The Raiders have now made their way through two games and have the same number of touchdowns to show for it. Teams that start 0-2 are by no means eliminated from playoffs but with a very tough schedule coming up with Pittsburgh, Denver and Atlanta – all playoff teams last year and all looking to be very solid this year as well – a 0-5 start is entirely possible.
But this year was never a playoff-likely year. Playoffs were a possibility (and they still are) but this year was never really a playoff-expectation year. Playoffs were a bonus, not an expectation.
This season has always been more about building for the future and initiating the massive amount of change that comes with a new owner, first time GM, first time head coach, first time defensive coordinator, new offensive coordinator and the resulting personnel and schematic changes that also follow.
There has been much hand-wringing about the Raiders offensive struggles through the first two games and rightfully so. The offense – and the rushing offense in particular – has looked terrible. There is some light at the end of this tunnel, however.
If the Raiders can get the zone blocking scheme (ZBS) that Knapp and Allen prefer working well, it will fix or improve a number of the ills of the 2012 squad.
First, I'd like to address ZBS itself. There are many who do not believe it can be an effective scheme. I've never been able to understand this. There are any number of teams that have used the scheme with success. Whether or not one is a believer in Knapp as a play-caller has nothing to do with the scheme. It's been shown time and time again in the NFL that zone blocking can and does work as a scheme. In fact, Allen, a defensive-minded coach, is himself a proponent of the scheme because it is difficult to defend against!
Zone blocking is, however, much more complicated than most other offensive schemes. It takes intelligent, athletic linemen to execute a blocking scheme with a coordinated effort and the offensive line must be disciplined and must work in concert. Like any complicated scheme, this can take some time as the players must learn how the blocking schemes work and learn them so well that they can execute without thinking about them.
The Raiders offensive line has not yet achieved this. They've shown flashes but they've been muted flashes, only. The team is a mix of old and young players some with zone experience and some without. They must learn how to work with each other and the nuances of the scheme. I'm sure Allen and the rest of the coaches wished that had been completed in training camp but it doesn't always go as quickly as we'd like.
However, the bright news is that the Raiders offensive line is still learning. They have the talent along the line to be able to win the battle with the opposing defensive line as long as they are able start playing and stop thinking while still executing the scheme appropriately.
I hear a number of comments from Raiders fans that complain about why the Raiders chose to change schemes anyway since the 2011 offense was clicking well. I get that complaint, it's frustrating to see the regression and changing to Knapp's possession offense with the zone blocking offensive line may not be the best thing for the 2011 team.
I do, however, argue that implanting a scheme-based offense and defense is the best thing for the team, long term. I argue that a scheme-based team, in general, is much better than the opposite. Here is the thinking – if you have a scheme already in place you are better able to find players that fit that scheme and you are better able to find players who may not be elite but whose skillset can plug into the system and bring out the best in the player while masking the weaknesses.
It doesn't mean that the team has to be so locked in that they don't make changes and every team should work around the players they have but the importance of the Raiders having one, set, solid scheme that they can build upon for more than a year or two cannot be understated. I am not the only one who is of the opinion that much of the Raiders' difficulties are the result of so much constant coaching turnover and changing philosophies from year to year.
If the Raiders can, in fact, work out many of the kinks in their zone blocking and begin to run the ball to at least an average level, it will have a ripple effect on the rest of the team.
First, Knapp's offense is a possession offense. He has no problem using all three downs as long as he can get the 1st down on 3rd down. This all comes down to creating favorable down and distance and if the team can't run, it can't advance to 3rd and short situations.
Second, the passing game wants to be based more on play-action. Play-action cannot be as successful if the defense does not believe it and if the team is unable to run the defenders are less likely to believe the play-action fakes. The Raiders need the run to be successful to draw the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage so they can go vertical more often and with greater success.
A successful run game will not only help the offense, though, it will help the defense, too. Playing defense is harder than playing offense because the offense knows where the ball is going where the defense does not. Defenders use more energy than the offense in trying to defend which is why defenses have a greater tendency to wear down as games go on. The defensive line, especially, can get worn out with a great number of snaps.
So, if the offense can get their running game on track, it will allow the Raiders offense to stay on the field longer and longer, which gives the defenders a greater break before having to go out and play again. This will help keep the defense more fresh and allow them to be more dominant during their time on the field.
Likewise, it will wear down the opposing defense and will open up scoring later in the game for the Raiders offense if they can keep driving down the field consistently.
There is a lot to dislike in the first two games this season but I put the running game at the top of the list (with special teams' abysmal play). If the Raiders can get their running game on track, they can drastically improve their offense and defense. It remains to be seen if they will be able to do this in a timely manner but I like the players on the line and think they have the appropriate skill set to be able to excel. I expect that when things start to click, they will move forward very quickly and I would expect the coaches to make the run game a focus until things improve.
For more Raiders news and analysis throughout the day, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews
Trying to change the scheme on both sides of the ball at he same time was simply a mistake. Especially considering that one side (the offense) was working and one was clearly in the gutter (the defense). Wouldn't it have been easier and more productive to concentrate on the problem area rather than redo the whole team all at once?
i just hope they're right and i know it's all for building for the future which we've never done and paying for it now, but when the offense was healthy last year they really dominant. and i understand that the new leadership wants put their own stamp on this football team but why would they want to change their biggest strengths the past two seasons. all gotta say is ihope they're right
"If Raiders can get run game going, many other pieces will fall into place"...
"IF" being the key word. It's not looking to promising at the moment thats for sure! If McFadden keeps racking up 2-yards a carry how long before we start to see more of Jones and Goodson? Maybe it is just the fact that McFadden is not suited to the ZBS - Just like we ound DeAngelo not suited to Man Coverage or the Eagles are finding with Nnamdi not suited to the Zone Defense.
If this is the case do we change our Offense to suit our star Offensive weapon? Or do we trade the star Offensive weapon and find someone who is better suited? Ben Tate comes right to mind - he won't be happy getting a few carries behind Foster forever when it's obvious he has all the skills to be a number one RB himself.
@nilbymouth It's partially that D-Mac likes to read the defenses and choose his way as he goes, but it is also due to the complete lack of blocking in front of him - if it doesn't change it doesn't matter which back we have in, they will all be hit behind LOC as D-Mac is on almost every play!
A malfunctioning ZBS will always lead to tackles for loss because the D is then allowed to penetrate and step in front of the or at least hit the RB before he even hits the hole..
A wellfunctioning ZBS like the one the Texans run is really difficult to stop and the D regularily hits the back when he is through the hole and several yards down the field! And Ben Tate is a perfect fit for this scheme as you say! He does it all really well and has both size and speed to succeed!
Still, imo the main issue is the blocking part of the ZBS, before it is fixed it will be impossible to get a consistent and competent run-game going as it then falls to D-Mac to make something happen while starting a step behind, not an easy task!
Interesting notion about the possibility of a D-Mac trade - but the question is how much he could garner after the showing thus far! Best possibility would be for a starter to get injured somewhere with SB dreams, could make them steeply overpay like we did last year!
@Harder2000 @nilbymouth I love DMC when he's healthy - he's the best RB the team has ever had WHEN he's healthy (which is rare). But the cold hard fact is he was a part of the LAST rebuild. So if we're starting over - he should have been traded for draft picks. The odds are very long that he will last the 2 or 3 seasons it's going to take to be competitive IF we are in total rebuild mode (personally - I'm not sure what we're doing... seems like we're straddling some fence in that regard). We could have used the picks and his salary to build for the future if that is the plan.
@Indy! Yeah, it seems like we are stuck somewhere between rebuild and reload squad right now! Several big contract players could have been dealt to get picks and safe cap space, but the balance and competitiveness is naturally important for any team culture!
Difficult to say from home, and they definately know what they are doing, but as a fan it is really hard to keep watching how they show glimpses of hope and straight after falls apart again - i personally would prefer a total rebuild mode that would allow for a complete restructure in the mold of the new regime; at least then i would be prepared to accept the 3 years a rebuild normally takes while hoping for developmental players to emerge in the meantime!
For now i just take it one game at a time hoping for the best - really, really, really hope they start to gel and step up their game so we have something to look forward to (with excitement) come sunday!
Well we can keep a good thought. I predicted 4-6 wins before the season. Right now I don't see how we'll get to 4 without some help from the other teams on the schedule. The offense obviously has some problems. The defense - OTOH - is a joke. Don't know why we drafted a WR when we only had a few picks and the defense was swiss cheese last season.
Oh, they're sticking w/ZBS for immediate future RT @raiders247 Will they scrap ZBS or force feed it?
@AsherMathews @raiders247 I am willing to bet #Raiders will mix in some power this week to try & get DMC going. A good coach would adjust
@LeviDamien @ChrisHansenNFL @lifelongraider @raiders247 Maybe the word I was going for is infamous. "He's so famous he's IN-famous" #3Amigos
@AsherMathews @ChrisHansenNFL Chris out of curiousity do you know the down & distance they ran power on? I need to rewatch Miami. #Torture
Per the esteemed @ChrisHansenNFL the team has already mixed in power w/zone in games. @lifelongraider @raiders247
RT @lifelongraider Im willing to bet #Raiders will mix in some power this week to try & get DMC going. A good coach would adjust @raiders247
@AsherMathews @tfds good read. My problem is good coach sees what he has & worked, slowly put in yours & keep rolling. Saunders is on staff