After finally implementing the Marcus Mariota package in the red zone last week, the Las Vegas Raiders have shown they have some tricks up their sleeve. However, if it is to continue moving forward, it will have to expand.
While not perfect, Mariota has almost always been one thing, and that’s exciting. Dating back to his days at the University of Oregon, he has been an exciting playmaker due to his ability on the ground as well as in the air. In the NFL, this has stayed true. In his seven NFL seasons, Mariota has accumulated over 1,500 rushing yards. The Raiders got a first-hand look at this ability when he relieved the injured Derek Carr on Thursday Night Football in 2020. In this game, the former Oregon Duck had 88 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
After seeing this, many fans were clamoring for Mariota to be more involved. The Raiders answered this with a “Mariota Package” that they debuted during Week 1. This worked with great success as Mariota carried the ball once for 31 yards. Unfortunately, he was injured in the play and wouldn’t see action again until Week 7. In Weeks 7 and 9, the formation was deployed again for a combined ten yards on two carries.
Finally, on Thanksgiving Day, against the Dallas Cowboys, Mariota would punch it into the end zone. The play was the exact same one that Mariota has run every time: a read-option where he keeps it himself. Going forward, the Raiders should add more to his arsenal.
MARCUS MARIOTA TAKES IT HIMSELF! #RaiderNation
— NFL (@NFL) November 25, 2021
For the package to become a regular part of the offense, it will have to evolve. Many things will go into this. The first of which is the personnel deployed with him. While the picture of Carr being covered by Trevon Diggs was funny, there was no reason for Carr to be on the field in this formation. Instead, the Raiders should just put another wideout on the field so the defense at least has to respect them as an option in the play.
Secondly, let Mariota throw it! So far in 2021, he has played five snaps, and all five have been read-option plays. While Carr is obviously the starting quarterback, Mariota is still a capable passer with the ability to threaten defenses, especially when they are bracing for him to run every time he enters the game.
Lastly, Mariota may need to allow the running back to keep the ball on these read-option plays. Defenses aren’t dumb, and when the odds of Mariota keeping the ball are sitting at 100 percent like they are now, they will start to attack it. With the Raiders’ running game being a weak point all season, maybe this formation could help in that area as well.
The Raiders may have found a secret weapon in the package. He gives the Raiders’ offense an air of unpredictability that most teams don’t have. While he likely won’t play more than three to four snaps per game, he can truly change the games in those snaps. Luckily, Carr is a good sport about it as well. The potential answer to the run game and red zone woes lies with Mariota. He must be a part of the offensive game plan moving forward.
*Top Photo: Michael Clemens/Las Vegas Raiders