Anatomy of a big play: Oakland Raiders wrinkles

After wallowing in the basement of the NFL for over a decade, the Oakland Raiders started showing signs of life the last few years. After drafting cornerstone pieces like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack, along with adding veteran free agents like Michael Crabtree, Rodney Hudson, and Kelechi Osemele, general manager Reggie Mackenzie has built a team that is a legit contender in the AFC West and is one of the more entertaining teams to watch.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has done a great job of building an offense around his best players, putting them in a position to succeed. The Raiders’ Week 7 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars was no different, as they were able to put up multiple explosive plays on the way to a 33-16 win and a tie for the AFC West lead at 5-2.

Creative Answers To Traditional Schemes

Knowing that Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley comes from the Pete Carroll coaching tree in Seattle, as does Oakland’s defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., Musgrave and the Raiders had a good idea of what to expect from the Jaguars schematically. It is common knowledge by now, that teams that play this style of defense prefer to play single safety high coverages, leaning most heavily on Cover 3 (three deep, five under zone coverage), mixed with Cover 1 (man under with a free safety high).

The traditional methods of beating this type of coverage, especially Cover 3, are also very well documented, and teams have begun to adapt by using pattern matching to make the coverage less predictable and more flexible. To counter these adaptations, Musgrave found creative ways to put the defense in the same type of bind.

One of the traditional ways to defeat a Cover-3 scheme is to create a three-mann vertical stretch to one side of the field to create a three-on-two situation against the two zone defenders in the outside lane of the defense. This can be created by combining a go route, with a flat route, and an out, corner, or deep crossing route. In the Raiders’ 3×1 formation, the only way this vertical stretch can take place is for someone from the opposite side to come across the field to take the intermediate part of the stretch.

Because the Jaguars defenders know this pre-snap they are on alert for a deep crossing route to be ready to widen and take away the throwing line. But, Oakland has a different idea. By running Seth Roberts across the field on a drag route rather than a deep crosser, the inside “hook” defenders assume they can pass the route off to the curl-flat defender to that side.

However, rather than simply running across to the sideline underneath, Roberts turned his route up the field similar to a wheel route and found plenty of space in the void in the defense.

As the play develops, you can see Safety Jonathan Cyprien drive downhill on the flat route by the running back before he reacts to turn and try to run with Roberts. But, the two or three steps he takes downhill is enough for Roberts to get by him running full speed, and Carr was able to deliver the ball in space for a 26-yard gain.

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