Word of Muth
Dive into the details of offensive line play with a former all-PAC-10 left tackle

Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

Word of Muth: Silver and Blah
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

The Oakland Raiders lost to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday to fall to 4-2 on the season. They scored a touchdown on the first drive, then failed to reach the end zone again the rest of the game. It was a game to forget for an Oakland offense (particularly Derek Carr) that moved the ball at times but couldn't finish in the end zone.

The offensive line actually played pretty well in my opinion. With the exception of right tackle Austin Howard, the Raiders held up well in pass protection (and Howard wasn't a total disaster, just bad). I also thought they blocked well enough in the running game to have more success than the score indicated. They were hurt by a really poor game from Carr and the fact that I can't remember a running back making someone miss all game. The rushing numbers don't look great because the longest run they had was 8 yards. But they did a good job of creating consistent 4- to 6-yard runs with no help from the backfield.

If I had one general critique of the Oakland offensive line, it was that they looked a little sluggish and failed to finish a couple of plays. I thought that on the whole they won the matchup up front, but I think they could have dominated it. For whatever reason though, they let through just enough leakage, typically late, to prevent them from looking as good as they could have.

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Take the above play. It's a perfectly fine 6-yard gain where an unblocked safety ended up making the play. But it has a chance to go huge. The combination between the center (Rodney Hudson, 61) and left guard (Kelechi Osemele, 70) is just adequate. Both the nose tackle and the linebacker get blocked (the linebacker more than the nose), but they don't create any movement, and that narrows the hole which forces the running back to get lateral. That gives the safety time to fill closer to the line of scrimmage, which cuts down the space the back has to make the safety miss and break a big play.

Hudson and Osemele are to blame here. Osemele isn't physical enough with the defensive tackle and doesn't give much help to his center. You want to see your guard bring a little more thunder with that flipper (the shoulder/forearm is often called a flipper), but he hardly moves the nose tackle at all. Hudson's initial aiming point is good (he covers up the nose tackle but still leaves an edge for his guard to have something to hit), but he does a bad job of running his feet after contact.

You can't see Hudson's play-side foot, but you can look at how plodding that backside foot is. If you're nose-to-nose with a defensive tackle, and you feel him start to fall into the play, you need to run your feet like hell when he starts to move away from you. Then you either out-leverage him, or bury him into the ground. Not a terrible play, but a mediocre one on a look that could have been big yards for the offense.

Osemele was a little disappointing for me all day. He played fine, but not as good as he usually does. In the above play, he does a nice job on the second level, but he's nowhere near as physical as he typically is. My favorite thing about watching Osemele play is how gleefully he finishes his blocks. On Sunday, he let a couple of plays get away from him late.

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He's good till the very end of the play here. He takes a good set. He lets the defensive tackle get his hands inside him, but he holds up against the bull rush well enough, and it looks like he's about to sit down on it when Carr gets jittery and takes off. If the play would have ended there it would have been a fine if unspectacular rep of pass pro. But it doesn't, and Osemele grabs the defensive tackle as he's running away. It's pointless, it's costly, and it looks lazy. It's certainly not what fans of Osemele are used to.

I thought Carr made that last play's protection look worse than it was, and he seems to have a habit of that. On the first interception of the game he turned a pressure given up by Austin Howard that most quarterbacks would navigate with ease into a disaster.

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First, Howard (77) is not good here. Look how his upper body (head and arms) are reaching forward while his lower body is drifting back. He has no power on his punch, so that even though it lands, the defensive end just brushes his hands off. Howard needs to either snap his hands like a sharp jab, or anchor his lower body a bit on contact. But you can't drift with your base and lean with your punch, because then you're not doing anything that's going to impede the rusher.

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But Howard recovers well enough that Carr should be able to step around him and deliver a decent ball if he sees someone open, or to fade away from the looping defensive tackle and throw the ball away without taking any risk of getting hit. Carr decides to try to throw a decent ball while fading, and ends up underthrowing his receiver by about 8 yards on a ball that was intercepted. I'm not sure if it was watching what happened to his brother, but Carr seems very skittish in the pocket if there's any type of pressure. It's something to watch going forward.

We have talked a lot about how the Raiders didn't do a good job of finishing in this game. They didn't finish blocks, they didn't finish drives, and they really didn't finish the game worth a damn. I'm not just talking about being shut out in the second half, I'm talking about the final drive of the game, which saw two holds up front for Oakland. The first hold was as ugly of a football play as I have seen all year.

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Barf. Have to see what you hit, and all Donald Penn (72) was looking at when he threw his "punch" was turf, so that's what he hit.


9 comments, Last at 25 Sep 2017, 12:55am

1 Re: Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

Well, I'll be the first to point it out - that's Derrick Carr, not David.

The last line was also hilarious and priceless. Having watched all of Oak's games(and not being an OAK fan) - their offense is hard to really describe. Its super hot and cold - often making so many big plays to leave you impressed, but then sandwiching it with lots and lots of drives that really go nowhere. In some ways, it resembles the Giants, though admittedly I've only seen two giants games and both were pretty ugly affairs for the offense.

I have to believe that's mostly the result of uneven qb play. But, since this is his third season, I suppose we can forgive him some.

3 Re: Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

I think Derek Carr will be fine, in time. The Oakland offense is relatively young, but it appears that someone smart is finally in charge and getting the right pieces assembled for the future Las Vegas franchise.

So, yeah - I think we're seeing some of the 'potential' being translated to actual production, while there's still a lot of 'potential' waiting to be fulfilled. If the Raiders start to develop a halfway decent defense, they'll be challenging for AFC West supremacy.

4 Re: Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

"...often making so many big plays to leave you impressed, but then sandwiching it with lots and lots of drives that really go nowhere."

You are so right. They are the perfect team to watch on the RedZone Channel, because a big play can happen at any time. However, it can frustrating to watch an entire game of them.

8 Re: Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

Its super hot and cold - often making so many big plays to leave you impressed, but then sandwiching it with lots and lots of drives that really go nowhere ... I have to believe that's mostly the result of uneven qb play."

That certainly matches my viewing experience. Derek Carr's the kind of quarterback who'll drop a beautiful rainbow into a bucket 40 yards downfield one play, then throw five yards behind his receiver on a wide open crosser the next.

2 Re: Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

The clip of Howard brings back memories of how difficult it is to pass block a pass rusher who is a better athlete than you are; you just can't find the right spot to be in, so you try to be in both spots at once, which makes things worse. Holding often ensued, desperately hoping it was missed.

6 Re: Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

The O-Line is supposed to be the strength of the team in Oakland, so it's disappointing to read they looked sluggish in a critical home game against a hated divisional rival.

It would have been interesting to read Ben's take the other side of the ball, where the Chiefs stomped all over the Raiders. The Chiefs had the #1 rush DVOA in the league last year; if Andy Reid has used the bye week to fix one or two issues, and with Jamaal Charles now back healthy - that is something to look out for.

7 Re: Word of Muth: Silver and Blah

The KC loss took all the fun out of posting. Posting now more out of obligation. Good times and bad. Although Carr's poor play contributed as much if not more to the loss, amazing that Norton still has a job or at least a headset. He was so outcoached by Reid. D seemed lost the entire day. Cutting Reece with injuries to Lee Smith and Murray also came back to bite Red/JDR in the ass. Olewale should have gotten some carries in the mud, but guess Rivera's not much of a lead blocker. Ugh.