Film Session: A Look at How Jon Gruden Has Already Expanded the Raiders Offense With Henry Ruggs III

It’s no secret that the Las Vegas Raiders have been desperately searching to find a true play maker at the wide receiver position for about a decade. They thought they had addressed the issue last off-season when Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock swung a trade for then Pittsburgh Steelers wideout, Antonio Brown.

The relationship between Brown and the Raiders soured quickly, however, with the team releasing him before he played a single down in Silver & Black. Gruden found himself once again without a playmaker at wide receiver after spending most of the summer designing his offense and playbook around the now jettisoned Brown.

That playbook wouldn’t have time to collect much dust, though, as the coach and GM would found Henry Ruggs III in the first round of the 2020 draft. Finally armed with an explosive athlete, Gruden once again dove into his playbook looking for new ways to deploy his new weapons.

Let’s take a look at two plays from Sunday against the Panthers that highlight how Gruden has adapted his offense to take advantage of Ruggs unique abilities.


Sometimes the easiest way to utilize a new player isn’t to create new gadget plays but instead focus on a different aspect of concepts the team already runs. In this case we will look at the Mesh concept which is a favorite of Air Raid offenses and one Gruden has used in his time with the Raiders. Here is the Mesh concept in Arizona Cardinals’ Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s playbook which he calls “82”.

This play is designed to attack the middle of the field with two opposing shallow crossing routes and a dig route behind them. Typically the quarterback will throw one of the Shallow routes against man coverage and throw the Dig against a zone coverage. The running back (designated F) will run a wheel route that the quarterback will look to in the event that the defense is playing a coverage that takes away the middle of the field.

Here is Raiders QB Derek Carr throwing that wheel route to running back Jalen Richard against the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2018 season. The Bengals played Cover-1 congesting the middle of the field, but it left a linebacker in one-on-one coverage with Richard, which is a matchup he will regularly win.

This is a perfect example of how an offense can attack a defense horizontally while also having a vertical threat built in.


Gruden called this concept once again in the Raiders win over the Panthers this past weekend. The only difference is how he deployed the vertical threat in the concept. It came on the touchdown pass to receiver Nelson Agholor.

Here is that play.


Once again, Derek Carr correctly identifies the Cover-1 and throws the outside vertical route. The obvious difference is the Raiders now have receiving threats that can actually beat man coverage deep. Instead of having to rely on a running back beating a linebacker, Gruden can dial up some home run shots to wide receivers.

Had Henry Ruggs not been dealing with a knee injury at the time of this play call, he probably would have been the one on the other end of the pass. Simply having players that can get down field is going to give Gruden the ability to open up his playbook.

Triple Option

Here is where things will get fun for Raider Nation and difficult for opposing defensive coordinators. Given that Henry Ruggs presents a threat to score any time he touches the ball, Gruden doesn’t have to solely dial up bombs for him when simply handing him the ball can have the same result. Expect to see alignments that gets Ruggs into the backfield or put in motion.

Here is a perfect example.


The offense aligns in a Pistol formation with Ruggs in the backfield, which is going to get the defense’s attention. They certainly had not seen this on film during their game preparations. To make life more difficult, Gruden threw a triple option concept consisting of a Zone Read / Pin & Pull and a Speed Option, as well.

At the snap, Carr is going to read the backside defensive end. If he stays at home, Carr will “Give” the ball to running back Josh Jacobs. He would then run the “Pin and Pull” zone run that the offensive line is blocking for. It looks like even though the read told Carr to “Pull” the ball, Jacobs could have had a big gain. Based on the play design, Carr did make the correct decision with the defensive end crashing down. That is the first option process in this play.

With the second option, Carr is now going to read the “Apex” defender that is responsible for containing any outside run. If he stays outside, Carr will run up the seam. If he crashes to the ball, as he did, Carr will throw to Ruggs. This was the Speed Option aspect of the play design. While it only created a modest 5-yard gain, it will serve to put opposing defenses on notice and ensure that they are sound in their run fits. Any time they spend drilling gap discipline is time they can’t use dissecting other aspects of Gruden’s offense.

Gruden finally has the speedy, play making, “Z” receiver he has been looking for since his first season back with the Raiders. He is already showing his ability to adjust to better quality receiving targets.

If Ruggs can stay healthy, he’s a candidate to explode every single week. Gruden’s adjusted new playbook will make sure of it.

Twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL


4 thoughts on “Film Session: A Look at How Jon Gruden Has Already Expanded the Raiders Offense With Henry Ruggs III

  1. In the last image you see that Ruggs ends up between the two opposite defender, the one closing in and the one that Renfrow is holding. I am sure that if Ruggs keep running to the left of Renfrow, he is gone with his speed, Renfrow was holding well his defender and then you see Edwards holding the last men in the back.

  2. Either a win or putting up a **** good fight against the Saints will be a win for the Raiders. Playing good teams tough is what made the Raiders the Raiders. The initial history of the Raiders was “the team that couldn’t win the big one.” They had actually, at one time, won more games and divisional titles than any team in football and no one wanted to play them because of how tough they played. I think that it’s great and necessary for the Raiders to play every tough team that they can because only by playing tough teams do you become better. If the Raiders put up a good fight against the Saints, this coming Monday, it would speak volumes for assessing where they are, in their quest, with respect of returning to a playoff caliber team.

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