Week 15 O-Line Spotlight: Oakland Raiders

Week 15 O-Line Spotlight: Oakland Raiders

Every person has a basic need to belong. This need is as important as nourishment, sleeping, and feeling safe. Long stretches of loneliness can lead to a feeling of hopelessness, low self-esteem, hormonal imbalances, and a general sense of defeat. Although it hasn’t yet been stated publicly, I’m beginning to develop some worry for Oakland Raiders center Rodney Hudson, who I believe is on an island all his own as it pertains to the offensive line.

You see, Rodney’s friends Donald Penn (only played in two whole games), Kelechi Osemele (missed Weeks 5 to 8 and 14 to present), and now Gabe Jackson (placed on injured reserve prior to Week 15) have deserted him. The ragtag group of linemen who have filled in for Oakland’s starters have been lacking. And the only other lineman to weather the storm of the season is rookie left tackle Kolton Miller, who is on a record-setting pace as a rookie turnstile.

Oh, and the Raiders’ rushing lanes are closing up just as fast on the left side of the line.

Oakland allowed 16 total pressures against Cincinnati, and exactly half of them were attributed to Miller. Including the two sacks he allowed, Derek Carr has now been sacked 47 times, more than the 36 sacks he absorbed in 2016 and 2017 combined. Carr’s streak of taking at least three sacks has now lasted seven games, the longest single-season streak since Blake Bortles did it in the final seven games of 2014.

Hudson had nothing to do with the dismantling by a Bengals, who ranked 25th in sacks before the game. His PFF report card was pristine, just as it has been the rest of the year.

With such a shored-up center, how did Cincinnati’s interior defensive lineman Geno Atkins rack up three sacks? Let’s look at the nuts and bolts of the game to find out.

Working from the Outside

The Bengals were dead last in defensive third down stops coming into this game, but changed around their fortunes with constant pressure, including the following 3rd & 9 play from the second drive of the game. Sam Hubbard (#94) barely has to put a move on Miller (LT, #77), whose first step isn’t nearly wide enough to deal with the rookie edge rusher’s speed.

The forced fumble changed possession, but Jeff Driskel gave it back on the next play. An underthrown deep ball aimed at John Ross was picked off and the Raiders took over inside their own 10-yard line. That drive ended abruptly with Carr being hit as he released the ball on 3rd & 9. Pressure came from Hubbard again, matched up over right tackle Brandon Parker.

Oakland’s final drive of the first quarter ended in a very familiar way. Miller got beat and the Raiders had to punt. This time, we’ll switch out Hubbard with Carlos Dunlap (#96). Miller’s footwork looks fine on this snap. Instead, it’s his hands that are too slow. The rookie completely misses his shove on Dunlap and allows both the defender’s hands high into his chest. Dunlap had no problem controlling Miller’s body and getting around him, leaving the left tackle diving after him.

Possibly to compensate for poor technique or slow hands (or both), the rookie left tackle made one more mistake before the end of the first half. He put his head down and attempted to drive his upper body into fellow Hubbard’s chest. The result was anything but surprising. The defender simply swam around the man with his eyes on the ground and blindsided Carr for his second sack of the game, ending the drive and sending the Raiders into the locker room with only seven points. (Technically, a 20-second drive with no timeouts would end the half.)

…To the Inside

The Bengals’ outside pass rush got most of the airtime through the first half. But even though there weren’t many hurries generated by the defensive tackles, the Raiders’ interior wasn’t creating holes for the running game. Their running backs combined for only 23 first half yards. In fact, Oakland’s longest run of the day was an end-around to fourth-string tight end Darren Waller. The second half would be filled with not only a lack of rushing, but a hearty dose of Atkins reintroducing himself to Carr.

For Geno’s first sack of the fourth quarter, I initially thought left guard Chaz Green (#65) was simply running out of steam, getting beat on second or third effort. After watching the play a number of times, however, it looks like Green was expecting a chip on the right side from Jalen Richard (#30). When Richard instead went through the line to take on linebacker Nick Vigil, Green was hung out to dry. Actively blocking just one side of Atkins will always lead to something bad.

The second sack as we inch closer to garbage time was just way too easy, as both Green and Richard looked like they just wanted to block Vigil. I really can’t tell how Atkins got through the left guard with such ease, but I can tell you with certainty that Richard at 5’8” and 200 pounds was never going to stop Atkins at 6’1” and 300 pounds without being peeled off of the cold Cincinnati turf. Carr did the right thing, conceding the play before he could be sandwiched between Atkins and Hubbard

We are on a sliding scale of Green being beaten by an All-Pro defensive tackle, and the third and final sack he allowed was the worst of them all. Atkins played coy with a few stutter steps before a brutal bullrush to back the guard into Carr’s lap. Green allowed his hands to fall to his sides, likely anticipating a move either outside or inside. When the defender decided to go straight ahead it was already over. Atkins had both hands inside and all the leverage. Any hopes for a comeback or a decent fantasy performance from, well, anybody on the Raiders were dashed.

 

Tl;dr What About My Championship Game?

It’s funny you should ask, because I have a question for you! How the hell did you make it this far with Raiders players on your team? With only one more game on the season-long fantasy calendar, we can focus on next week’s Monday Night Football matchup that will pair this Oakland team at “home” versus division foes, the Denver Broncos. Although Hubbard looked damn good in Week 15, he is no Von Miller or Bradley Chubb. This is a game where we would all be licking our lips if Denver’s defense was available for main slate DFS.

Miller needs the season to end so he can reflect on and move past his rookie shortcomings. The Broncos are sure to give him more data to research en route to ticking more notches in Carr’s sack belt. The Raiders’ offense is a stay-away for your most important fantasy game of the year. Even Jared Cook will have a hard time reaching his ceiling with his quarterback laying on the ground. Unless you’re desperate, Carr should sit the bench, even in our beloved two-quarterback leagues.

With the aforementioned Jackson on IR and Pro Bowl alternative Osemele still sidelined with a toe injury, Oakland is likely to ride the rest of the year out with their current starting five offensive lineman. Keep Hudson in your thoughts. 🙏

Justin Edwards

Justin has been playing fantasy sports since he booted up a Sandbox Fantasy Football league on his Gateway computer in Middle School. He is a major proponent of 2QB and Superflex Dynasty leagues. After nearly two decades in the restaurant industry, Justin has convinced himself to work from home with a goal of making football his career. Tell him why that’s a bad idea on Twitter: @Justin_Redwards.

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