A week after the Kansas City Chiefs defense faced a run-first/quick passing offense, they get to face another one.
The Oakland Raiders are coming off of a victory over the division-rival Denver Broncos and are looking to get a major leg up on the division with another victory over the Chiefs this week. The Raiders looked efficient against a perceived-to-be-good Denver Broncos defense, so how will the Chiefs defense look against them this week?
We’ll take a look at the Raiders personnel and a concept they might use before breaking down what the Chiefs can do to slow down the Oakland attack this week.
Ready? Knock on wood if you’re with me!
Chiefs fans are well aware of what quarterback Derek Carr brings to the table. He’ll rely on a short passing game and will make mistakes if you give him enough time to do so. He’s averaged 231 yards, 1.3 TD’s, 0.9 INT’s and 2.7 sacks a game against the Chiefs since he came into the league. Week 1 showed more of the same, with Carr getting the ball out in 2.33 seconds, according to Next Gen Stats.
Rookie running back Josh Jacobs exploded onto the scene on Monday with 113 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on 24 touches. Head coach Jon Gruden isn’t afraid to give him that kind of workload again, so expect a lot of number 28 on Sunday. When Jacobs does get a breather, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington will spell him.
The Raiders wide receiver group took a hit with Antonio Brown being released, but Tyrell Williams showed he’s a perfectly capable weapon in his own right on Monday. He hauled in six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, torching Denver’s secondary. Ryan Grant and rookie Hunter Renfrow line up with Williams when the offense goes into 11 personnel. Return man Dwayne Harris also saw some time with the offense on Monday.
Tight end Darren Waller was the talk of the game Monday night, hauling in seven catches for 70 yards. Oakland regularly flexed him into Y-Iso formations, lining him up against smaller cornerbacks and taking advantage of his unique size and speed combination. The Raiders also ran quite a bit of 12 personnel — forcing the opposition into their base defense — with rookie tight end Foster Moreau on the field as a blocking tight end to help chip Denver’s pass rushers.
Oakland made the move to acquire right tackle Trent Brown in free agency this offseason, and he played particularly well against the Denver pass rushers. Opposite Brown is second-year left tackle Kolton Miller — a player that Frank Clark gave fits last year.
Right guard Gabe Jackson is injured, so fifth-year player Denzelle Good will fill in this week. The rest of the line is occupied by former Chiefs. Jordan Devey will start at left guard next to the highest-paid center in the league in Rodney Hudson.
The offensive concept: Tunnel screen with a fake bubble
We know the Raiders are going to use the quick passing game to try to beat teams this year. There’s only so many concept that you can implement to try to find space and keep defensive coordinators on their toes when they know you’re playing short, quick passes.
Jon Gruden got his whiteboard out this past week and implemented one that the Chiefs could see this Sunday.
Raiders have some wrinkles in their short passing game, like this fake bubble tunnel screen.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) September 12, 2019
OAK goes empty with a bubble to the field, freezing the SS and slot CB. WR fakes a flat route to force the switch in the secondary, then cuts back behind his OL, already 5 yards upfield. pic.twitter.com/pZ7jfI39rH
The Raiders go with a 3x2 empty formation, spreading the Broncos secondary out. To the field, they run a bubble screen with the slot receiver and the tight end getting out in front of the play. To the boundary, the boundary receiver releases vertically, and the slot kicks out into the flat.
The Broncos secondary defends both of these initial concepts well, with the field slot corner driving on the bubble and the linebacker kicking out to rally to the catch point. To the boundary, the Broncos execute a switch, with the boundary cornerback sitting on the flat route.
Then the Raiders flip the receiver in the flat back to the middle of the field into a tunnel screen.
The center and both guards get upfield — beyond the legal 1-yard barrier — before the ball is thrown. This is one of those “push the limits of the rule” penalties that coaches abuse, especially with RPOs. The Broncos just last year complained about the Chiefs chewing up a 5-yard barrier on their RPO snaps.
The receiver cuts back underneath his blockers and utilizes his wall of offensive linemen to turn upfield. With the field players frozen due to the fake bubble, there’s plenty of room for the receiver to cut upfield for a chunk play.
Von Miller ends up saving this play due to his exceptionally quick play diagnosis, recognizing the blockers in space and turning to pursue the receiver. We saw Clark and Okafor both diagnose and break on several misdirection plays this past week, and they’ll need to have their head on a swivel again this week to help defend against it.
The bottom line
After Nick Foles left the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chiefs faced off against quick pass after quick pass. That may have given them a bit of a primer for what they’ll be working against this weekend.
I’d expect a little more press from the Chiefs cornerbacks this week. Getting a good jam at the line of scrimmage should help throw the offense’s timing and give the Chiefs pass rush some opportunity to get home. Steve Spagnuolo agrees, saying the Chiefs will need to have “tighter coverage” and “if you can’t affect him (Carr), you’ve got to affect his targets.”
Luckily, that plays toward more of the strengths of Charvarius Ward, allowing him to get his hands on the receiver and “feel” the route better than he typically does when giving the receiver space. I still expect the Chiefs to play plenty of zone — particularly 2 and 4-read with the amount of screens the Raiders run — but aligned at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the release of the receivers.
The Chiefs defensive line will also need to try to interfere with the throwing lanes. Frank Clark mentioned that the line has to “get those hands up to knock down those quick passes.” That’ll be easier said than done, as the Raiders like to cut block to open the throwing lanes and make sure the quarterback gets clear sight lines. If Clark can beat Miller to the point of attack regularly, we might see some of the fireworks we saw when he played for Seattle last year.
Finally, this is an Anthony Hitchens game if there ever was one. Hitchens spoke to his ability to organize the defense this week and make sure everybody was on the right page. They were able to limit a good back in Leonard Fournette to just 66 yards through good gap discipline and organization. That effort will be important to contain Josh Jacobs on early downs and force Derek Carr to get outside of his comfort zone on third and long.