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

Word of Muth: Adios, Oakland

Word of Muth: Adios, Oakland
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

The Oakland Raiders' first playoff appearance since 2002 went about as poorly as it could have gone. Their offense limped into the game and Oakland was trounced by what was seen as a very weak division winner in the Houston Texans. It certainly wasn't the way Raider Nation envisioned returning to postseason play, particularly after watching the team play so well all year. But injuries happen every year, and it's just a shame that Oakland had three big ones on the same side of the ball in January.

Derek Carr, Donald Penn, and Rodney Hudson were all Pro Bowlers this season, and all were out for at least half the game (Carr and Penn didn't suit up; Hudson went down in the second quarter). Their replacements all struggled to fill their shoes. Connor Cook (filling in for an injured Derek Carr) threw an early pick on a screen play that led to a Houston jumping out to a lead and never looking back. Cook didn't do anything to atone for the early mistake. Left tackle Menelik Watson and center Jon Feliciano weren't much better in their roles either.

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This is from the first quarter, and this wasn't even the first negative play Watson (71) had (he missed a cut on Jadeveon Clowney that led to a batted-down pass on the second play) but it was probably his worst of the day. What kills you about this play is that he over-sets what is essentially a glorified defensive tackle (D.J. Reader, 98).

You can't let a guy who looks like a 5-technique beat you inside like that -- make the big guys run around the hoop. Here Watson sets too far outside against a guy who probably doesn't have the speed to beat him anywhere but inside or right through him. There's no reason to not be sitting on an inside move or a bull rush here. It was just a ill-conceived set that led to an ugly sack.

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This is the first play of the second half, and Oakland is running a single-back power concept. This is a bitch of a blitz for this play that the Texans are running, and I'm not sure if Hudson and Penn would have been able to get it blocked even if they had been healthy. But Watson and Feliciano don't come close.

Everyone talks about power as a man-blocking play, and it is -- for everyone but the center and backside tackle. Those two guys are really responsible for the backside A and B gaps (and the C gap if no immediate threat comes in A or B). You can see that Watson seems to see Clowney (90) sneaking in and steps down hard to cover the B gap. But Feliciano (76) completely misses Clowney, who runs right through the A gap and eats up the puller. Meanwhile, Feliciano blocks a guy who Watson could have picked up. Backside run-throughs are power killers, and both the center and tackle have to be aware of them with a 4I technique (inside shade of the offensive tackle) at defensive tackle.

Again, this is a really tough blitz to pick up, but if there's one thing Hudson was good at, it was having the awareness to sort stuff like this out. The combination of losing him in the first half and not having Penn at all really sank what was one of the best units in football all year, and it was tough to have to watch them play at 60 percent capacity on that big of a stage.

Even with the injuries, the Raiders offensive line wasn't terrible. They just really weren't helped by a quarterback who was clearly the most overmatched guy on the field. Cook wasn't accurate, didn't make good decisions, and seemed to have been magnetized to opposing pass rushers. He was as bad as I've ever seen at not being able to avoid sacks.

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That's a lot of time to get rid of it, or a lot of space to make one guy miss in the pocket. Cook can't do either. Sure right tackle Austin Howard (77) got beat here, but it wasn't clean and it wasn't sudden. It was a late pressure. On top of that, every other Raider is great here, so Cook should have enough room to avoid one guy. This is a bad sack to take and it wasn't the only one like it.

It really was just a rough game for me to watch. I'm not a Raiders fan, but I had become a fan of this unit, and it sucks that this depleted version is going to be the last we see of them for eight months. I thought Kelechi Osemele was really the only one who played close to his usual game, and even he was a bit worse than usual. Grady Jackson and Howard were OK too. Watson made too many mistakes and Feliciano got pushed around by Vince Wilfork.

Still, the Raiders were a joy to watch all year, so I want to end with a highlight, because this unit deserves to be praised one last time.

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This is just inside zone with a lock concept from the tight end -- meaning the tight end (Clive Walford, 88) locks onto the end man on the line of scrimmage instead of zone blocking with the rest of the offensive line. The combination between the left guard (Osemele, 70) and left tackle (Watson) is really good and reminds me of what Oakland did at their best this year: straight up maul people. Watson even gets to go surfing on the defensive tackle at the end of the play. That's the type of thing I'll remember about the 2016 Raiders.

With all three of the teams I covered this year eliminated, this column will be open for anything these next few weeks. It'll probably end up looking at offensive lines that have a great game running the ball or a bad day protecting the quarterback, because those are generally the most interesting things to write about. But if you have a suggestion for what you'd like to see here throughout the playoffs, hit me up on Twitter at @FO_wordofmuth and I will take your thoughts under suggestion.


9 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2017, 5:31pm

1 Re: Word of Muth: Adios, Oakland

That double-team on Clowney in the third GIF is a work of art. Watson and the extra OT run Clowney behind the QB and all the way past where the right tackle had lined up. All it needed was for Watson to get a little more juice on his shove to Clowney's ribs and he could have planted him on the ground.

2 Re: Word of Muth: Adios, Oakland

Injuries are the worst part of the game. Ick.

An in-depth analysis of which group has the better game on Sunday, Cowboys o-line, or Packers o-line, might be interesting.

3 Re: Word of Muth: Adios, Oakland

Bahktiari has gotten a lot of good press recently about his pass blocking, would be interesting to see a look at that.

4 Re: Word of Muth: Adios, Oakland

"looking at offensive lines that have a great game running the ball or a bad day protecting the quarterback"

Ben, you may get a twofer by watching the Seahawks this Saturday. Great game running the ball, maybe. Bad day protecting the quarterback, always.

8 Re: Word of Muth: Adios, Oakland

> ...But if you have a suggestion for what you'd like to see here throughout the playoffs, hit me up on Twitter at @FO_wordofmuth and I will take your thoughts under suggestion.

Hey Ben, I don't do twitter, but maybe you'll see this.
Some discussion in the Audibles comments about Le'veon Bell's running style,
the announcers fawning over it and saying all the high school kids are going to
start emulating it, etc.

It seems that most of the time when a back hesitates in the hole like that,
he's tackled from behind by an edge rusher or backside pursuit. Even KC seemed to
make some adjustment later in the game that did that, and limited Bell's runs.

Could you do any kind of analysis of what PIT is doing with their blocking, or
maybe scheme more generally, that prevents that sort of backside defeat of
Bell's hesitation style?