It’s no secret the strength of the Los Angeles Rams starts on the interior defensive line. Aaron Donald has been a yearly DPOY candidate and now for the first time, he’s lining up next to another elite interior defensive linemen.
One of the many splash free agency moves the Rams made was signing free agent Ndamukong Suh. This Rams duo will test what arguably is the best interior offensive line in the NFL. The Raiders inside trio featuring Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson is a competitive and decorated group now in their third season together. The cohesion in their assignments on Monday night will be vital in stopping the NFL’s new daunting interior duo from destroying the run lanes for Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch.
The downhill power attack of Suh & Donald can be extremely disruptive to the running game plan. When you take into account that both of these players are regularly double-teamed then you start to realize the type of challenges this presents, even to an elite offensive line. To think Suh or Donald can be effectively blocked one-on-one for a whole game is unrealistic. The Raiders have to include a heavy dose of counter run schemes and use misdirection as a tool to seal off back-side cut lanes for Lynch.
When you inevitably have to choose to double-team only one of those two defenders, the Raiders need to be strategic tacticians on that offensive line. The offensive line can bait the backside matchup off the snap deep into the backfield and seal them off in a pass protection type technique. Then the double-team on the front-side of the play can be read by Lynch instinctively; if the matchup is won he can keep power, or if the gap is clogged, the cut back lane is where Lynch can find yardage. When you create a successful counter run game, the elite players like Suh & Donald have to do more with their eyes to diagnose the plays. Those slight adjustments and hesitations can stall their attack just enough to allow the offensive linemen to play quicker.
The other run concept that can be effective against the Rams defense is running power-zone stretch plays on the edges of the defense. Lynch had a lot of success in Seattle with Tom Cable running similar concepts. This is when the blocking tight ends where Derek Carrier and Lee Smith can prove their worth as the edge pillars of the run game. This will require the two offensive tackles to become something more then they’ve shown thus far adjusting to their starting roles.
How can we talk run game under Jon Gruden without mentioning a fullback? You just can’t. Gruden acquired a good one this offseason in Keith Smith aka “BEEF”. Smith has shown a fierce and physical ability to punish his assignments. Lynch, now suddenly becomes even more of a problem later in the game as defenders repeatedly take on hits from Smith. The defense then has to muster up the physicality to match Lynch who delivers blows with the best of any runner in the NFL.
Lastly, the pre-snap intelligence of Derek Carr plays an important role that’s going under-the-radar thus far in the run game success. The Rams have Wade Phillips calling the defense, he’s long been revered for his disguises and blitz pressures while orchestrating dominant defenses. Carr simply needs to read the defense well at the line of scrimmage. This should require the offense to play fast out of the huddle or employ a no-huddle at times to force the defense to have less time to disguise their run-blitz packages. The line checks from Carr and his communication with center Rodney Hudson will be imperative on Monday night.