In an effort to understand what the Raiders offense will look like, I looked at game film from the Seahawks in 2009, the last time that Raiders OC Greg Knapp served in that capacity before the Raiders. You can read that article here.
The last two seasons 2010 and 2011, Knapp served as the QB coach for the Houston Texans, which has had one of the most dynamic offenses in that time, relying on the skills of offensive trio Arian Foster, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.
The Raiders, like the Texans, will be playing with an offensive line that uses a Zone Blocking System (ZBS), in which each player on the line has a certain area that is their responsibility and, in most rushing players, they attempt to move the opposing players in a certain direction with the intention that the defense moving laterally will create cutback lanes that a patient RB can exploit.
Passing plays sometimes have zone blocking but also can rely on man to many style protection schemes. No system in today's NFL can be completely one style without allowing themselves to be exploited so while the Raiders will rely primarily on ZBS, they will have some man/power schemes as well, certainly.
I reviewed two games from Houston's 2011 schedule - week 3 versus New Orleans and week 5 versus Oakland.
It was clear that the Texans used many of the same philosophies as the 09 Seahawks. For example, the team again rarely went without at least one TE on the field and many teams they used 2 TE sets. In fact, they had what was, in essence, a 3 TE set a few times - more on that in a moment.
First, what jumped out on the film was that the Houston offense was much more vertical than it's Seattle counterpart. Seattle's offense was, in many ways, clunky. There were ineffective, telegraphed runs. There were lots of curls that moved the ball painstakingly slowly down the field, sometimes literally 3 and 4 yards at a time.
Houston's offense, however, had some much more dynamic plays in there. There were less come-back routes and many more that continued - vertical seam routes, post routes at many levels.
Part of this may have been the available personnel. Houston had much more dynamic playmakers than did Seattle. The Raiders have some playmakers of their own, so hopefully the offense will be as vertical as is Houston's.
There were some very interesting formations including one that looked like a modified single wing with 3 TEs in a line into the backfield. In fact, I was consistently thinking that Houston had 2 or 3 TEs every play until I looked up their personnel and found that number 86, James Casey, had been drafted as a TE but was instead serving as the team's FB.
This made me think of the weapon that the Raiders have in Marcel Reece at the fullback position. There were many routes in the Houston offense that call for the FB to run routes at all parts of the field. There were some amazing plays made down field by the Houston FB Casey and there is no reason to believe that Reece, a former WR, cannot be just as explosive for the Raiders in this offense.
Houston's offense also called for Casey to be split out wide, on occasion, something that Reece will excel at being a former receiver and something that can definitely result in a mismatch with a LB trying to guard him.
From the Playbook:
Here is a play that brings together a lot of the themes we've discussed. This play took place in week 5 versus Oakland with 12:09 remaining in the second quarter. In the play, the Houston offense comes out in a double TE-set with an I formation in the backfield and one WR split to the QBs left.
Before the snap the FB comes up from the backfield and takes a position to the right side of the line, near the right TE, Joel Dreesen. This makes an unbalanced line and the Raiders must respect that there is a lot of power on the line.
At the snap, the line goes into a zone block left with each player flowing to their left and taking their man with them. The running back goes toward the line and the QB runs back to give a handoff.
The RB doesn't get the ball, though, and is a planned blocker on this play. The QB instead keeps the ball on a play-action naked bootleg (called this because he has no blockers on the play in front of him and so he is, in essence, naked). The QB runs to the right where the field is mostly vacated by the zone blocking towards the left sideline.
At this point there are three possible passes. At the snap, the left WR has run up and in towards the center of the field for a long bomb. The left TE also runs a route the goes across the field. The QB can hit either of them in stride as they make their way across towards the right hashmarks. In the Oakland game, these routes are fairly well covered, however.
What is not covered - at all - is the third route in which the right TE, Dreesen, runs along with the line initially, looking as if he's part of the blocking scheme, and then makes his way out of the fray and further up the field. Because the WR and L TE routes have now dragged the secondary concerned with pass to the right, Dreesen is wide open.
Schaub, as QB, sees Dreesen wide open and makes a pass across his body to him. Dreesen halls it in and there isn't a Raiders player in 20 yards of him. He moves down the field and into the endzone for an easy 56 yard TD reception.
Here is a clip of the play. I apologize for the quality of the video, it's the best my system can manage.
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