Though fans might be lacking in confidence of the Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS), Raiders coach Dennis Allen is not. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in our running game,” said Allen. “I’ve seen it work. It’s been successful in this league, and we’ve got the right personnel to get it done.”
“It’s going to take some time to be a cohesive group where they can work together and understand how we’re going to fit with certain fronts and stunts,” Allen continued.
Allen’s right: Time is key. ZBS is predicated on timing and quick-thinking. As Bob Davie, head coach of the University of New Mexico points out, “[ZBS] takes a lot of practice because it involves offensive linemen working in unison and decisions have to be made while the play is taking place. In zone blocking, you don’t have a lot of different assignments, but you have a lot of techniques. It takes many repetitions to get the feel of working together as a unit.”
The Raiders simply haven’t had a wealth of time, game or practice, to perfect this system. And, it is showing on game days, as Raider offensive lineman are either not holding blocks or missing them altogether. Either way, one problem is constant: The lineman are not getting a solid push. According to former Denver Bronco Mark Schlereth, “[ZBS] is always predicated on pushing the line of scrimmage, which is the defensive lineman, to the linebacker. You want to push that line of scrimmage 2 or 3 yards up toward the linebackers before you get off your block.”
This is not happening, as you can see below.
Run #1: Darren McFadden right guard for 2 yards (tackle by Jared Odrick)
Analysis: The Raiders attempted to block Jared Odrick (#98) with Derek Hagan. Odrick, who outweight Hagan by 100 pounds, won the battle.
Run #2: Darren McFadden left end for 3 yards (tackle by Koa Misi)
Analysis: Owen Schmitt assignment was to block Koa Misi. He
failed didn’t pass.
Run 3: Darren McFadden right guard for 3 yards (tackle by Cameron Wake)
Analysis: Stefen Wisniewski got beat by Paul Soliai, as Hagan does little to stop Cameron Wake.
Run 4: Darren McFadden right tackle for 2 yards (tackle by Karlos Dansby)
Analysis: Wisniewski again cannot contain Soliai, redirecting McFadden into traffic and Karlos Dansby.
Run 5: Darren McFadden right tackle for 3 yards (tackle by Randy Starks)
Analysis: Mike Brisiel just plain misses the block, allowing Randy Starks (#94) to make the tackle.
Run 6: Darren McFadden for 3 yards (tackle by Richard Marshall)
Analysis: Mike Brisiel again is ineffective, as Kheeston Randall (#97) easily sheds the block to disrupt the play. McFadden would scamper back round to the left-side, only to be forced out of bounds after a modest gain.
Run 7: Darren McFadden right tackle for 2 yards (tackle by Koa Misi)
Analysis: The picture does most the talking here. Schmitt was supposed to block Misi, but he didn’t.
Run 8: Darren McFadden left end for 2 yards (tackle by Karlos Dansby)
Analysis: Gordon decides to help Cooper Carlisle on Odrick while Veldeheer helps Myers on 58, leaving McFadden with two options: 1) Go around Myers to the sideline, or 2) Go toe-to-toe with Karlos Dansby. He chose the latter, obviously.
Run 9: Darren McFadden left end for no gain (tackle by Karlos Dansby)
Analysis: Brandon Myers cannot hold his block against Nolan Carroll (I think). As a result, McFadden has no where to run.
Fault: Everyone, but we’ll blame Myers.
Run 10: Darren McFadden up the middle for 1 yard (tackle by Koa Misi)
Analysis: Schmitt doesn’t get much push on hi s block on 56, but McFadden does a good job of finding the hole and gaining two yards.
Fault: No-one. The Dolphins just won this play.
Run 11: Darren McFadden left tackle for 4 yards (tackle by Randy Starks)
Analysis: Wisniewski doesn’t hold his block on Starks, allowing Starks to make the stop.
Run 12: Darren McFadden left guard for no gain (tackle by Paul Soliai)
Analysis: Wisniewski again cannot hold Soliai, who tosses Wisniewski and makes the tackle.
Though Darren McFadden deserves some of the blame for failing to be patient and decisive, as Christopher Hansen points out, it would appear as though the greater fault belongs to the offensive line, specifically Stefen Wisniewski and Mike Brisiel, as well as the fullback Owen Schmitt. I’m not sure if these problems are scheme-induced, meaning if the players were more comfortable in the scheme, perhaps they wouldn’t be having such difficulties, or if they are simply a problem of being outmatched–certainly Randy Starks and Jared Odrick are no slouches. In any case, I would expect the unit to improve with time. They were after all one of the better offensive lines in the league last season. As Greg Knapp said, “Let’s keep things in perspective. We’ve had two different centers. We need some patience. You can’t develop a scheme in two weeks.”