Behind Enemy Lines: With Raiders Blog
Patrick D. Starr
In this installment of Behind Enemy Lines we visit with Chris from the Raiders Blog and we discuss Run Dmc, Richard Seymour, Hue Jackson vs. Tom Cable, Al Davis, Texas Native Shane Lechler, Mario Williams, James Casey, Wade Phillips, Danieal Manning and much more.
Questions to Raiders Blog
I have to ask what has Darren McFadden done to make himself a top running back in the NFL?
Darren McFadden trains every offseason at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in the Dallas area. He had some issues with scheme and injuries early in his career. Those things are no longer hindering him as he's remained relatively healthy since Hue Jackson arrived. He's seemingly corrected his biggest flaw, that his legs went dead on contact. He's a surprising physical runner.
What has Denarius Moore brought to the Raiders this year?
Another playmaker on offense. The Raiders had McFadden and Jacoby Ford, but Moore has brought to the team another player that knows how to find the endzone. That alone will keep him in the mix at receiver despite the position going six deep.
It was a crazy offseason for the Raiders after a successful 2010 season with Tom Cable, what has Hue Jackson done to keep the Raiders building on their success?
He's taken Jason Campbell and the offense to the next level. He demands excellence from his team and he's stated clear expectations from his players and coaches. The offense is responding, but the defense is banged up and having issues still. Jackson is still trying to wrangle the penalty issues that have plagued the Raiders for years.
You have a homegrown Texan, Shane Lechler, who graduated from a small Texas school (East Bernard) and Texas A&M, what has he meant to the Raiders organization?
I can't imagine how much worse the Raiders would have been over the past eight years with Lechler. He's the best punter in the history of the NFL. He's meant a tremendous amount to the Raiders and they have paid him accordingly.
What has Richard Seymour meant since he came over from New England?
Before Seymour arrived the defense was without true leadership. Seymour arrived and immediately motivated Nnamdi Asomugha and the rest of the defense. It's taken a little time, but the Raiders defense is at least accountable for its poor play. Tommy Kelly has surged next to Seymour and the Raiders boast a heck of a defensive line. Seymour has become a team leader.
Has Al Davis stunted the growth of the Raiders with his "speed first" mentality?
Depends on how you look at it. When the Raiders are good they are good because of their team speed, when they are bad they are bad because they drafted track stars. Blaming Al Davis is fair enough, he makes the personnel decisions. Just make sure to give Al Davis credit when the team is good.
Who needs to step up on Sunday to beat the Texans, not named McFadden?
The front seven. They have to put pressure on Schaub and stop the Texans running game. If the Raiders can successfully shut down the Texans running game they should be victorious. Rolando McClain is a big part of this and the second-year linebacker has drawn unfavorable reviews this far.
How has the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha affected the Raiders? Has more good or bad come out of the situation?
Time will tell. The biggest problem with losing Asomugha was not his high level of play, but how it thinned out and already thin secondary. Chris Johnson became a starter again and Michael Huff became the slot corner when needed. The Raiders were without Huff and Johnson last week and Chimdi Chekwa, Joe Porter and Matt Giordano had to fill-in the holes. It didn't go very well against Tom Brady and Wes Welker.
Who are some players to watch that are not house hold names on Sunday?
Matt Shaughnessy and Marcel Reece are likely to miss the game with injuries, so I'll go with Tyvon Branch. The Raiders strong safety had a below average week last week and he's the type of player that bounces back i na big way. He plays in the box and might be one of the fastest player on the Raiders defense. He's high effort and he's trying to prove he isn't a liability in coverage. He'll play a large role as the eighth player in the box to stop the Texans' running game
What do the Raiders need to do to be successful on Sunday?
Defend the run and the play action pass. The Raiders have to stop the run and haven’t been able to for quite some time. Forcing the Texans to pass takes away the play action and lets the defensive line do what they do best. A good pass rush from the Raiders hides the deficiencies in the secondary. The Raiders secondary is also banged up and there were already questions coming in on how the secondary would perform without Nnamdi Asomugha. The Raiders are allowing just 69 yards per game rushing in wins, but 203 yards per game in losses. That's the key, hold Arian Foster to less than 100 and win.
Questions to SOTT
How much of a difference has Wade Phillips made to Houston’s defense? Has scheme played as big of a role as the additions of Joseph and Watt and a healthy Cushing?
The fact that Wade Phillips has brought a real defensive mentality to the Texans that is something that hasn't been seen before. Phillips has brought some change that the players have been made accountable for their actions on the field and are stepping up as a group. On the field you can see the "togetherness", when a good play is made they all celebrate together some that has not been seen in the past.
The scheme has made last year Texans holdovers better as players, but it makes me think that the Texans have always had the talent, but no one to bring it out of them. With the additions of Joseph, Watt, Manning the Texans instantly upgraded at those respective positions. The Texans have a new identity and they are slowly turning into a well-rounded team.
Arian Foster has been productive in the zone blocking system favored by Gary Kubiak. While many teams try and fail at using this system, Kubiak has been successful whether it be Steve Slaton from a few years ago or Foster and Ben Tate more recently. What has been the key to the Texans’ rushing success and how much of it is the system?
It goes back to Kubiak's Denver days, when they had Terrell Davis the Broncos offense was special one because how good Davis was as a player. After injuries slowed Davis late in his career plug-in Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson, who still rush for 1,000 yards, but not the same explosion out of the backfield when they had the superstar in Davis. Fast forward to Kubiak's Texans days, Arian Foster is a great running back but he is a special guy in this zone scheme and can make huge plays with one touch, add Ben Tate and Derrick Ward, they can haul off some big runs time after time because of the scheme. What I'm trying to say the scheme is run right can make an above average running back a 1,000 yards back and when there are "special" running backs like Terrell Davis and Arian Foster back there they become a top back in the league because of the scheme and their ability.
Also, the fact that the Texans have a good offensive line helps too, Duane Brown, Wade Smith, Chris Myers, Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston have been together as a group since last season and have perfected the zone scheme. Throw in tight ends Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen who are not too bad at blocking either, make this one of the best run blocking units in the league.
The Texans will be without Andre Johnson this week, but the Texans have been able to win without Johnson before. Being that Johnson is one of the best receivers in the league, how have the Texans been able to adjust without having him?
Last time Johnson was out for a long period of time was three years ago, and that translated into the best year as a pro for wide receiver Kevin Walter. Hopefully Walter can pick up some slack while Johnson is out. The Texans are going to have to lean on their running game, and look to use Owen Daniels, James Casey and Arian Foster in the passing game. I don't expect the Texans to lean on Walter and Jacoby Jones too much in the passing game, but if they can contribute it will be even better. Luckily the Texans are a run first offense and the loss of Johnson is a terrible thing, but their ability to run the football is why they can compete without Johnson.
Who are players that Raider Nation may not know of that could have an impact on the game, in a positive or negative way?
Defensive End, Antonio Smith has probably been the most constant pass rusher for the Texans and has recorded a sack in his first four games of the season. Smith has returned to the 3-4 defense from his previous days in Arizona. He was not happy about the transition at the beginning of the season and was vocal about it, but he has been a terror for offensive lines. Also keep an eye on James Casey, his role might have changed a little since Arian Foster has returned, but he was a tight end in 2010 and now is a fullback in 2011. He has taken over the blocking duties that Pro-Bowler Vonta Leach used to occupy and after his departure, Kubiak tagged Casey as the new fullback. Casey bulked up to play the position and is serviceable as a blocker. His real value is when he motions out of the backfield and creates miss matches against linebackers and safeties, he has the ability to be a wide receiver or a tight end when needed. Casey is the swiss army knife of the Texans offense.
If you were game planning against the Texans, what would you do?
Since Andre Johnson is out I would man up on the wide receivers and stack the box with 8 to 9 players at a time. I would force Matt Schaub throw the ball to the outside and bracket tight end Owen Daniels. I would try to contain Arian Foster, but make Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and Schaub beat us through the air. Running an offense against them, it would be a quick passing game and I would concentrate my running game between the tackles, because the Texans defense has not had a real test on the ground. Also, I would try to get mismatches with DeMeco Ryans covering in space and getting Glover Quin, Kareem Jackson or Jason Allen singled up against one of the speed guys for the Raiders.
How is Mario Williams adjusting to the 3-4 defense? Is a primarily rushing? How much does he drop into coverage?
It has been a nice "rebirth" for Mario Williams, and he has changed two games with his sacks, the Colts and Steelers games. He has primarily been on the rush and very seldom drops into coverage, but when he does it always seems like he is in the right place in his drops. Williams is redesigning is career as we speak, and is adjusting to his new role in the 3-4 scheme. It has been a slow transition and he is learning on the fly, but for learning as he goes it has been a good move for his career.
I went to school with Danieal Manning, how is he playing and do the fans have a soft spot for him because he is from Texas?
The fact he went to Corsicana is a moot point with Texans fans, the fact he is the first real safety since the days of Marcus Coleman (2002-2005) is all we can see. He is a real athlete in the back half of the secondary and can roam sideline to sideline. He is a good blitzer and pretty good tackler and is a threat in the return game, but the fact that he is a real safety is a breath of fresh air, especially after the disasters that lined up at the starting safety positions last year. He has had some personal foul penalties, but he has been pretty consistent other wise and a welcome addition to the Houston Texans.
Predict the score…is this a trap game for the Texans coming off a big win against Pittsburgh? The Texans have only faced two quality opponents. Is this team as good as commonly believed or are we still waiting to see its true colors?
I am not big on predicting the score, but the Texans are not playing the Raiders of previous years and I think they know that. The fact that the Raiders are the top running team in the NFL make this potentially a "throw back game" with some running and some hitting. Like every team the Texans can't help who they are scheduled, but if Peyton Manning is playing for the Colts, it would be three quality opponents. I don't think you will see the "old" Texans either, the Texans are learning to win games and they are understanding the early season games can prove huge in late playoff runs. This game has slowly turned into one of the games to watch for the week, but I think the Texans will win and will be closer than people will think.