The AFC West is full of high-octane offenses that can score and score often. The Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs fit that mold. On paper anyway, the Raiders do not.
The Raiders aren't losing sleep over that. There’s more than one way to win a football game.
The Raiders’ model is based on defense and ball control. As Allen puts it, the Raiders want to do the pushing around.
That was clear during the offseason program, even to new guys like left tackle Donald Penn. He can tell the Raiders plan on running early and often, wearing defenses down with power and might.
“We’re going to play tough and we’re going to play physical,” Penn said Monday in an interview with Sirius XM NFL radio's "Late Hits". “That’s one thing I do want to bring to the offensive line. We’re going to play like the old Raiders. We’re going to play tough, but we’re going to play smart. We’re going to run the ball and then run the ball some more. We’re going to force you to stop the run. We’re going to make life hard on them. We’re going to be a physical, downhill, rushing team.”
The Raiders are better equipped to do so, with increased size and strength along the offensive line. They have physical back Maurice Jones-Drew and slasher Darren McFadden, both of whom prefer running between the tackles and breaking big runs with force.
“We have a nice 1-2 punch going on with Maurice and Darren,” Penn said. “And with Marcel back there getting touches, it’s really a 1-2-3 punch. They do compliment each other well. Given that these guys are fighting for carries, they clown around and joke with each other all the time. They became friends pretty fast. I think they know they can help each other and make each other better.”
If the running game can stay healthy and the defense can keep things close, the Raiders hope to win time of possession and produce steadily on the ground.
That will also improve the play action passing game, where new quarterback Matt Schaub can generate big plays. According to ESPN stats and information, Schaub’s threw deep passes at “above average” 15 percent of his play action pass plays during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, when he was playing to his potential. 2013, however, wasn’t so pretty. Schaub struggled and was eventually traded from Houston.
Penn believes the Raiders have the personnel to help him turn things around and play to his strengths.
“The running backs should be able to take some pressure off of Matt,” Penn said. “We have some sleepers at tight end and some good receivers. If we protect him right, he’s going to have a big year.”