At times it’s hard to decipher exactly what Oakland Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson is getting at when he speaks. Unlike former Head Coach Tom Cable, Jackson is not the shoot from the hip type. He is more of the read between the lines type because he doesn’t like to give the opponent an advantage over his team during the week. Fortunately for you, here at TFDS Coach Jackson isn’t fooling anybody so jump over and find out what the storylines for the Raiders @ Texans game are this week.
Rock on Fullback
With Marcel Reece out for at least one more week and Richard Gordon succumbing to a broken hand last week in a fill-in fullback role, Cartwright is the most likely candidate to replace the two injured players. You may see Richard Gordon out there competing with his club hand, but he’s in no position to be any kind of outlet for Jason Campbell with one hand. That next man up theory is really coming into relevance here in week five at the fullback position.
But Coach Jackson is confident in his third string fullback. On Thursday, he had this to say about the Rock: “I drafted Rock, when I was with the Washington Redskins. I’m the guy that Dan Snyder said ‘Who you want?’ and I said ‘Rock Cartwright.’ So I know what he is, he is a tremendous football player. He’s a pro, he works at it. And I’m glad he is here, he’s done a great job for us and he’s filled in a lot of different roles. Obviously, we wish we had all of our guys back, but one thing I know about him is he’ll go in and compete.”
Campbell set for career day
While he might not be the best gunslinger in the NFL at the moment, Jason Campbell is another player from the Washington Redskins who is a consummate professional. And if he is what the Raiders think he is, then he is not content with throwing two costly interceptions last week against the New England Patriots. While the Houston Texans are boasting the number ten passing defense in the NFL, the Raiders come in as a team that has quietly thrown for over 300 yards twice this season. In a contract year, Campbell is poised and on the verge of career numbers where he is completing 65.3 percent of his passes and on pace for 3,712 yards throwing. Campbell is also posting career highs for average yards per pass at 7.67 and a career high quarterback rating 89.1.
I think the Texans are going to be surprised by the Raiders’ passing attack on Sunday. They will try to stack the box to stop Darren McFadden and the Raiders’ number one ranked rushing attack. If the Raiders use their wide receivers wisely, like you know Coach Jackson will, it could open things up on the back end for big time pass plays for the Raiders. Look for Campbell to shoulder the blame for last weekend’s loss and come out with complete focus and prove to everyone that he is indeed the Raiders’ quarterback of the future.
“The receivers that we have are exciting players and it’s nice to be able to have a full complement of those guys healthy,” said offensive coordinator Al Saunders Thursday. “We’ll continue to build on what we’ve done and it’s just having different people do different things. They’re a special group and we’re excited about the return of players that weren’t able to finish training camp.”
Raiders run defense vs. Texans run game
The Texans won’t be surprising anybody when they go to their ground attack Sunday. They are without their top wide receiver, Andre Johnson, and the Raiders are giving up almost six yards a carry this season. There seems to be this notion around the Raiders organization that they can possibly stop or slow down the Texans run game, but that is a pipe dream. If other NFL teams haven’t been able to do it then the Raiders certainly aren’t going to. Thus, the one thing they are going to have to make sure they do is stop the run game in the redzone. Keep Arian Foster and Ben Tate out of the endzone and force the Texans to throw to score touchdowns, while making sure they cover Owen Daniels.
If the Raiders can meet this slightly less complicated task during the course of this game and force the Texans to kick field goals, the Raiders offense will outscore the Texans offense. It may seem like it’s a tall task, but the NFL’s best teams are the ones that shut their opponents down on the short field that is the redzone. Expect a lot of eight man fronts that will help the Raiders slow it down at least. Let Arian Foster have his 100 yards, but also let him have 0 touchdowns and the Raiders win. It sounds simple enough on paper anyway.
That pesky cornerback position
Stanford Routt has been the model of consistency in the Raiders passing defense this year. Thus far, he leads the NFL in burn rate, which is the number of catches allowed by a cornerback vs. the number of passes thrown his direction. Granted, the Raiders would love to have Nnamdi Asomugha being a top five burn rate cornerback on the other side, but they don’t have that luxury this season. That said the guys that are over there haven’t been able to stay on the field. This week, with Chris Johnson still out and Chimdi Chekwa nursing an injury, it’s time to see what third-round pick Demarcus Van Dyke can do.
The secondary has been reeling all season and the only two constants back there have been Routt and strong safety Tyvon Branch. Both of those guys are having excellent seasons. Free safety Michael Huff has been dealing with injuries all season and back-up Matt Giordano is not anything more than average back there. One player that could be impactful vs. the run if given the opportunity is Mike Mitchell. It’s going to be interesting to see just exactly what his role will be with Jerome Boyd getting all of the nickel package looks in his absence. The Raiders have the players to move around in the back end of the defense, but now is not the time for experimenting. Unfortunately, with the injuries to this point, the Raiders don’t really have much of a choice.
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