This piece is the third in a series of pieces in which I try to predict the moves of the Raiders in the 2013 season. In my first two, I predicted changes to the coaching staff and changes to the defense. Now, here are my predictions for the Raiders offense in 2013
ZBS is retained
“I think the zone running scheme is the toughest running scheme in football. I think with…the way that they can stretch you side to side and get you running and then find a crease, turn it north and south with the pads square is going to be a good thing for us from an offensive standpoint. It is a tough scheme and it is not just the zone running scheme. It is the way it is taught in this system has been productive for a long time and so it has always given us trouble…In my mind, it’s the best scheme to run the football that there is.”
These were Raiders head coach Dennis Allen’s comments about how much a believer he is in the blocking system that he brought back to Oakland along with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.
As I’ve written in a previous predictions piece, I think the likelihood of Knapp returning next year is good. Since I published that article two weeks ago, the Raiders offense had looked worse and worse and they have not scored a touchdown since that article was posted. I’m not yet ready to recant my prediction but this week is certainly crucial to Knapp’s bid to return next year, I think.
Regardless of whether he returns, however, I predict the zone blocking scheme stays. Allen’s quotes, above, are a testimony to how strongly he feels about the zone blocking scheme. He’s a defensive minded coach so he is coming from the standpoint of what he would least like to defend against.
While I think it’s more than possible that Knapp goes I do not see Allen completely scrapping the zone system. After all, zone blocking definitely does work. It’s being used in a number of teams in the league right now. If Allen believes, as he states, that zone blocking is “the toughest” and “the best” scheme that exists for running the ball, he’ll likely not leave it so quickly.
“The way that he's come in, the way that he's worked, the way that he's taking control of the situation, the way that he's been a leader on this football team, that's been extremely impressive. Here's a guy that's been in the league for a long time, he's obviously seen several different types of systems and the way that you call plays going all the way back to his days at USC…I couldn't have asked for a better situation in a quarterback than getting a veteran like Carson and the way that he's handled himself…"
These words are also Allen’s, talking about how much he liked Palmer upon getting the Raiders head coaching job. He has said many other complimentary things since, as well, especially noting Palmer’s leadership and his tendency to take blame upon himself for the offense’s failings.
Palmer is signed for next year and the Raiders are unlikely to go with either Leinart or Pryor as their starter next season – Leinart because he’s never shown he can be “the guy” and because he’s a free agent and Pryor because just a week ago Dennis Allen said he wasn’t ready to even be a backup.
That leaves either Palmer or someone new. If the Raiders cut Palmer they will be on the hook for guaranteed money anyway. Plus, Reggie McKenzie, Allen and offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp and many different players have talked about how good Palmer has been in the locker-room, in the huddle and on the field. I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
And that probably won’t bother Terrelle Pryor, if he isn’t traded. He said that Palmer was teaching him the nuances of the QB position and called him a father/brother figure.
Darrius Heyward-Bey will no longer be a starter
Here are some fun statistics – Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey have, as of week 16, an almost identical number of snaps on offense. Heyward-Bey has 749 snaps and Darrius Moore has 741 on offense, to date. They are, by far, the most snaps for anyone on the team listed as wide receiver as both are more than 200 snaps above the next highest player, Rod Streater.
However, although the snap numbers are fairly close, what they’ve done with those snaps is not. Moore is the most targeted player on the team, with 109 targets on the year. Heyward-Bey has substantially less with only 76 targets, more than 40 less.
This indicates that Palmer has a clear preference as to who he wants to throw the ball to and it’s not usually Heyward-Bey.
Also telling is that Streater, who as I said has almost 200 less offensive snaps, has almost identical numbers to Heyward-Bey. Here are their numbers for analysis:
Player Snaps Targets Recs Yards TDS
Heyward-Bey 749 76 39 593 4
Streater 535 68 35 507 3
I don’t know if Streater will take DHB’s starting spot although I think that is the most likely scenario right now but I do think DHB is unlikely to retain his starting spot with lagging production.
It’s worth noting that Moore is no guarantee to remain a starter, either, but he’s got the confidence of Palmer and he remains a more consistent player than former top ten pick Heyward-Bey.
Stay tuned for future predictions pieces as I expect to go into more detail on free agents that are likely to be retained or not and thoughts on what positions the Raiders may target in the draft as well.
For more thoughts or to ask questions, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews