Oakland Raiders Week 2 Preview: Keys to the Game

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September 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio (left) pats free safety Charles Woodson (24) during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

2. Managing Raiders Injuries

Of course the Ravens aren’t the only team coming into the game with injury issues. The Raiders are down at least two and likely three starters on Sunday: tackle Justin Ellis, and safeties Nate Allen and Charles Woodson. Woodson might be able to get in the game with his bad shoulder, but Ellis (ankle) and Allen (MCL strain) are definitely out.

Without Woodson and Allen in the game, the Raiders will have to play much more conservative zone coverages and utilize the corners in 3 and 4 deep coverage schemes to adjust for Larry Asante and Taylor Mays’ limited range as deep safeties. While Asante and Mays are very solid run defending safeties, they can both be exploited in pass coverage if asked to cover large zones or give over the top help in man-zone schemes.

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  • Ellis being out doesn’t hurt quite as bad, though it is difficult to replace the powerful big man on the inside. The Raiders have Dan Williams to play the nose tackle spot – though he may wear out faster from playing additional snaps – and a littany of players who have more of a 3-technique build and can rotate in at the other tackle spot alongside Williams. Ellis’ role as a personal protector to linebackers Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith may also hurt those two, and in fact Lofton struggled to get off blocks last week with Ellis out of the game.

    The Ravens will likely want to run the ball heavily with Justin Forsett and company, especially early, to compensate for their issues in pass protection and receiving talent, which will put a lot of pressure on the Raider run defense that struggled last week against Cincinnati. But as a silver lining to a dark cloud, both Larry Asante and Taylor Mays are very solid run support safeties, something that can’t necessarily be said about Nate Allen.

    Look for the Raiders to lean on the two safeties heavily in the run game early on as the linebackers might struggle with the free blockers. If this can be done successfully, the Ravens don’t have a deep threat or their top pass protector, and may not be able to exploit the Raiders backup safeties at all.

    Next: Keys to the Game: Run Game