FPC Raiders writers Jordan Briskey, Ray Aspuria, Chris Simmons, and Anthony Zaragoza discuss the Giants game, John Pagano and the future of the Oakland Raiders.
What can John Pagano do to keep the momentum rolling against the Giants?
Briskey: Pagano can keep his defense rolling by blitzing, blitzing, and then blitzing some more. Geno is actually a decent backup but with Amerson coming back, Mack, and Irvin along with Autry rushing the passer, giving him no time will kill his confidence and should cause quick throws that lead to turnovers. Therefore, this week, he should dial up the pressure from start to finish.
Aspuria: Keep the strangle hold on for all four quarters. Pagano had the defense playing with their ears pinned back in the first three quarters against Denver last Sunday. The spirited effort resulted in five sacks and the team’s first interception of the year. However, in the fourth quarter, the Raiders deployed softer zone coverage with lead in hand and the Broncos got back into the game. Oakland does not have the pedigree and history to soften up on defense unlike other established consistent winning teams. Pagano needs to leave no doubt his defenders came to pillage and plunder.
Simmons: The defense’s lone interception of the year came in the same game where they got the most consistent pressure, which is not a coincidence. Pagano must keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks via the trenches and well-timed blitzes. He cannot fall into the mindset of “line up and play”, the Raiders have been doing that for three seasons and it hasn’t worked. At this point, everyone knows the personnel holes, so the team has to figure out ways to out scheme opponents and get creative. If he manages to bring this lowly group up to even an average level for the remainder of the season, they Raiders may still have a chance.
Zaragoza: Take the same approach. Similar to Paxton Lynch last weekend, the Raiders defense will face another backup quarterback this week. Geno Smith will make his first start for the Giants. The last time Smith played in a game, other than mop up duty, was against the Raiders (as a Jet) in 2015. Therefore, Pagano should keep the same game plan implemented vs. Lynch and carry that over to Smith. Pressure will rattle the former Jet and force him to make quick decisions. Turnovers and sacks should follow.
How would you combat the Giants pass rush?
Zaragoza: Two tight end sets. Here is where Lee Smith can really help the offense this week. Lining up Smith to help will either Jason Pierre (6.5 sacks) or Olivier Vernon (3.5) will help the offensive line immensely. As a result, the rest of the Raiders offensive line can shift over to cover the other star rusher. Do not be surprised if Smith has a season high in snaps this weekend.
Simmons: The Raiders caught a break with Gabe Jackson avoiding suspension for the melee on Sunday. Having said that, considering the dearth of receiving options, Todd Downing should should consider Jon Feliciano as an extra blocker. The Giants defense has to be anticipating as many as 30 rushing attempts so the best response would be stacking the line and letting Marshawn Lynch go to work. He has looked better in recent weeks. I expect that to continue against a team giving up the second most yards against the run.
Aspuria: Soften it up with a dink-and-dunk pass game that heavily involves the running backs and tight ends. Screen passes, jet sweeps, and end around runs can truly leave pass rushers sucking wind. In addition, once they gasp for air, you unleash the Beast. Giving Marshawn Lynch the rock 25-plus times can deteriorate the G-Men’s pass rush.
Briskey: The Giants pass rush is good, but the Raiders offensive line is stout enough to handle anyone. Carr’s quick release and the lack of receivers should ultimately nullify it anyways. I suspect Marshawn to get another heavy workload that will also help combat it as well.
With Roberts and Patterson starting, what should Downing do differently?
Aspuria: Give Patterson similar deep post and go routes usually assigned to Johnny Holton. Patterson has similar, if not better, speed and is more physically imposing than Holton. Roberts can play the chain mover role (a la Michael Crabtree) and Patterson can play the dynamic role (akin to Amari Cooper).
Simmons: Downing featured Patterson in the passing game all season long with various rub routes and gadget plays. That should not change very much. Just as Roberts time in the slot, as a point-of-attack run blocker should continue. What cannot happen is expecting either player to consistently beat his man off of slant and dig routes which will just be interceptions waiting to happen. Despite the sub-par year they have had, Crabtree and Cooper are by far their best receivers and Downing must remember that. They have the talent to bail out imperfect Carr passes, something that needs elimination this week. More than at any point this season, Downing must lean on both the rushing attack and the play-action off that in order to generate separation for his back-up brigade.
Zaragoza: Bubble screens and crossing routes. Obliviously, Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson are not Crabtree and Cooper. Nevertheless, with a depleted Giants secondary, (Jenkins on IR); these two will find work in space.
Briskey: Downing should target Jared Cook early and often as he presents matchup problems. Also, utilize smaller backs after Marshawn has worn down the defense on the first two downs. The Giants are a mess right now, so Downing should attack the defense in multiple ways.
If the Raiders lose this game, what will the fallout be and what will be the changes going forward?
Simmons: If the Raiders lose this game, not matter how it looks it should be the final nail in the coffin for just about everyone on the coaching staff. Jack Del Rio may think he’s bulletproof at least until the Vegas move happens, but if his team doesn’t get up for this that may be the final straw. If that shoe drops then the entire front office may be on notice for an impending tear down as well. Maybe that could happen even if they win in ugly fashion. More likely though is that the staff needs to win this game and a few more in order to stay afloat
Zaragoza: Todd Downing should lose his job immediately. There has been talk around the team that changes could be made if the Raiders continue to struggle. Losing to a bad Giants team is exactly that. Therefore, the man under the most heat needs to go. Outside of this game against the Giants, the offense has been in tack for the majority of the season. They are #21 and #19 in points scored and yards per game, very different from last season with Bill Musgrave calling the plays.
Briskey: If the Raiders lose this game, Downing might be gone as early as Tuesday. Pagano has some rope since it is only his second game as defensive coordinator. In addition, Jack Del Rio should be under the microscope as an in-season fire candidate if they lose to this dumpster fire. A loss cripples playoff chances.
Aspuria: The locker room doors should be locked and the key thrown away as to not let Del Rio or staff in. A loss to the New York Giants will not only be embarrassing, but it signals the end. All the innuendo and rumors about a fractured locker room would erupt into a full-on mutiny. Look at Kansas City who lost to the Giants two weeks ago.