Raiders/Packers Preview: Packers Front Seven

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Raiders Rival: Packers OLB Preston Smith
Sep 22, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith (91) reacts after stopping the Denver Broncos from getting a first down in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This week, we’ve discussed the secondary of the Green Bay Packers and how the Raiders need to attack it. Now, we focus on the front seven. Like every other team in the NFL, these seven players will dictate the game. However, the Packers will give teams so much to think about. Yet, the Raiders, if they execute the way Gruden expects, should emerge from this game victorious, for the first time since 1987.

The X Factor

Despite lining up at the nose, Kenny Clark isn’t your prototypical plugger. In fact, he causes havoc by displaying the ability to beat centers one-on-one with a quick first step and smooth hands. On top of that, Clark will slide down the line to disrupt screen and sweeps. Granted, the Raiders employ the best center in football in Rodney Hudson. However, Clark’s mobility poses an intriguing test.

Preston Smith

Now, the temptation to bundle the Smiths together as a singular problem for the Raiders remained strong. Yet, Preston Smith wrecks gameplans in a heartbeat. First, when facing single blocking, he destroys tackles with a repertoire that confounds tackles. From generating elbow speed in his swipe, to leveraging the bull rush to stand up blockers. On top of that, the Packers will use Smith to stunt and loop, creating mismatches and difficulty. More importantly, watch for his tackle discipline. That is to say, despite getting free, Smith will not overrun the target. Instead, he breaks down and makes the plays. Whether it’s constant attention and chipping from the tight end, the Raiders need to account for a player that will play a minimum of 85 percent of the defensive snaps. On top of all of that, Preston drops into coverage with little difficulty.

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Za’Darius Smith

As mentioned, the want to group the Smiths together was tempting. Regardless, Za’Darius Smith deserves his own paragraph. While Preston brings a bit more nimbleness, Za’Darius uses power and twitch to get after the quarterback. Not to mention, like Preston, he will stay disciplined. Possessing defensive end power and linebacker feet, Za’Darius linmes up on the other side of Preston. Now, this is not a Chicago situation, where the Raiders had to scheme for one rusher.

The Ironman

If you look at Blake Martinez’s stats, you will find an intriguing number: 100. That represents the percentage of defensive snaps he’s taken in 2019. Yes, Martinez does not leave the field, regardless of defense or offensive formation. Why? From film, with Pettine’s scheme, Martinez is essential in the run game and dropping into shallow coverage. Plus, he does not miss many tackles. In fact, he’s a tackling machine that secures the stop without delay. While he does not profile as a lights-out hitter. Instead, his technique and pad level rank among the league’s best.

How to Attack

During their loss to the Eagles, Green Bay surrendered 33 carries for 176 yards. As a result, the Eagles battered their front seven with a power running attack, leaving them exhausted. If you spin off of that, Carson Wentz targeted the tight ends a dozen times. So, Darren Waller, fresh off the contract extension will see the lion’s share of passes. With Tyrell Williams suffering with plantar fasciitis, the Raiders need to feast on the middle. With so much attention to the running game, the offensive line should thrive versus Green Bay. Yet, concern about Carr’s aggressiveness remain important. If Carr can display that 97-yard drive-against-Chicago energy, the Raiders can walk away from Lambeau victorious.

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