Limit the Exotic Smash Mouth’s effectiveness
For the Raiders to win in Nashville, the Oakland defense will have to be better than the sum of its parts. Oakland looks to be solid in the pass rush and little else defensively this season. The Raiders do have a few ball hawks that can force turnovers, but Sunday is a tough first test for the defense against Mike Mularkey‘s Exotic Smash Mouth attack.
It’s a phrase that the Titans head coach coined last year. Though it probably wasn’t his intention for the name to stick, it sure did. Tennessee’s offense was different than most in football. The only other team that ran ball like the Titans did was the NFC’s Dallas Cowboys. This is an increasingly passing-centric league, but the Titans are comfortable with pounding the rock with guys like Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray.
Both are physical runners that will fight for that extra yard or two after the tackles. Simply put, the Raiders defense cannot be giving up five yards per carry to have a great shot at winning this game. To overcompensate for that, we should expect Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to play with eight men in the box for good stretches of the game.
This puts a ton of pressure on veteran free safety Reggie Nelson to have a great game, as strong safety Karl Joseph will get a ton of reps playing up to help stuff the run. Choosing to let the Titans beat the Raiders through the air is not great either. However, letting the Titans use the Exotic Smash Mouth to wear down the Oakland front-seven would put more pressure on the Raiders offense to score in a hurry due to decreased time of possession.