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By the numbers: Raiders lack explosive plays in the run game

One of the keys to success in the NFL is having an explosive offense – one that can overcome penalties, dropped passes and good defensive plays with explosive plays that move the offense down the field in big chunks.

Explosive plays can subjective – the term leaves lots of room for interpretation. Fortunately, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen gave his interpretation of explosive plays last season, saying that for him and his coaching staff, explosive pass plays would be plays that went 16 or more yards and explosive run plays would be plays that went for 12 or more yards.

The Raiders would like to be a run oriented offense. It’s why they retained Darren McFadden as the most expensive player on the roster in 2012. They would like to be able to run to set up the pass and use play action.

Unfortunately, the Raiders run game has yet to get on track. This is partially due to the offensive line issues, especially the lack of healthy bodies at that position, and partially due to the running back corp itself.

At 6 games into the season, the Raiders have only 6 explosive plays by running backs. While Pryor’s runs weren’t counted for this piece, in theory his running threat should open things up more for the running backs because the defense must focus attention on containing Pryor. If that is the case, the 6 explosive runs could have been even worse if Pryor wasn’t under center.

For comparison purposes, the 49ers’ Frank Gore, alone, had 7 runs over 20 yards in the first 6 weeks. Not all of the Raiders explosive runs went over 20 yards but even if they had, Frank Gore would have more runs than the entire Raiders running back corps.

Darren McFadden leads the pack of the Raiders running backs with 4 explosive runs on the season. However, 3 of the 4 runs came in the game versus Jacksonville, whose defense is one of the worst in the league. Other than that one game, McFadden has only 1 “explosive” run this season, against Washington.

Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece have one explosive run, each. Rashad Jennings’ came against Jacksonville, too, and Reece’s was versus San Diego.

If you do some quick math at home, that makes three games in which the Raiders got at least one explosive run – San Diego, Washington and Jacksonville – but only one game, Jacksonville, in which they were able to get more than one explosive run in a game.

That also means that there has been 3 games – Indianapolis, Denver and Kansas City – in which the Raiders running back corps failed to get any runs 12 yards or more.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the Raiders’ explosive running plays had a lead blocker to lead the running back to the open field.

Three (half) of the explosive running plays were with a running back, fullback and 1 tight end personnel package. Two of those three plays were with Darren McFadden running behind the fullback out of an weak offset I. An offset I means the fullback is closer to one side, in this case the weak side (the side opposite where the tight end lined up).

The remaining four explosive runs came out of a shotgun and pistol formations, although there were several different personnel groupings.

The first explosive play of the season for the Raiders came against Jacksonville and was on a zone blocking run where McFadden hit a good gap between Mike Brisiel and Khalif Barnes, RG and RT respectively.

The shotgun formation also yielded a long run for Jennings, where the Raiders had no fullback, one tight end and 3 wide receivers but executed a solid run because RG Mike Brisiel pulled, ran behind the line and made a great block to spring Jennings to the second level.

The San Diego game, which had perhaps my favorite explosive run play, had a fun run out of a pistol formation in which Pryor was flanked by FB Olawale and TE Mastrud with Reece in the backfield behind them. Like the first explosive play of the season, this play was a zone running play in which the line moved to the left and Reece perfectly timed getting outside the R tackle for a good gain behind Mastrud.

The Raiders run game shows flashes, here and there, of being a consistently successful running game but until the team is able to pull it all together, they will continue to lose more games than they should.

Dennis Allen said that McFadden was not at 100% before the bye but that he sees the old DMC explosiveness in practice, this week. Raider Nation can only hope that explosiveness leads to more explosive running plays.