What’s Next: The Raider Formula


This may be the only time I ever say this in my life but, The Raiders are Doing it Right.  Not in all aspects of the game, obviously.  They play sloppy football, they rack up penalties faster than I do parking tickets, and yet they win.  Why do they win?  Not because of Darren McFadden (though his stellar play should not be undermined), but because of their run blocking.

Andrew raised some serious questions in his latest “book it”, why aren’t the Jags opening up their play selection and letting Gabbert shine?  Why are the Jaguars only playing not to lose?  I have a question to go along with it: why are we so committed to the run game when our personnel obviously doesn’t fit it?  Follow the jump to find out why.

There are numerous things that Gene Smith has done very well during his short tenure as the Jaguars’ GM.  He has retooled the defense to be straight up mean (4th against run, 7th against pass) even with backups playing along the line, he has brought in solid pass protection (Eugene Monroe), and he has put together a competent (although not flashy) wide receiving corps.  But when it comes to running the ball, he has failed.

Fact:  Maurice Jones-Drew is Awesome.

Fact:  Deji Karim is not horrible.

So, why is it that Jones-Drew can rock a 4.7 yard average and Karim only gets a 2.1 yard average?  Run blocking.  the overhaul of the Jaguar offensive line is still ongoing, but a lot of the focus since 2008 has been to bring in better pass protection.  And let’s face it, even that hasn’t been stellar (39 sacks for Garrard on average since 2008).  And yet our coaches still focus on a run-first mentality.  Unfortunately, by overlooking the run blocking in favor of pass blocking, the team has developed deficiencies in the run game.  The only reason we still have superb running numbers is Maurice Jones-Drew.  Pocket Atlas (it’ll become a thing) is carrying the team on his shoulders.

Against the Jets, MJD averaged 4.9 yards per carry, practically his exact average.  Deji Karim averaged 2.5 yards per carry.  In fact, if we take every rush outside of MJD we have a 2.6 yard average from nine carries.  Darren McFadden, against that same defense, averaged nine yards a  carry, and the rest of his team averaged 4.8 yards per carry.  Is Darren McFadden better than Maurice Jones-Drew?  I would argue no.  I like MJD and think he is the better runner, more fluid and more solid.  Given the same offensive line, I think they would come out about even.  And yet the Raiders, have inexplicably become a dominant running team.

It all starts and ends with the run blocking.

I draw the comparisons (contrast?) to the Raiders purely because of the cohesion  behind their front office and their coaching staff.  Hugh Jackson knows what they are good at: running the ball. He isn’t basing this off of an identity he wishes to establish, he’s basing this off his personnel.  Al Davis (yes, Al Davis) has developed a very very good running offense through his selections in the draft and free agency.

Jack Del Rio has always been a run-first offensive man.  Dirk Koetter has always tried to take his run-first offense and develop a more vertical passing attack to complement it.  This is all well and good.  However, when GM Gene Smith came in to revamp the entire team, a focus was placed more on pass protection.  Rather than look at how the QBs in Jacksonville have fared with ok pass protection but brilliant run blocking (21 sacks on Garrard in 2007), the Jags have turned their focus to pass protection.  This did not suit the solid running personnel the Jaguars had developed (MJD, Fred Taylor, Greg Jones) and created a mediocre 2008 offensive season.  You can mark that up as transition, sure.  But even the next two years have been mediocre for the offense.  As much as we want to pass (and Garrard’s single season franchise record for touchdowns shouldn’t be ignored), we haven’t made the full jump.  Del Rio wants to pass and handicaps Koetter’s offensive scheme.  Dirk Koetter doesn’t know how to capitalize on the brilliant potential of Blaine Gabbert and plays it safe.  Maurice Jones-Drew does what he can when the rock is put in his hands (and he does a lot).  But if we didn’t have MJD, we’d be forced to make the leap to be a more passing based team.  Our offensive line is being built for the pass, our new franchise quarterback has seemingly limitless potential, Mike Thomas and co aren’t horrible (look at what Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and co do with their not so brilliantly rated receivers), and yet we insist on running.

As mentioned before, I love running the ball.  Smash-mouth football is what made me a Jacksonville fan.  But the way the team is being built is not conducive to the running game.  If the Jags really want to run the ball as much as they have, they need to get guys that push through the defensive line and pave the way for their running backs.  The Jags need to follow the Raider model.  When MJD goes down after a ten yard gain he should be surrounded by downed linebackers and safeties and his own linemen.

Dirk and Jack need to ditch the pound the rock philosophy this year and focus on the pass.  As Andrew stated, starting the half with 10 straight running plays is not something you do unless you’re nursing a massive lead.  It’s sink or swim time.  I’m tired of the Jags treading water.  Either work with the personnel you’ve got, or continue to fail.  If Atlas falters, the entire team will fall.

Now, more than ever, the Jags are in transition.  Only the coaches don’t know it.  The formula is not working.  We are not the Raiders.  Change the formula.

– Luke N. Sims