest time to throw for a quarterback in Week 8. The Raiders must scheme ways to get linemen free and show pressure from all three levels.
2. Contain the WRs
The Dolphins areÂ racking upÂ 176 passing yards per game, good for 30th in the league. Don’t be fooled by the numbers though, they have two promising young receivers who can make plays in DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry. Although they haven’t put up eye-popping numbers this year, they are very capable of going off on the injured Raiders defense.
The pressure will be on TJ Carrie as the best cornerback in the team to shut down Jarvis Landry in the slot, with Dexter McDonald taking on DeVante Parker. Much to the dismay of Raider Nation, Sean Smith will see significant snaps this game as there are only three healthy cornerbacks on the active roster.
The news isn’t all bad as second-round draft pick and athletic safety Obi Melifonwu is being activated off injured reserve and will play this Sunday night. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. will have to scheme together a game plan to keep the talented receiving corps under wraps and use Obi’s athleticism to his advantage.
3. Poise in the Pocket
If you saw the game against the Bills last week, you probably noticed Derek Carr getting rid of the ball quickly and checking down early. He looked uncomfortable all game. Pass protection wasn’t bad, but Carr’s back injury seemed to be lurking on the back of his mind. Per PFF,Â Derek Carr averaged 2.21 seconds from snap to throw, shortest time for any QB that week and the year. 2.21 seconds isn’t always enough time for wide receivers to get open.
Retired Raiders offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy noted on the Greg Papa show on 95.7 The Game that Carr against the Bills was checking down to running backs before the deep routes could develop. This is particularly interesting. Out of 49 drop-backs, Carr was only hit once, hurried nine times and was not sacked, which is good for the 5th best pass blocking efficiency for week 8 per PFF.
Carr needs to trust his offensive linemen as he did last year, before his injury. Good quarterbacks throw to guys open and control the defense with their eyes. Something Carr had done consistently in 2016.
4. Balanced offense
Hall of Fame Quarterback Kurt Warner mentioned inÂ Up To The Minute on NFL Network, that one of the problems with the Raiders offense is that it is “too simple.” This is something which also has been mentioned by other analysts such as ESPN NFL Analyst Louis Riddick. Tweets below tell the story:
Don’t know what I hate more…that Amari Cooper is struggling with drops, or how simplistic/predictable their pass game/route concepts are.
â€” Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) October 19, 2017
Louis Riddick and Kurt Warner talking about the issues with the Raiders simple offense pic.twitter.com/m4M1nJZd2y
â€” JB (@Jubair22) November 3, 2017
Look for more pre-snap movements, play-action, and efficient layered routes as a sign of the offense coming out of the simplicity they have been stuck in. Otherwise, the offensive struggles will continue.
- Kenny Stills vs Sean Smith: Miami might line up the speedster Stills on the left side of the field to take advantage of the flat-footed Smith. There should always be a safety not named Reggie Nelson blanketing the speedster over the top.
- Ndamukong Suh vs Gabe Jackson:Â If Gabe is healthy enough to play, this should be a fun match-up to watch, especially against the run. Both men are big, strong, powerful road graders.
Prediction: Raiders win 24-20. The offense is still talented and I trust that with their back against the wall, the Raiders will show up on national television and avoid another nationally televised embarrassment.
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