Ed Zurga Associated Press The Raiders, led by Darren McFadden, used zone and gap blocking to rush for 95 yards in the fourth quarter against Kansas City.

Added blocking diversity boosts running game

Published: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 - 9:46 am

ALAMEDA – From the beginning of the Dennis Allen era, the Raiders promised to be multiple on defense. They would mix in zone with man-to-man coverage, and occasionally change between 4-3 and 3-4 and use the blitz.

Offense, especially the running game, was a different story. The Raiders were going back to the zone scheme full time, a system they ran with Tom Cable from 2007 through 2009.

During the bye week, with a stalled running game and a 1-4 record, Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp came to the same conclusion as Hue Jackson when he was handed the keys to the offense by Al Davis as the offensive coordinator in 2010: The running game would be better suited with more diversity in terms of blocking.

"They added a little bit in the run game; they started running some more gap scheme stuff," Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, whose team will visit O.co Coliseum on Sunday, told Bay Area reporters by conference call.

Given that Knapp has a longstanding belief in the zone scheme, chances are the change was made reluctantly, although out of necessity.

Knapp worked with Alex Gibbs, the guru of the zone system, in Atlanta. Purists of the zone blocking system – including Cable – don't believe in deviation. Rather than fire off at a specific defender, zone runs call for more lateral movement and the clearing of an area. It takes time to perfect and execute.

Running backs hesitate only long enough to take one cut and head upfield when they find a lane.

During training camp, line coach Frank Pollack, brought in by Knapp to install the scheme, said, "If you just dabble in it, you won't be able to take it to the next level without having mass chaos."

Fast-forward to the fourth quarter of the Raiders' 26-16 win over Kansas City on Sunday. They rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries with a mixture of zone and more straight-ahead gap runs.

"We definitely increased our gap run blocking scheme to get a better balance and keep defenses honest, and we've done it well, so we'll keep that same kind of formula working," Knapp said. "It's a good change-up."

Center Stefen Wisniewski can see how immersing the offense in the zone scheme before blending it with gap blocking was of some benefit.

"It makes a lot of sense. That's where our coaches came from, and that's their mindset," Wisniewski said. "Coming in, (it) was zone, zone, zone, zone. But I think they're starting to get to know us better, and we're getting to know them, and so they're seeing we can be successful doing both."

Note – The Raiders announced that Sunday's game will be televised locally.

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Read more articles by Jerry McDonald



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