Heidi Ho Raider Nation, hope everyone had a happy, safe, and fulfilling turkey day. The day wasn’t so good for the home teams in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions both lost their games to high quality opponents. But alas, I am here to talk Raiders football so without further ado, let’s move on from our turkey talk and get right into some keys to victory for the Miami Dolphins vs. Oakland Raiders game coming up on Sunday. Hopefully the home team in Oakland this Sunday can put together a good game.
While the Fins and Raiders aren’t divisional opponents, they do have some key pieces of the puzzle that have history coming into this game. One of which is Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour who played against the Miami Dolphins twice a year for many years while he was a member of the New England Patriots. Seymour’s knowledge of certain players’ strengths and weaknesses coming into this game could prove to be an invaluable resource for his defensive teammates on Sunday.
Although Brandon Marshall is said to have a hamstring issue and his status is unknown, Oakland Raiders’ cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is ready to go after a severe ankle sprain and will likely be a thorn in Marshall’s side if he does suit up to play. The two go back a ways as Marshall was a member of the Denver Broncos for four seasons and has been known to have some good games against the Raiders. Last year in his two games against Oakland, Marshall had a combined 12 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
This year could be different for Marshall though because Nnamdi has been lined up in a lot of one-on-one matchups with the opponent’s best receiver and has been shutting down the opponent’s best wide receivers for most of the year including Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.
Dolphins’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is no stranger to the Bay Area either. For a few years, he patrolled the sidelines of the San Francisco 49ers as their head coach. But last year he was the defensive coordinator who was given a lot of credit for turning Enver (no D) into one of the top defensive units in the league. The Raiders played against his 3-4 scheme two times last year and that gives them a one-up on offense against the Dolphins defense on Sunday.
Back in the Groove
If the Raiders are going to get themselves back in the driver’s seat in their goal to win the AFC West, they have got to get the ground game back on track. It could be easier said than done as the teams they play from here on out will most likely be trying to force Jason Campbell to beat them with his arm.
With the injuries to the Raiders’ pass catchers this year, the passing game has been inconsistent in most of their games. So if they are going to ride off into the sunset and achieve their goal of getting into the playoffs by winning the AFC West, the ground game is going to have to figure out a way to get it done against what could be a more aggressive effort to stop it.
Clearly Tom Cable recognized that one of the issues in last week’s loss to the Steelers was that the Raiders gave up on their ground game too early in the contest. Even if you are not getting the type of yardage you would like, it is still important to keep the opponent’s defense honest by calling a run play here and there so they cannot pin their ears back and go hard after the quarterback. Two things come to mind here. Number one---you never know when Darren McFadden or Michael Bush is going to break one and if you are playing against eight man fronts, then there is not a whole lot of defense at the second level. Number two---the Raiders’ pass catchers are not at 100 percent right now. So even if Jason Campbell is on point that doesn’t mean the passing game is automatically going to click. The second best rushing team in the league should never have just 14 handoffs to their two halfbacks who are the caliber of DMC and Bush.
Clean up the Slop
One of the Raiders’ biggest problems last week was just poor technique. That’s something the coaches have been preaching about all year---getting better in technique and cleaning up the sloppy plays. The players know that everyone has a job on a given play and if they are not doing their job then the play is not likely to work out for the team. The coaches give the players the knowledge of techniques to use to gain the best advantage in their assignments but if the players are not executing properly then there is not much that the coaches are going to be able to do to change an outcome like last Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh.
Folks call for more consistent play from the quarterback, but one of the units that was the sloppiest in their loss last week was the offensive line. That is Tom Cable’s forte, so he and offensive line coach Jim Michalczik have to take credit for some of that, but during their three game win streak the offensive line looked like it was becoming less and less of an issue despite not having that many high quality players in the group. Last week, however, their weaknesses were exposed and it’s going to take some extra attention to detail this week to stop the Dolphins defense from exposing them in consecutive weeks.
In the holiday spirit of giving, the Raiders need to take the Dolphins out behind the shed and give them a whopping. Last week the Raiders were the takers. They just kept getting punched in the mouth over and over again. I think the only punch they got in against their opponent was the shot from Richard Seymour to the face of big Ben. Now, don’t get me wrong, that was a nice shot, but that’s not what you want to be the most memorable moment for the fans of your team.
The Raiders need to muscle up and be the aggressor again. While you’d like to see every game turn out like the one in Denver, it doesn’t always work like that. But if the team just rolls over and plays dead when they get down a little bit, then they have no shot and they start to lose confidence. It’s of the utmost importance that the Raiders get off to a nice start in this game and if it gets tight in the end, they will have to strap on their big boy muscles and overpower a very physical Miami Dolphins team.
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