Oakland Raiders No-Huddle Possibilities: A Chalkboard Preview

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Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) calls for a snap from center Stefen Wisniewski (61) in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Musgrave is bringing elements of Chip Kelly’s No Huddle Offense to Oakland.

Cue collective Raider Nation happy dance like Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This reaction is well-founded. Chip Kelly is one of the more innovative offensive minds in the league. His philosophy is at the head of the curve of offensive development. It consistently leads to exciting high-scoring games, big plays, and a raise in efficiency from the QBs at the helm. Honestly, any football fan should be happy to see these No-Huddle Spread elements brought to their team.

One of the more fascinating aspects of this story is the way in which some of the Raiders’ personnel is already suited to run this scheme. JBB writer Mlorsch has already written an amazing article getting into some of the philosophy of the No-Huddle and its implications for the Raiders’ personnel. If you haven’t yet, go read it. In it he discusses several key elements to this story. Among them is the flexibility that players such as Marcel Reece, Brian Leonhardt, and Mychal Rivera lend to the scheme. It’s this very flexibility that gets at the heart of why this is so successful.

We’ve already seen plays in which Reece, Rivera, and Leonhardt have lined up outside of their traditional roles. All have found some success in lining up in the slot, outside, and even in the backfield. That’s important, because this flexibility is what can give Oakland major matchup advantages if used correctly. Imagine a situation in which Oakland runs several passes in a spread formation with Rivera and Reece in the slot position against a nickel defense. The Safeties step back a bit to make sure no one gets behind them because Rivera and the two receivers have been running verticals. Now one play (say it’s 3rd & 7) Rivera and Reece motion into the formation, DBs and linebackers follow, alerting coverage, and Carr checks to a power run at the line of scrimmage. Rivera, Reece, and Leonhardt have a blocking advantage because of their bigger bodies compared to the collective defenders and the safeties can’t quite creep up to stop a run in 3rd and long. Now running in this circumstance becomes much more reasonable and effective.

Make no mistake about it, the goal of the No-Huddle Spread offense is to force the defense to cover the entire field with the specific intent of running it right down their throats.

Still, there are lingering questions when it comes to this discussion the must be addressed before we progress further into the playbook and it’s potential for Oakland. Let’s get those out of the way right now.

Isn’t the No-Huddle a gimmick? Sure it works in college, but if it was really useful all the NFL teams would run it.

There was a time when people considered the forward pass a gimmick. Seriously, the gimmick argument is thrown out at nearly every single new development that enters the league. It essentially proceeds as follows. Aside from the super top programs there can be much more job security in college and high-school than in the NFL. Combine that with the fast rate of turnover in player personnel and you’re left with an environment that is very centered on a coach vs. coach (or scheme vs. scheme) dynamic when dealing with longer term success of programs. This allows for much more innovation and experimentation. In the NFL, jobs are on the line at all times. Long term multi-million dollar contracts are spent on elite players the teams seeks to have around for 5 years or more. This environment trends toward conservatism and a degree of homogenization among proven schemes in attempts to shed blame and save jobs. 5 years ago people thought the spread offense was a gimmick, now most teams run it (at least in packages). There are some very valuable aspects to the philosophy of the No-Huddle which largely benefit the offense.

Doesn’t Oakland need a ton of receivers? The No-Huddle is really pass happy right?

Not necessarily. The No-Huddle Spread offense, at least as Chip Kelly runs it, is actually centered around the run game. The passing and packaged plays (which we’ll get into in a little bit) are used as constraint plays to keep the defense unsettled & hesitant, and the exploit advantageous match-ups to punish cheating defenders. Make no mistake about it, the goal of the No-Huddle Spread offense is to force the defense to cover the entire field with the specific intent of running it right down their throats. With the versatility of Rivera, Reece, and to a lesser degree Leonhardt, 4 stud receivers are not necessary – though they would certainly open up options.

Won’t all this running around tire Oakland’s offense out as much as the opposing defense?

This is a totally valid concern. Being able to run the No-Huddle properly will require much more conditioning from the entire team (remember, this puts the defense on the field for a longer time as well). It changes how practices will run to account for the change in pace. However, this extra acceleration in pace comes with major upsides. In the same way that the No-Huddle extends the game by allowing the offense to run more plays in the allotted game time the practices will be extended as well. Running the No-Huddle in practice means more reps at getting plays down and more efficient use of time in practicing the team’s weekly game plan – all without adding a minute to the actual practice schedule.

How does this fit in with Oakland’s personnel and Musgrave’s strengths?

Mlorsch gets into this in his article pretty well but it bears repeating. Chip Kelly’s No-Huddle Spread offense pulls heavily from existing and time-honored West Coast concepts (short, timed passing routes, and hard-nosed running) and re-packages them in ways to be more advantageous at exploiting defensive weaknesses and personnel mismatches on the fly. Musgrave’s background is really heavy in the West Coast offense. He’s run it in various forms everywhere he’s coached. Oakland ran some West Coast concepts last season and Raiders’ fans have very fond memories of the Gruden years which were very West Coast-centric. Nothing here is really reinventing the wheel, it’s just presenting it in a different fashion.

Settled? Good. Now let’s get into the X’s and O’s. We’ll examine 4 plays and their respective concepts which come from Musgrave offenses and can adapt well to the Raiders’ personnel and strengths at present. Plays that would only be improved with great offseason additions (*cough Amari Cooper cough*). Flip the page for the first big addition: Packaged Plays.