Film Session: Josh Jacobs will be Key to Raiders Third Down Success

The start 2019 NFL regular season is finally upon us. This week the Raiders are preparing to take on a familiar foe in their divisional rival Denver Broncos. Head coach Jon Gruden will have his work cut out for him as the Broncos hired a new and formidable head coach in former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Fangio oversaw a Bears defense that finished last season as the league leader in points allowed. It would be easy to point to the team’s acquisition of EDGE Khalil Mack to explain Fangio’s defensive success and while it certainly helped, the Bears were the 9th ranked scoring defense in 2017. Fangio has proven over his career that he can make the most of the pieces he has, as well as maximize talented players. And now he joins a team with yet another world-class EDGE rusher in Von Miller.

Going into this contest, the Raiders will be short handed at both guard positions, while right guard, Gabe Jackson, is recovering from a knee injury and left guard, Richie Incognito, is serving a two-game suspension. Gruden has not made the announcement on who will be starting at guard, but obviously none of the options offer an upgrade. This is going to really test Josh Jacobs’ ability to read and pick up pass rushers, though hopefully having a perspicacious center like Rodney Hudson can alleviate some pressure on the rookie.

There were many factors that went into the Bears defense being such a dominate unit, but their ability to get off the field on 3rd down was probably the single most notable. They ranked 4th in 3rd down stops and Monday’s game may be decided on the Raiders ability to convert in those situations. To do so they will have to hold up in pass protection against a talented pair of EDGE rushers in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Fangio will try to get both of them in one-on-one opportunities with the Raiders tackles as often as possible. To do so, he will undoubtedly utilize one of his favorite alignments.

There isn’t an easier way to get one on one pass rush opportunities for your EDGE guys than the double 3-technique alignment known as “Even” in Nick Saban’s system. This alignment is designed to prevent the guards from being able to give any assistance to the tackles because they have to handle the interior pass rushers. The “Wide-9” technique of the EDGE rushers gives them a running start as well as the space to attack inside or outside of the tackle.

Von Miller has talked about Raiders new right tackle, Trent Brown, being one of the best tackles he has faced. Given that information it is likely that he is going to line up across from left tackle, Kolton Miller, as much as possible. Injuries really hampered Miller last season and his performance struggled as a result. He is going to face a crucible in this contest and any help Gruden can give him will be a godsend. That will likely mean having Jacobs line up on Miller’s side to chip or double his man.

On this play Fangio added a “T-T Stunt” for his 3-techniques. This will not only isolate Kolton on either Von or Chubb, but also test the communication of the Raiders interior offensive linemen. As the play begins, the field side 3-tech is going to cross the right guard to attack the “A” gap. The offensive line is playing a combination pass protection with the zone set to their right. That is going to take the center to his right easily picking up the rush.

He isn’t going to feel the boundary 3-tech twisting into the “A” gap and gets blindsided. Once the center is on the ground, the defender has a free run at the quarterback. While the offensive line is working on getting on the same page, it is going to be paramount that Gruden either goes with a quick passing game or keeps Jacobs in to prevent these sacks. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered an MCL sprain on this same play and the Raiders will need Derek Carr healthy if they want to make a run at the division this year.

Keeping a running back in to block isn’t going to completely fix the issues as Fangio will have an adjustment queued up, the “Green Dog Blitz”.

The “Green-Dog” is a simple adjustment where a defender will blitz when their man coverage responsibility stays in to block. It’s typically used on blitzes, with man coverage behind them, to ensure that the defense is always sending more rushers than the offense has players to block.

At the snap you’ll see the “Will” backer (#94) drop with his eyes on the running back. As soon as the back is engaged with the blitzing “Mike” backer (#59) it frees the “Will” up to attack the line of scrimmage. Fourtunatly for the offense, Rodgers was able to get the pass off before the linebackers had time to get home but this adjustment can result in free runners getting to the quarterback over the course of a game.

This is where Gruden will come in and most likely game plan a lot of quick passes to get the ball out before the rush has time to get to Carr. Jacobs route running and good hands can be an asset in this endeavor, as well. As Fangio shifts to more man coverages and using those “Green Dog” blitzes, Gruden can slip him out into open space.

Having Jacobs act as though he is going to help in pass protection then slip out into the flat should provide him with plenty of open space to work. You’ll see the Packers do that on this upcoming play though Rodgers did not see the running back open.

The running back is going to work across the formation and then leak out into the flat on a “wheel” route. As he leaks out the linebacker attempts to pick him up but doesn’t have the speed to stay in phase. There wasn’t anything between the RB and the end zone but open grass. The play is going to end in a touchdown anyway but it’s obvious just how much easier it would have been had Rodgers hit the running back. Jacobs will eat up man coverage and will be an invaluable asset in converting the 3rd downs that will likely decide this game.

Wether it is running the ball or catching out of the backfield, Josh Jacobs will be an integral part of Gruden’s third down game plan. Vic Fangio is a defensive mastermind and he has some serious talent at his disposal. Couple that with the question marks surrounding the Raiders offensive line and pass protection could very well make or break the Raiders on Monday night.

Twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL