Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Tailgate Tom the turkey at a party outside AT

Back to the Bay With Rory Anderson: Post Thanksgiving Feast

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Back to the Bay With Rory Anderson is a weekly column from Just Blog Baby podcast cohost Rory Anderson. For more of Rory’s Raiders analysis tune into the Just Blog Baby Podcast on blogtalkradio.com/justblogbaby

To begin I want to apologize to all of the readers that were looking forward to a long form write up of the Texans game and the performance by Matt McGloin, but a long story short I had some tech issues I was not able to work around. With that in mind, this column is coming to you a day after Thanksgiving in the wake of the decimation you and your family have wrought on a delicious turkey and of course all of the fixings. Because there was no column last week and because there is the Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys, I am making this column a double decker with twice the goodness. Here we go, it’s a long one.

Matt McGloin after Two Starts

So I am already lying a little bit because in order to break down the Titans game one also has to take a gander at the Texans game since there are some real similarities. To begin with, there is a huge difference between the offense with McGloin under center rather than with Pryor in and this is primarily due to the quick release of McGloin and his ability to understand what the defense is doing to him almost immediately. Profootballfocus.com put an interesting stat on Twitter. Terrelle Pryor averaged holding onto the ball for 3.4 seconds in all of his starts and after two starts McGloin averages only 2.5 seconds. Only five quarterbacks in the NFL get the ball out of their hands faster than that on average and Peyton Manning leads the league with a time just under 2.0 seconds. In terms of the NFL and quarterback play one second is significant and the change of quarterbacks has greatly lessened the pressure that was placed on the shoulders of the offensive line. People misinterpret what they saw live on television the last two weeks and they wrongly assume that the offensive line played better for McGloin since he was only sacked twice in the last two weeks and both of those were by JJ Watt. Having athleticism and the ability to elude the rush is just dandy, but if a quarterback cannot deliver the ball downfield then he will struggle and eventually fail.

The positive effects that McGloin brings to the table go beyond the offensive line and in the Houston game we saw the running game take off. We saw some of this as well in the Titans game, but that was more of a defensive struggle. It is no coincidence that Rashard Jennings all of the sudden rushed for 150 yards the first game the Raiders had a real passing threat under center. One of the most annoying myths in the NFL is the idea that the running game must set up the pass. It is simply not true. Rather, they both set each other up. By being balanced on offense a team can keep a defense on its heels not allowing them to key off on any particular players. With Pryor because he was such an ineffective deep passer a defense could load up the box and take away a consistent run game forcing the Raiders to have to pass from the pocket when the defense could pin its ears back and with only the most basic route concepts at hand to use, the receivers could not get open and the offense struggled every game.

I have been trying to tell people of the connection between route complexity and a quarterback’s passing ability and finally the Raiders and the fans can see the short comings of Pryor in this part of his game. These will prove my point:

That is the beginning of the play. We see three Raiders in a bunch formation running a three level route concept with Mastrud carrying the corner deep and Streater attracting the attention of the short zone defenders leaving Reece one on one with a much smaller defensive back.

 

Follow that great play design with a perfect pass from McGloin and the Raiders ripped off a 15 yard gain on 3rd and 9.

I know what many readers are going to follow this up with. It begins with, “Yeah well, McGloin is short and we saw four passes…” Yes, we saw four passes batted down early in the Titans game, but what many people miss is how he adjusted in the second half and began to include some pump fakes and some different release angles to fix the problem. Here is an example from the Titans game:

Here we see McGloin just finishing his pump and in doing so you can the defensive lineman who cannot get to him freeze on their rush, but with his release time they will not have the time to knock it down. Mostly what this did was slow the bull rush so he would have a clean platform to throw. Downfield, the defending linebacker who was watching McGloin bit slightly and was slowed enough to open up a nice throwing window.

 

And another perfect throw for a touchdown. This was not the only time McGloin did this. In the Texans game on a stutter move go route he pump faked right when Streater slowed and the corner bit giving him the space to hit him over the top for a big gain. These are actions of an advanced passer and I have not seen at any time Terrelle Pryor make these throws or even a simple pump fake. Here is another throw McGloin made in the Titans game that is a Green Bay Packers special:

On the other hand McGloin did pull a Pryor and threw and inexcusable interception early in the Titans game after staring down Reece so he is not perfect. I am not going to say that McGloin is the future and I almost guarantee that the Raiders will draft another quarterback this year, but McGloin is proving without a doubt that this offense can be consistent and more efficient without Pryor under center. The Loss that Shouldn’t Have Been This loss against the Titans was particularly annoying primarily because the Raiders should not have lost. There are a lot of bases to touch so here so I am going to take them one by one. Firstly, the Raiders offense needs to shape up and do more than get into field goal range. This game was a mixed bag because on seven drives McGloin drove the Raiders to the Titan’s 34 yard line or closer accounting for five scoring drives against one of the NFL’s top pass defenses which knocked down four passes when McGloin had open receivers and Raiders receivers dropped ten passes by my count. This offense has a long way to go, but as we have seen the last two weeks, it operates much more fluidly with a real passing threat and Rod Streater is thriving. This is the sort of offense that Streater fits in perfectly, and because this is the future, I could see the Raiders moving on from Denarius Moore after they draft a wide receiver they really love in this upcoming draft. Moore is a limited receiver that may be explosive, but is also wildly inconsistent, but Streater is a guy with the makings of a 100 catch possession guy written all over him. If the Raiders could pair him with another similar precise route runner or a big bodied receiver with solid hands, the Raiders could develop a solid tandem. Another reason why the Raiders lost was Janikowski’s two missed field goals. What really annoys me about this entire situation is Seabass’ treatment of Marquette King. After this paragraph I will show you the screen shots of the two misses and you will see King did fine and in all honesty the issue is in Seabass’ head. By throwing King under the bus he avoids blame after signing that ridiculous contract and frankly that flies in the face of everything this new regime stands for. I understand he is uncomfortable, but he needs to put his big boy pants on and kick the ball through the uprights. This is becoming a real shame and hopefully he gets over this by next season when the Raiders will really push for a playoff spot.

 

The last potential culprit in this blame game is defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. I said repeatedly on the podcast that I was worried about the Titans’ offense because it was a no huddle offense that focused on crossing routes and they came out firing with those exact routes and torched Tarver’s defense. The Raiders gave up ten 3rd and long completions for first downs and on the last drive of the game they could do nothing. The only thing worse was the final play which was doomed from the beginning, but before I get to that here are a couple screen shots that show how Tarver was again fooled by the no huddle offense.

 

The result:

 

Here is my question on this play. How in the world did Adams end up that far off Hunter? I mean that is amazingly poor coverage and with some sort of help over the top? Also, where is Ross? Why was he so late to the spot? It is really amazing. I know many readers do not like DJ Hayden, but he would have eaten up these receivers and the Raiders are a much weaker pass defense without him. I don’t care how poor the Eagles’ game looked, Hayden is immensely talented and the Raiders miss him. Phillip Adams cannot hold a candle to him.

 

At this point we are now to the final play of the game. I did a verbal breakdown of this play on the podcast but here is a visual one.

Assuming Porter is performing this coverage properly as Dennis Allen said he did, then this means Phillip Adams is alone to guard against two wide receivers and when he stays back to ensure the ball is in front of him, he leaves too much room for Wright to make the catch and score. This play is terrible in its design and does nothing to help the outside defenders.


Here you can see how the Raiders are overwhelming the other side of the field. This makes no sense. It is clear the Raiders are trying to defend something up the middle such as a post route, but the Titans had not focused on posts. Instead their bread and butter were crossing routes and out routes which was the route Wright ran. What Tarver should have done was play cover one man robber which is man defense across the board with a defender in the mid zone protecting against the crosser and a defender covering the deep middle. In fact in this situation with only three men rushing, the Raiders could have had two defenders playing deep both taking up half the field and both closing in on a potential post route.

Cowboys Game

I was really hoping to do a super positive second half of the column after a big Raiders upset, but of course they had to jump out to an early lead to get us all excited and then blow it. What is most frustrating for me isn’t necessarily the loss, but it’s that this team is close. I am not saying they are close to being a Super Bowl champion, but they are a couple players away from being good. I see enough from Dennis Allen and company to want to see another year of this coaching staff. What this franchise needs most is consistency, because consistency will create camaraderie and growth. I was one of the more optimistic people coming into this year and I predicted seven wins and although that is unlikely, there is a possibility it could happen. Later I will discuss the struggling Jets, but the Raiders will also face the Chargers whom they have beat, and the Chiefs in Oakland who may be without one or both of their key pass rushers.

With that dash of optimism how about we dig into this game? I know McGloin threw the interception in this game, but overall he had another successful outing. After three starts I can really start to see what McGloin is all about. He has all the mechanical tools a quarterback needs and is fairly consistent with his reads. I am in no way going to say that he is the future for this team, but he will compete going forward with a future draft pick(s). This team and offense is better with McGloin at this time even if his ceiling is simply Andy Dalton as opposed to Drew Brees or Rich Gannon. What McGloin did exceptionally well in this game and it looked to be a plan of emphasis in the gameplan, was to throw the back shoulder throw. I have seen this throw a couple times the last two weeks, but yesterday it was used frequently and with great success. Even the interception was that sort of throw and we will discuss that play.

You can see on this play with man coverage and his back turned the quarterback, Orlando Scandrick is in no position to defend this pass. It is placed slightly behind Streater so he has to stop and jump to make the catch which is completely impossible for Scandrick to do. If the play isn’t made there is a good chance of getting defensive pass interference as well so it’s up to the quarterback to throw the ball on time to the right spot.


Here we have the defense in press man and right away McGloin has his key to get the ball out quickly to his shortest route.

This ball is dropped but McGloin hits him right as he turns and it was the proper read.


This throw is an out route against man defense for McGloin and he fits it into a tight window leading Rivera for a solid gain. Another solid throw and most of McGloin’s throws were pretty decent.

This is a play action pass where McGloin hits his back foot and delivers a perfectly thrown post route in stride to Holmes for a solid gain. It isn’t the most difficult read to make, but it is well thrown and leads the receiver. It’s the execution on these more simplistic throws that shows his grip on the basics. Now whether or not he can translate that into long term success and grow into the real deal is up to him. If McGloin is going to be successful in this league it will have to be by relying on anticipation, pre snap reads, and accuracy to throw receivers open. Here is the bad:

 

I do not blame McGloin for the read. He has a small window to fit that ball into Reece and if he does it is a touchdown, but he throws this ball right at Reece’s hands rather than a foot in front of him or a foot higher. If he does, this is probably a touchdown.

 

This next tweet will only make the agony over that interception worse.

If McGloin puts that in the back of the end zone it is a touch down with Rivera’s speed over the top of the defender.


This is the last play for the Raiders before the field goal. This was a constant theme in the offense yesterday, but McGloin should have seen the coverage and moved to Streater over the middle.

I have seen some on Twitter criticize McGloin for having allowed the Titans and Cowboys to mount a comeback and win. All throughout this season the Raiders offense has stagnated at times in the second half, but with McGloin we have also seen life be breathed back into them late against the Titans and Cowboys. The last two leads dwindled not because of a failure by the offense, but instead defensive failures. Yesterday the Raiders only had two third quarter possessions because the Cowboys were unstoppable on third down and possessed the ball for almost the entire quarter. Yes they had punts, but the Raiders also blew several three and out opportunities with amazingly poor tackling. As I mentioned earlier in the Titans breakdown, that game was lost due primarily to schematic failures, whereas this game was lost by the players on defense with some of the sloppiest tackling I have even seen. I am going to share some screen shots of the failed tackling and the amazingly poor run defense in the second half:

 

 

 

I think I have made my point. Where are the Raiders? These last two games have been rough for Raider Nation, but we all have to remember where this team was at in the preseason. Right now this team is fighting and is competitive. Whether you like Dennis Allen or not, he has this team in the hunt every game and with the way the Jets are playing, the defenseless Chargers, and the potentially banged up and struggling Chiefs at home for the next three games, we may start to see some more wins. I am not guaranteeing anything, but this team can win on any given Sunday and that is more than we could have said about last year’s team. The Jets are going into this week’s game with a struggling rookie quarterback that turns the ball over frequently and a struggling pass defense that has been exposed in recent weeks when the pass rush has failed and teams have gone after rookie cornerback Dee Milliner. The Jets are very stout inside with the duo of Mohammed Wilkerson and rookie Sheldon Richardson. Quentin Coples on the outside has had a solid season, but the real focal point of that defense is Wilkerson. As we would all expect, the Jets will blitz consistently and then try to mix in multiple coverages to confuse McGloin. To avoid confusion, the Raiders will have to rely on the short passing game and get into a rhythm early. Many in Raider Nation may not have noticed, but at one point McGloin completed 10 straight passes yesterday and when the offense was in rhythm it was very efficient. The Jets are one of the NFL’s best run defenses which means the Raiders will have to loosen it up with the passing game to make hay in the second half. Most importantly on defense the Raiders must slow down the running game. When the Jets have been successful offensively it was a result of the play action pass which enabled them to get single coverage down the field and easy reads on basic routes for Geno Smith. Ever since DJ Hayden was placed on the injured reserve and Phillip Adams has had to fill in, there have been an increasing number of blown coverages and missed tackles by cornerbacks. People remember the Eagles game and chose to focus on that game as to form their opinion on Hayden, but DJ rarely got burnt and he didn’t have massive lapses in coverage as Adams has had consistently in the last three weeks. Even in the Eagles game, Hayden did a good job rerouting Cooper on the fade route and was beat with a great throw, and on the Jackson touchdown he was expecting coverage help on the inside. Adams on the other hand has been abused consistently. In the Titans game he was left ten yards behind Hunter on the 54 yard touchdown and in this game he got worked by Terrance Williams and Miles Austin several times. The following captures will show you my point:

 


This is inexcusable and Adams has no feel for the zone defense. Hayden did very well in zone and I saw continued growth even when he made mistakes. It is plays like these on third and long that have killed this defense. For a team that struggled with its inside offensive lineman, they were able to continuously hold up against the Raiders pass rush and when the Raiders did hurry Romo, he usually found an underneath receiver to make a solid gain.

It has been apparent all offseason that this defense needs another pass rusher and that should be a focus this offseason. I still believe that Streater is a solid possession receiver moving forward, but having another consistent weapon outside with some explosiveness would help immensely. For now the Raiders need to win with the limited talent they have and that is possible. I am as frustrated as anyone about these last two losses, but I know for a fact that this team is heading in the right direction. Raider Nation is starting to see the sun light at the end of the tunnel and all this team needs now is to add some more high end talent and some talented draft picks.

Future Columns

Just a quick note. Due to the length of this BTTB I am not attaching any scouting reports, but next week since there is no game this Sunday, I will make the column all about scouting and maybe even a mock draft. Send me requests on twitter for players you would want scouted. I would like to cover a diverse range of prospects and if you send me a request I will include your Twitter handle in the column. I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving.

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