Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

November 13, 2008
Running wild(cat)

ALAMEDA - Everyone is going wild about the Wildcat.

The formation features a running back at quarterback and another running back motioning into the backfield has become the rave with more teams implementing their version of it after the Miami Dolphins and Ronnie Brown used it to batter New England, 38-13.

Here's Miami coach Tony Sparano talking how the team decided to use Wildcat:

"Honestly, it's something that we cooked for an awful long time. When I say cooked, I mean, we practiced during OTAs, during the course of spring. Our first game, our opener, was against the Jets, and they had been doing some stuff a year ago with their special player there, I think it's (wide receiver Brad) Smith, they were doing some different things with him, so we went out and practiced vs. it. More importantly, we had a coach on our staff (quarterbacks coach David Lee) that coached at Arkansas, he coached (Darren) McFadden and that group of people. It was something that we just thought, we would maybe at some point need, we took a look at it, we went out, we practiced it, several days during the spring, then we just kind of left it out there. We weren't sure if our personnel, we weren't sure of any of those things, and it took a long plane ride home and a good beating that we got in Arizona to sit there and say, hey, we need to be able to do some of this stuff. Maybe we need to give our offense to put their arms around and we've that, and it's a little part of what we do."

Sparano admitted it's become harder to run the Wildcat with so many teams now studying it:

"Now, you lose the advantage. Early on the advantage was that defenses had to prepare for you. All of a sudden, as you get later in the season and you start this process, and teams start to figure out what you're doing, you need to prepare more for them now. All of a sudden you're playing the what-if game, and the number of looks that you could see, and all those things. Now, that being said, sometimes, defensively, the more you do isn't always better versus stuff like that, you know, we need to chase those things at time."

Someone who should be equipped to deal with defending that kind of offense is should be Raiders interim head coach Tom Cable.

After all, he coached with the Atlanta Falcons who had Michael Vick, which was probably the most dangerous form of the Wildcat in the NFL.

Because Vick was a quarterback, the Falcons had two receivers, not a quarterback on the outside of the formation.

And what makes the offense hard to defend is most pro defenses are designed to account for a quarterback in the running game.

"They look very similar to me in what we did in Atlanta with Vick," Cable said. "So I'm very familiar with it and we'll continue to put it in as Darren is healthy, comfortable and all that. Obviously he looked good today so we'll see."

The Raiders haven't run much Wildcat because of McFadden's injuries. For a struggling offense, the Wildcat just might be what the Raiders need.

Here's a look at what Lee did with McFadden in the Wildcat at Arkansas.

Cable said he'd lean on Greg Knapp, the offensive coordinator who he stripped of play-calling duties, for advice on third downs and in the red zone.

That's odd.

Those are two of the areas the Raiders have struggled the most.

If Knapp was the latest fall guy for the lack of offense (see other names such as Norv Turner, Tom Walsh, John Shoop, Lane Kiffin, etc.) why would he be the one to turn to in those situations?

Here's a look at the red zone.

*The Raiders are six of 21 in scoring chances in the red zone this season (28.6 percent).

*In games under Knapp, the Raiders were two for eight (25 percent).

*In Cable's only game calling plays, he failed to score in one trip inside Carolina's 20-yard line.

Then there are the third-down struggles, which are embarrassingly bad.

Unless it's third-and-1, Shane Lechler should probably be warming up.

Here are the numbers courtesy of with some help from STATS, LLC.

*The Raiders have converted 28 of 125 third downs this season (22.4 percent). That ranks last in the NFL.

*The Raiders, however, have converted eight of nine on third-and-1.

*But the Raiders are more likely to be in and long, but even third-and-2 or 3 has been a struggle.

*The Raiders have converted only seven of 23 third downs (30.4 percent) in those situations. That's really bad for a team that fancies itself a running team.

*When the Raiders need six to nine yards, they've converted just three of 34 times (8.8 percent).

*So when it's third down and more than 10 yards to go, the Raiders are 10 for 59 (16.9 percent).

*Under Knapp, the Raiders were 13 of 55 on third down (23.6 percent), or better than the season.

*Knapp's best day in that category was Oct. 12 at New Orleans when the Raiders were six for 16 (38 percent) on third downs.

Turning to Knapp sounds like the polite thing to do, but it's hard to imagine Cable would, especially if he wants to be accountable for the offense.

The Raiders went two for 17 against Carolina under Cable.

Per Stats LLC, left tackle Kwame Harris leads the NFL with seven false starts and has allowed seven sacks, tied for fourth most in the league.

Right tackle Cornell Green is 11th in the NFL, having allowed 5.5 sacks and tied for second with five false starts.

Harris and Mario Henderson will split snaps in practice before Cable announces a starter on Friday.

There's no such option at right tackle.

Who would have guessed losing Paul McQuistan, who could play guard and tackle, would hurt so much.

McQuistan was decent at right tackle last season when Green was lost for the season with an injury.

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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