Here’s how the Oakland Raiders can win 10 games in 2019.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but knot the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ~ Sun Tzu The Art of War
The first step for the Raiders in their quest for a 10-win season is simple.
They must emerge from training camp with an identity; they must know who they are.
Head coach Jon Gruden is a known quantity; he is known as a grinder, getting into the office at 4 a.m.
He is known for having a tome of a playbook based on the “west coast offense” that creates high percentage passes with downfield blocking and yards after the catch.
Gruden is also known for using multiple complex formations, motions, audibles and a coaching vocabulary that is akin to learning Mandarin.
However, at the end of the day, Gruden is a conservative play caller, and the identity this team adopts, the culture of this team, the nature and character of this team will be its destiny.
These five traits will go along way to shaping a new look Raiders team in 2019.
I-formation, 14 blast. No play call can so destroy the confidence and will of an opponent; be it on first and goal or third and one or two, to line up in the I-formation with your smash mouth back (remember Tyrone Wheatly?) behind the full back and blast the center/guard gap.
The minute you line up “in the I,” every fan in the stands and every member of the other team knows exactly what is coming, but to be able to run the play successfully is demoralizing to the opponent.
This play is downright Freudian in Raiders’ psyche; it is in the Raiders’ DNA.
To do this, the team must address the guard and fullback situations, and find a smash mouth running back. Is that back Marshawn Lynch, aka Mr. Beastmode? Could be; training camp will tell.
The late Al Davis once said, “Somewhere in the first four or five plays the opposing quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard.”
The Raiders had 13 sacks as a team last season. If you think about it, multiple players can record 13 total sacks per person in a season.
This is nowhere near enough for any self-respecting Raiders squad, and one can bet the house that this will be the major focus for Oakland in the upcoming NFL draft and the remainder of the off-season.
Arden Key was a fingernail away from the quarterback all season and gave Raiders fans a lot to look forward to but this squad needs 30 sacks to justify the swagger. This needs to be central to their team identity.
“It is like having the bomb, and the will to use it.” ~ Al Davis
Be it on the first play of the game or on any down and distance, the other team must fear the Raiders’ will to go over the top on them. The vertical game, the bomb, has been central to the identity of the Raiders and the team has not had better personnel to do this at any time in Raider history.
Derek Carr has the arm to make all the deep throws, and now he has the tools. With Antonio Brown split wide left as the X-receiver and Tyrell Williams split wide right as the Y, Derrick Carr has two sidewinder missiles that are going to make the football field feel really, really big.
This team should know that they can score on anybody, at any time, and in true Raider fashion they do not take what the other side gives, they take what they want.
They are going to lead the league in penalties. The Raiders have never been big fans of the guys with all the stripes and that knife cuts both ways. They can count on getting a few borderline personal fouls thrown on them for petty infractions like pulling the helmet of an opposing player and beating him senseless with it.
Ticky tack, calls are always going to cost them 120 yards or so a game. Knowing when to and when not to eye gouge or throat punch an opponent allows the message to overcome the penalty yards. Unfortunately, the Raiders have allowed this attitude towards the rules and the refs to become lackadaisical in recent years, resulting in offsides penalties on third and four and other such hair-pulling penalties. You can overcome those 15-yard real estate deals, but it is the five- and 10-yard ones that kill you, and the pre-snap variety are gut punches.
Their home games are going to be off the hook. The fans in Oakland have long been one of the most loyal and vocal fan bases in the league. This season they will be flat out, full tilt boogie-woogie.
Feed that beast.
Call it good luck but these fans get one more season to experience the Raiders in the Oakland-Alameda county stadium and it is going to be loud.
Like really, really loud.
It is going to be emotional too. These fans love this team and although most of them will travel to Las Vegas when they move in 2020, it will never be the same. That walk across the MacArthur walk bridge, the loud parking lot with all the different camps, that true blue working class, beer-drinking, tattoo-covered throng of Mad Max-looking fans.
If this team identifies as owing these fans something special and are hell-bent on delivering eight home wins at all cost they will have a blood-in-the-eyes cacophony at their back ready for war.
Finally, if this year’s Raiders team uses their four picks in the first 35 well, these five components can make the Raiders exceptional.