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Behind Enemy Lines: Observations on the Oakland Raiders' Offense

Pictured:  Me in my cunning disguise while behind enemy lines.
Pictured: Me in my cunning disguise while behind enemy lines.

I have to admit, it feels pretty good to be able to watch a team I care about play the Pittsburgh Steelers and come away with a win, despite the refs' best efforts to the contrary.  But there comes a point in the course of the week (about 2:07 p.m. Wednesday) where you have to stop looking back at the teams you beat, or in this case dominated, and start looking at the next game on the schedule. 
On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders will make the trip to Reliant Stadium in what has become a yearly matchup against our Houston Texans.  With the Texans coming off a huge win last week and the Ravens next on the schedule after Oakland, not to mention the fact that the Texans have won five of the six times they've faced the Raiders, this has all the makings of the classic trap game.  Though a lot has changed for these two teams, some things have remained constant since their last tilt:  the Texans will, again, be without the services of Andre Johnson (after watching the way Johnson went down last week, I am now fully convinced that someone in Oakland has an Andre Johnson voodoo doll), Francisco Franco Al Davis is still dead, and I still do not wear pants, which makes the waitress at my local watering hole really nervous.
So to help the Texans avoid falling into the trap (which, if you'll recall, was the point of this post) and to prove that I can actually write something vaguely relevant to football, here are some things to look for when the Raiders' offense takes the field.

Wherein the Oakland Raiders are a bastion of stability for Jason Campbell.

Yes, you read that right.  No, I can't believe I typed it either.  But it's true.  For Campbell, Oakland is the first place where he's had the same offensive coordinator for more than one year since his junior year at Auburn.  He's really benefited from that stability.  That being said, from looking over all the stats and research (tarot cards), it looks like Campbell really isn't being asked to do a whole lot.  Campbell's role in Hue Jackson's offense appears to be more along the lines of a game-managing type quarterback, like Trent Dilfer or Tarvaris Jackson (excuse me, I think I'm going to be ill).

In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Campbell is 25th in passing attempts with 121, and 20th in completions with 79.  Of those 121 completions, roughly 43.8% of those attempts were passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.  That's not to say he doesn't go for the long bomb every so often.  I mean, come on, it's the Raiders; what's the point of having all those speed guys if you're not going to fling it down field every once in a while? 

If I'm the Texans, I expect to see a lot of short passes and screen routes to Darren McFadden (more on him in a minute), with the occasional long bomb to Darrius Heyward-Bey or, more likely, Denarius Moore.  If they do go for the long bomb (say 20+ yards), expect it to happen between the hash marks; Campbell is 4/5 with 122 yards and a TD in that part of the field.

Campbell's stats haven't been much to write home about aside from that.  In four games, Campbell has thrown for 928 yards, 4 TDs, and 3 INTs.  But consider this for a moment:  More than 1/3 of Campbell's yardage (344 to be exact) came from his performance against the Patriots' league-worst pass defense (So, Belichick, how's that Antwaun Molden thing working out for you so far?).  So if you take that out, his average YPG drops from 232/gm to about 195. 

Run DMC?  Sorry, I'm more of a Chamillionaire fan, myself.

The clear focal point of the Raiders offense is Darren McFadden.  If the Texans can stop him, they'll win this game handily.  Oh, you were expecting more than that?  Fine.  Yeesh.

McFadden has really started to come into his own after struggling in his first couple of years in the league.  And so far this season he's looked like a monster pounding the rock.  He has 600 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving).  He ranks fourth in number of rushes attempted (75) and third in yards per carry (6.2).  Without him, the Raiders would be, at least in my opinion, hard pressed to score any points outside of a certain Polish kicker. 

Interesting, and maybe useful tidbit:  When Hue Jackson took over the unenviable task of coaching the Raiders, he sat down with McFadden and asked him what are some plays that he liked to run.  Based on the information at PFF, he has a couple of running tendencies.  He most frequently hits the hole between the left tackle and left guard (16 times for 61 yards) and off the left end of the line (14 times for 172 yards).  This means that Mario Williams and Antonio Smith could be in for a long day of stopping the run on Sunday.  Fortunately, though this guarantees nothing, McFadden has had difficulty running up the middle of the line, between either guard and the center.  I hope this trend holds because that means our run defense won't be entirely dependent on the "skills" of Shaun Cody (Pop Quiz:  What do Shaun Cody and the Michelin Man have in common?  Answer:  They're big, they're fluffy, and nobody's afraid of either one of them). 

I would expect the Raiders to either challenge Cody (Durga help us, if they do) or possibly start running McFadden more to the right side of the line to avoid Williams and Smith and test J.J. Watt's ability to stop the run.

So what do y'all think, BRBers?  What are your thoughts about the game?  How would you plan to stop the Raiders offense?  Say something!  Validate my existence!

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