X's & O's: Breaking Down The Raiders

"Paul Ott Carruth", an anonymous former player and coach, breaks down the upcoming Oakland Raiders game.

Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) "Paul Ott Carruth", a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers from an X's and O's standpoint. Today he takes a look at the upcoming game against the Raiders.

Instead of looking backwards and analyzing the Giants game, I thought I would switch gears and do a preview of this Sunday’s match-up. While the Giants gave the Packers all they could handle, I believe the Raiders just might give the Packers a run for their money. Not because of the standard cliché “anybody can beat anybody on any given Sunday” but because when I look at the Raiders they present some interesting match-ups. They are an athletic team all around but especially on the defensive side of the ball. With that, let’s take a look at the potential coverage schemes the Raiders may use this Sunday and how the Packer offense might attack in the passing game. Let’s go to the diagrams.

Diagram 1 (Raiders Cover 7)

Now, I’m not actually sure that the Raiders call this coverage Cover 7. However, it is similar in its design to what the Packers run. They have a single high safety and play man coverage underneath and on the outside. The linebackers will play a combo coverage on the back.

Diagram 2 (Raiders Cover 1)

Cover 1 is Man/Free coverage. The FS plays the deep middle as the other defenders play man to man on the respective receivers to their side. When this coverage is played there will be no less than 5 men on the rush. If the back were to stay in to block, 6 men will potentially rush the quarterback. I’ve drawn the back releasing on a swing route. If this were to occur, one of the rushers would need to execute a “peel” technique. This could be any rusher depending on the release of the back. In this case it would be the DE since he would have the best ability to leverage the back despite the potential mismatch in ability. If the linebacker were to come clean, it would be possible for him to peel with the back on a release. Which defender peels with the back depends on the leverage a defender has.

Diagram 3 (Slant/Arrow)

This is a potential route concept we will see from Green Bay. Granted, the Packers run more vertical stems in an effort to push the ball up field, however, this is part of their playbook. The Packers scored on a similar route concept to Greg Jennings in the Thanksgiving match-up with Detroit. This is an especially useful concept to use against man coverage because it can create a natural rub/pick and get your slot receiver in to open space.

Diagram 4 (Race Concept)

The Race concept, like the Slant/Arrow concept, is especially good against man coverage. The inside receivers push vertical and aim their route to about 6 yards inside the back pylon. The outside receivers will release on a vertical outside stem and then come underneath on a “slant type” trajectory to the inside. The idea is to get the corner to turn his hips to the outside with the outside stem by the receiver. After the seam has been cleared, the receiver has a large open window to run through or settle into. Should the slot defenders try to jump the #1 receiver breaking inside, Rodgers can easily target the vertical routes by the inside receivers, especially vs. a single high safety look. This is a great blitz beater route concept.

Diagram 5 (X Corner – Y Poco)

This is a concept that puts stress on the deep cover men of the defense. The Poco route stands for “Post-Corner.” It is a route that is read on the run. Against a two high defensive shell, the man running the Poco route is checking to see what the safeties are doing. If the safeties split, that is, come off the hashes with the intent of helping on the #1 receiver, the Poco receiver will run the post to the void in the middle. Against a single high or rotating safety to the middle from an initial 2 high look, the route will most likely be converted to the corner option. To the right of the formation we have the Z receiver running what is called a “hinge” route. The receiver will push vertical and outside on his stem. At about 7-10 yards, the receiver will settle, plant and swing his body to the outside looking for a throw to the outside. The reason for the outside departure is an attempt to get the FS to widen off the hash (review X & O on Cover 2). Should the FS widen, this would potentially leave the post area open, provided the SS is not rotating to the middle in a single high post snap look. Should the SS stay backside, he will help on the single receiver to that side running the corner route. The corner route draws that safety away from the middle, opening up a bigger throwing window. Now, should the corner to the hinge route sink for depth and the FS hug the Poco receiver, Rodgers will go to the easy completion on the hinge route. If the corner hugs up the hinge receiver then it becomes an isolation on the FS.

Diagram 6 (Snag X Poco – Y Corner)

This is the same concept as in Diagram 5 but with a twist. The roles are obviously reversed, but the concept is still being run. The difference to this concept is the “snag” routes being run by the outside receivers. The reason for these routes is simple. Even though this is a two high shell, that doesn’t mean it is strictly zone. This concept is used to counter 2 man coverage. Should the defense lock up man to man underneath with 2 deep safety help the idea is to run routes that take advantage of the man coverage underneath. The corner and poco routes attack the safeties. In this case, the Nickel DB would play trail technique and get help over the top from the FS on the Poco route. Likewise, the Buck linebacker would get help from the SS on the opposite side corner route. That leaves the corners to man up on the outside receivers. Against man coverage, the outside receivers could run across the formation and away from the covering defenders. They would also have the option, depending on the type of leverage the defender has on them , to work back outside. The shaded blue squares show where the potential throwing windows would be. Diagram 7 shows the post snap movement of the defense and how the Nickel and Buck have vacated those areas.

Final Thoughts

What makes me so sure that this is how the Raiders will defend the Packers? Simple. Teams are creatures of habit. They may change from time to time but at their core they are who they are. The Raiders, from everything they’ve shown, like to play a lot of single high looks and bring pressure. They are very athletic and I believe they possess the skills to play man coverage on our receivers. I don’t believe that they will have sustained success doing this but they will try nonetheless. So why the 2 high looks? That’s simple as well. The NFL is a copycat league. If one team has some success using a scheme you can bet that others will try to follow suit.

At their core, the Packers are not a 2 high shell split safety team. If they had their choice, they’d be in more single high. They’ve stayed true to their foundations this year but sometimes situations have dictated they use more split safety looks. The Raiders, I suspect, will be no different. Let’s face it….these Packers have had trouble with cover 2 and 2 man. One only needs to reference last year to validate. Teams have run multiple looks against this team, including 2 man and have had some semblance of success in certain situations. Let’s just put it this way. The Raiders won’t just sit in their single high looks and play man coverage if Rodgers starts to torch them. They’ll mix it up just like any other defense would.

Now, will the Packers use the same methods of attack in the passing game as I have shown? Well, were not talking death and taxes so this isn’t a certainty. However, these concepts are in the Packer playbook. Secondly, the Patriots used the Slant/Arrow concept against the man coverage of the Raiders with some success. Granted, the Patriots are not the Packers but if you’re going to look at similarities in styles, the Patriots would be the closest thing to the Packers that the Raiders have played this year. It should be an interesting match-up in styles come Sunday.

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Comments (3)

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CSS's picture

December 07, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Is it possible this could be a big game for Saine? You have to believe they're going to place Seymore over Newhouse's nose and bring pressure looks from the back-7 off Seymore's back.

So, don't the Packers really anticipate a lot of pressure looks off the Packers left side with safeties running deep (their backs to the line of scrimmage and Rodgers)? This game feels like a lot of motion crossing routes coming from right to left and screens/dumpoffs for Saine, no?

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petr's picture

December 07, 2011 at 02:30 pm

Thanks so much for all of these. They are wonderfully interesting and informative (:

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Paul Ott Carruth's picture

December 07, 2011 at 06:00 pm

CSS- Your assumption may prove to be correct on Sunday. Because the Raiders do use a lot of man coverage I would suspect it is possible that the Packers would run a lot of crossing routes, flanker drives, mesh etc. to rub off defenders. Screens are also a possibility. The use of motion is for different reasons with one of them being to try and identify man coverage.

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