On October 21, 2018 the Indianapolis Colts will host the Oakland Raiders. In this week eight match up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our new look Colts.
The last time these two teams faced off in 2016, Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes and DeAndre Washington ran in two more while Andrew Luck threw two touchdowns of his own but was intercepted twice as well. Those interceptions are interceptions all the same, but if it makes a difference to you, the reader, Andrew Luck was playing with a torn Labrum. This match up will provide two teams in vastly different situations this time around. Hopefully the outcome will also be vastly different.
Let’s figure out what we can expect in week eight
Offenses led by Jon Gruden are infamous for many things, and famous for a few other things. Chiefly among those famous things are Gruden’s West Coast offense and the complexity of that system.
Last week the Colts faced a Bills team that was very much trying to protect its quarterback. The passing concepts were simplified, the reads the quarterback was responsible for making were quick, easy reads. The Bills knew they were limited so they attempted to tailor their offense to the talent they have.
Jon Gruden is infamous for having never been able to effectively modify his system to the talent he has to work with. During his coaching career Gruden’s starting quarterbacks are an average of 34 years old. In 2018, 34 doesn’t sound that old when some of the best quarterbacks currently playing the game are in their late 30’s but in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, 34 for nearly any quarterback was old.
Gruden has consistently ousted young, promising passers and replaced them with quarterbacks in their mid 30’s. He’s had some success doing this in his career. While Derek Carr isn’t the next coming of Peyton Manning, it would be foolish to get rid of him — but Gruden seems to be unwilling to work with the young passer to mold an offense around him and it’s becoming evident.
Spider 2 Y Banana:
Gruden breaks down this play here:
Now, there are differences given the formation and one of the routes run, but make no mistake, this was 90% the same as the play he draws up for Marcus Mariota. Carr had one read and it was to throw this ball to the receiver who went in motion. The other routes on this play were a diversion but it’s impossible to know that in the moment. Spider 2 Y Banana isn’t just a funny Gruden meme, it’s really Gruden’s favorite play and he has some very interesting ways to work this high-low passing concept into his game plan.
Gruden is a West Coast offense guy at his core but so far he’s shown a diverse offense in his return to the sideline. He will often work in Air Raid concepts and even though 4-verts isn’t an Air Raid invention, this does show his willingness to push the ball down the field and take shots when he feels the time is right. I also noticed many more wide receiver screens than I expected from a Gruden team.
You’ve probably seen this play:
Well, maybe you haven’t seen this play but you’ve seen plays similar from multiple teams this season. Yes, Gruden is stealing plays and that’s okay, because it’s football. Everyone steals from everyone. With that said it’s interesting enough to note, if you’ve seen an interesting, successful play design there’s a very real chance Jon Gruden is trying to figure out how to use it for the Raiders.
This play would have been difficult for the Dolphins to defend, but had they stayed in their assigned gaps, they would have had a real shot to make a stop for a short gain.
I wasn’t in the room when Gruden drew this one up but I believe the receiver this ball was thrown to was the first option on this play. I believe that because all of the other routes are working to ensure he gets open. The back coming out on his route makes the outside linebacker on his side of the field position himself wide, to prevent the back from having an advantage in the flat. On the backside both receivers run five yard ins and are designed to pull the linebackers up. The tight end runs a post away from everyone.
All of these routes are working together to create a throwing lane and an open receiver. Had the defense not reacted how they hoped, Carr would have worked through his reads and there were enough options available, he could have still created positive yards. This is a well designed play.
Throwing lanes can be created many ways:
Once again, Gruden tried to create a throwing lane by making linebackers step up instead of back into coverage with play action. The idea is the same, a receiver goes deep to stretch the deep defenders over the top and the linebackers look to stop the run and Jordy Nelson is open because of it.
Jon Gruden’s offense isn’t a bad one. There are a lot of well designed plays but there seems to be a disconnect. I chose a lot of really successful plays against a defense that is similar to the one the Colts run. I didn’t pick a lot of mistakes because that’s what the next few sections of this article are for.
Derek Carr is on pace to throw 22 interceptions this year. He’s never thrown more than 13 in any season in his five year career. The craziest part of that stat; he’s completing nearly 72% of his passes which is around 8% higher than his next best season. So what’s wrong with Derek Carr? That’s a complicated answer. To start, his protection has been bad. It’s tough for any quarterback to play well behind a porous line and Carr is no exception to that rule.
The second part of “what’s wrong with Carr” is at best, my opinion. It is my opinion that Jon Gruden is coaching Carr into the ground. Carr is completing more than 70%—that’s insane. That’s also a sign that Gruden is dialing up a lot of quick, short throws. During his career Carr hasn’t turned the ball over, why is he doing it now? In my opinion it’s because he’s struggling to understand what to do with what he’s seeing.
If a quarterback understands how to read a defense and progress through his reads, traits Carr has previously shown, then he just needs to understand where to go with the ball given what he’s seeing. Derek Carr isn’t sure where he needs to go with the ball given Gruden’s system. If you combine that with shaky line play and you get a lot of plays like this:
A) Why aren’t you giving it to Marshawn Lynch— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 7, 2018
B) What in the world did Derek Carr see when he threw this ball?
And on occasion if everything works out just like Gruden planned it:
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) September 30, 2018
That's 17 straight points for the home team, capped off with this laser from @derekcarrqb to @JordyRNelson.#CLEvsOAK | #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/MN8jWWZNrt
Ultimately this isn’t an issue that’s going to get fixed before Sunday’s kick off. I don’t believe this is Derek Carr’s fault and I think whatever team Carr is playing for next season is getting a good quarterback as long as his next coach is willing to work with Carr and develop a system for him. Hopefully whatever mid-30’s quarterback Gruden brings in next season has more luck.
We all know Marshawn Lynch, but he landed on injured reserve earlier in the week. In his place Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington will look to fill in. Doug Martin looks to be the starter and at times has looked like the Doug Martin of old:
Trying to rationalize my pickup of Doug Martin pic.twitter.com/yiTtRDeRm5— Fantasy FB Gawd (@FbGawd) October 20, 2018
As of right now, the Raiders don’t have any backs on the roster averaging more than 3.7 yards per carry. Losing Lynch hurts this backfield as no one is sure what the Raiders have in Martin. Before off field issues creeped in on his career, Martin looked like a long-term option for the Bucs. Instead he’s trying to resurrect a promising career and I’m not sure any team needs to be worried about the Raiders rushing attack.
I would talk a lot about Amari Cooper but he plays for the Cowboys.
Tight End, Jared Cook is leading the team with 32 receptions for 400 yards. Normally I talk about running backs above, but Jalen Richard is second on the team with 31 catches, he may line up in the backfield but he’s a major pass catching option for the Raiders.
Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant and Seth Roberts will all see increased time with Cooper elsewhere. Nelson has been their most consistent downfield option which is odd considering he’s 33 years old. Bryant is a deep threat but with only 14 catches and no touchdowns Matt Eberflus isn’t losing any sleep.
Jordy Nelson with a 61-yard catch.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 23, 2018
He had 72 yards on 2 catches.
Touchdown Raiders. pic.twitter.com/EWvF6Kx2nV
The starters from left to right: Kolton Miller, Jon Feliciano, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Brandon Parker. Normally I spend a lot of time breaking down each of the five starters, instead I just want to talk about Miller and Parker. I know I’m not some sort of football savant. I know I don’t know all there is to know about the game or player evaluation. During the events that lead up to the draft I don’t have access to player interviews with the teams, I don’t know what guys are like mentally or emotionally. There’s just a lot I don’t know.
With that said, I believed that Kolton Miller was at best a second round pick that would need a lot of time to develop and I believed that Parker was a good athlete who really needed to learn to play the game at an NFL level. I believed he was a day three pick. Instead the Raiders took Miller 15th overall and they selected Parker with the first pick in the 3rd round.
The Colts are starting two rookies on their offensive line. Think about how good the Colts line has looked protecting Andrew Luck, then watch the video below and take a minute to say a few nice things out loud about Chris Ballard and his ability to evaluate offensive line play.
Derek Carr had 31 pass attempts. Here are 16 dropbacks where he had ~3s or less before pressure came to him. I also count 7 where he had ~2s or less.— Safe Gipsy (@GipsySafety) October 17, 2018
(note: the least significant digit is in "tens of frames" so it counts 0-5, where 1 is .17 and 5 is .83) pic.twitter.com/OQ3T26SQeq
Kemoko Turay could have a big day and I can’t wait.
What to Expect from the Colts Defense:
I believe we can expect more of the same. If anything we’re going to see more stunting to try to confuse and defeat what is a bad offensive line. I believe we’re going to see some schemed open receivers and as long as the Colts defensive backs keep the play in front of them and make solid tackles they’re going to be able to look good against this overly complex, unexecutable offense.