Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Offensive Success starts upfront in Oakland

Offensive Success starts upfront in Oakland

A two-part series on the Raider Offense

Training camp has begun for the Oakland Raiders. The silver and black are working hard preparing for a successful 2010 season. The Raiders had one of the best off-seasons in recent memory. The off-season has provided the team with much needed momentum. Two of the bigger acquisitions for Oakland were Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson and QB Jason Campbell.

These are just two of the many additions brought in to upgrade their offense that ranked 31st in the league and scored 17 touchdowns. The NFL is a passing league and the Raiders ranked 29th out of 32 teams; only the Jets & Browns had less completed passes.

The Raiders ranked 21st in the league rushing in 2009 ; posting seven rushing touchdowns and allowing 49 sacks.

A significant amount of the blame for the above-mentioned rankings needs to be placed on JR's doorstep. A man that never got it. He seemed to be more taken with 'purple drank' than he was at improving as a football player. The Raider offense will improve with a renewed commitment to the running game and an improved passing game with Jason Campbell at the helm. Offensive improvement always starts upfront with the offensive line.

A successful offensive line needs to be based upon having talented athletes and providing them with solid coaching. Tom Cable is a solid offensive line coach. There are coaches that teach the scheme and coaches that teach technique Cable learned from Alex Gibbs who taught both.

For those who do not know Alex Gibbs is seen as the godfather of the zone blocking scheme who coached the Raiders offensive line 1988-1989. Wherever he goes, that team is successful offensively. Oakland's road to redemption starts behind the five guys entrusted to move the crowd.

The Raiders have completed the walk-through version of training camp that Head Coach Tom Cable calls "learning intensive" sessions. The Raiders are focusing on fundamentals. The Zone Blocking Scheme is widely used and highly successful. The zone blocking scheme eliminated a called 'hole' to run in.

Zone blocking in the running game usually relies on technique, as well as smaller more athletic lineman sacrificing size for mobility and runners committed to the one cut and go system. The majority of the running plays due to the movement of the linemen always have the appearance of a stretch play to the weak or strong side of the formation.

The center, guard, tackle, tight end and fullback work in unison to combination block an area with an emphasis on double-teaming a few defensive linemen, 1st or 2nd level threats at the point of attack. The double-team block will provide movement at the line of scrimmage as well as cut back lane for the runner. Getting movement is the key.

Typically people think of the levels as 1st level defensive line, 2nd level linebackers and 3rd level as the secondary as you will see in your game day program. The reality is that things are a little different on the field.

Facing a 3-4 defensive front, for example, causes a lot of confusion for offensive linemen. A blitz or pressure can come from several different players. It is all about treat level the linemen need to be able to read the defense and never leave a 1st level threat unblocked. A defensive lineman, linebacker or defensive back could be a 1st level threat.

The Raiders will face ten opponents that utilize a 3-4 defensive front as their base defense. Oakland will put the pads on August 2nd. The competition to be one of the starting five or depth begins. The guys who will receive snaps on the first-team are as follows:

LT Mario Henderson, LG Robert Gallery, C Samson Satele, RG Cooper Carlisle, RT Langston Walker.

Depth: (T-G) Khalif Barnes, (T) Erik Pears, (C) Chris Morris, (G) Brandon Rodd

New Additions: (G-T) Bruce Campbell, (T) Jared Veldheer, (G) Daniel Loper, (G) Allen Smith, (T) Elliot Vallejo, (G) Alex Parsons

The Raiders best lineman Robert Gallery returns healthy after only playing in six games last year due to a series of injuries. In Gallery's absence, Henderson who had a decent start faded down the stretch. Cooper Carlisle's performance has dropped off over the last two years and competition at Right Guard is required. Langston Walker returns as the surprise starter at right tackle. Cornell Green has left the building. He will be 'false-starting' in Buffalo in 2010. Samson Satele was slow to adjust to the zone blocking scheme, but came on late.

The smartest thing is that there will be competition at every position. The battle for playing time on the offensive line will provide some of the best positional battles of training camp. The best possible scenario for this group in five parts:

1) No serious injuries or games missed, with substantial success and growth as a unit.

2) Robert Gallery not missing a game.

3) Rookies Jared Veldheer & Bruce Campbell rapidly getting up to speed, making an immediate impact and challenging for playing time at left tackle & right guard.

4) Langston Walker showing improvement as a run blocker while continuing to be solid as a pass blocker.

5) A few unexpected lineman playing well and challenging for playing time such as Daniel Loper, Allen Smith or Elliott Vallejo.