Thank god for Sam Darnold. Seriously. Because what would we in the Raider Nation do if the Cleveland Browns, behind our old head coach, Hue Jackson, came into the Black Hole and got their first win since Christmas Eve, 2016? That would be the embarrassing cherry on an already humiliating season. Fortunately the pressure is off, and all Oakland has to do is worry about not giving Baker Mayfield a win on the road in his first start. Oh boy. Here’s how they can do it.
Oakland Raiders Week Four: Gameplan for Victory
Gruden or Carroll?
Let’s talk about a purely hypothetical scenario. You’re up seven to nothing in the first quarter, and you’ve managed to drive all the way down to your opponent’s one yard line. On second and third down, you passed the ball, and were not able to get the ball into the endzone. You look down your sideline and see that you have Marshawn Lynch, arguably the best short yardage running back in NFL history, what do you do?
- A. Spider 2Y Banana
- B. Take the Points and go up 10-0
- C. Hand the ball off to Beast Mode
All three are quality options, right? After all, Gruden allegedly loves Spider 2Y Banana, and if the Raiders had taken a field goal against Denver the week before, they probably would’ve won. But if you’re going to go for it, the obvious choice is to let Marshawn Lynch do what Marshawn Lynch does.
Oh? What’s that? He didn’t do that? Oh. No, that’s right. Jon Gruden gave Keith Smith, the same Keith Smith that dropped the fourth and one pass last week, the same Keith Smith with two career carries to that point, the ball. Wonderful.
Then, it seemed like he learned his lesson. Because on the first drive of the second half, the team found itself on the Miami one yard line again, and this time, they actually gave him the ball, where he promptly scored. Lesson learned.
Because later in the game, down four, Oakland found themselves in the redzone again. It was first and ten from the thirteen yardline, and instead of feeding Lynch the ball on first down, Derek Carr tried Martavis Bryant on Xavien Howard, the pass was intercepted, and the game was basically over.
The key to beating Cleveland? Is keeping the ball in the hands of your most consistent playmaker. Marshawn Lynch has scored a touchdown in all three games this year. He’s the only Raider that can say that. While Derek Carr is on pace for 5,000 yards, he’s also on pace for 11 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.
Use Carr wisely, force feed Marshawn Lynch the ball, and for the love of god, keep Keith Smith away from the ball unless he’s blocking for someone else, preferably Marshawn Lynch. Seriously.
Confuse the Kid
Baker Mayfield looked phenomenal against the New York Jets last week. He completed 73% of his passes for 200 yards in just over one half of football. He looked confident, concise, and didn’t make too many scary plays. The Browns are going to be heavily favored this weekend, even on the road, and the Raiders have to do something about that.
Count on the Hue Jackson and the Browns to dig deep into their big of tricks, A. to help protect the young quarterback’s inexperience, and B. because the Los Angeles Rams and Miami Dolphins both used them with great success against Oakland’s defense, Reggie Nelson especially.
All preseason, we heard about how great Paul Guenter was, and frankly, we haven’t seen that yet. Now, that’s not entirely his fault. His defense is lacking starpower, and frankly, is either too young (Arden Key, Maurice Hurst) or too old (Nelson, Derrick Johnson, Leon Hall). However, you’ve gotta earn your keep in this league, and it’ll be his job to recognize those trick plays and make things as complicated as possible for Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield isn’t an exceptional athlete, but he’s got great pocket presence and isn’t afraid to take off and extend plays with his legs. Throw out some confusing coverages, bring heat, and for the love of god, don’t cement Baker Mayfield as the obvious favorite for offensive rookie of the year.
Play. Four. Quarters.
I don’t know what I’m more sick of, saying this in every article about the Raiders, or watching this team implode in the fourth quarter every week. I don’t know what it is about this team, but they can’t seem to play sixty minutes. They’re dominant in the first half, okay in the third quarter, and atrocious on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter.
This week, the team is not away. They don’t have to wear black jerseys, and they’re not in crazy altitude or humidity or a bad time zone. The Raiders are back home for the first time since week one, against a team that has won five games in the last two and a half seasons.
Derek Carr is on pace for 5,000 yards, but he’s not scoring touchdowns and he’s turning the ball over far too often. The Raiders have far too many pieces, and have fallen apart one too many times. I’m sick of Carr’s “oh shucks” attitude and promises that “this team is going to get it together.”
This team still has hope, but they’ve gotta make things happen now. Talk is cheap and potential is meaningless until it becomes production.