Oakland Raiders Notebook: Preseason thoughts at halfway mark

4 of 6

Aug 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. watches on the sidelines against the St. Louis Rams in a preseason NFL football game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Coordinators

To me the biggest winners this preseason have been the offensive and defensive coordinators for the Raiders. Offensively we are seeing a level of creativity that has been vacant in Oakland since Jon Gruden. A simple but beautiful example of this was the long catch and run by Seth Roberts towards the end of the second quarter. The play was a very simple concept, but one that I have been screaming to see more of the last few years.

Roberts started his route on the left side of the formation. He ran a simple drag route about four or five yards away from the line of scrimmage. as he came across the offensive line the Viking linebackers stayed soft and left him in space. He was hit in perfect timing with the ball out in front of him. Ahead of Roberts were two receivers downfield who were running deep routes. They immediately turned from receivers to blockers and helped create additional space downfield. In a sense it is a bit of a downfield screen play and Raider fans have seen this exact concept burn the team time and time again, yet we have never seen it called for our players.

In two games, Bill Musgrave has called two end arounds and in the last game he made the play call with the Raiders possessing the ball inside the Viking 10 yard line. What is most impressive to me is seeing him spread out the defensive front seven with 11 personnel and run the ball successfully. This is a particular conceptual favorite of mine and it has been woefully underused in Oakland.

Defensively the Raiders have been more vanilla, however Ken Norton has shown a couple of basic tendencies. Firstly, he loves his zone coverages. Secondly, he does not like to rush more than five at a time. Instead he leans towards overload blitzes and creating either a favorable one on one or a free blitzer. He is showing an interesting blend between the fluidity of the Seahawk combination of cover one and cover three coverages, with creative fire and dog blitzes. Basically, he is using coverages that are very fluid and can easily change to fit the situation while mixing in both regular and delayed blitzes. It is a scheme that definitely fits the modern NFL.

There is still a decent amount of learning that needs to happen with this defense especially the defensive backs. Right now Norton is putting the backs in many different sorts of positions to test them, but I would expect when the season starts he will start to narrow down the coverage scheme to keep it simple. I think we will see a significant amount of off coverage allowing the corners to read the play and then rally up and make a play. Although the young Raider backs can play press and will at times, the defense will need to put the emphasis on the pass rush while allowing the backs to grow into NFL consistency. The experience and versatility at linebacker also allows the Raiders to use the middle three to fill in the space between the pass rush and the defensive backs.

Next: Raiders Notebook: Going Deep