Raiders-Chiefs matchup No. 1: Roach vs. Charles

Raiders-Chiefs matchup No. 1: Jamaal Charles vs. Nick Roach

Raiders-Chiefs matchup No. 1: Roach vs. Charles
October 12, 2013, 9:30 am
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Nick Roach will be tasked with keeping an eye on Jamaal Charles, who has five total touchdowns this season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Editor’s note: This is the third part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Chiefs matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at Arrowhead Stadium

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Raiders MLB Nick Roach vs. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles

Tale of the tape:

Roach (53): 6-foot-1, 234 pounds, seventh season, Northwestern
Charles (25): 5-foot-11, 199 pounds, sixth season, Texas

Jamaal Charles is averaging a career-worst 4.3 yards per carry. Don’t take that to mean he’s lost a step. He’s averaging more rushes than ever before and 15 yards per game less than a year ago. Don’t take that to mean he’s weaker or slower or less explosive.

His yards are just being shuffled around as new head coach Andy Reid is using him to great effect. Charles is averaging a career-high 129.4 yards of total offense over five games, and is more involved in the passing game than ever before.

Charles is a dual threat long regarded among the NFL’s best feature backs. This year is no different.

He’ll be a tough challenge for a Raiders defense that’s had mixed results against the run.

“Any time you have an explosive player like that, you’ve got to get multiple guys to the ball,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He does a great job out in space and makes a lot of people miss, so it’s going to be critical that we play fast and if somebody does miss a tackle out in space, we’ve got other guys there to back them up. That’s what good defenses do.”

Allen emphasized the importance of not letting Charles get a clean run into the second level. That requires assignment-sound football. Nick Roach expects nothing less.

The Raiders middle linebacker is in charge of the front seven, and for helping put teammates in position to make plays. Roach has come into his own as a field general and run defender in recent weeks. He’s better at shedding blocks, which allows him to make plays near the line of scrimmage.

That will be important in negating Charles’ big-play potential. The Chiefs like to stretch the edge and give Charles cutback lanes to break through. The Raiders need to shut those options down.

“He’s very explosive,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “He can go to the house whether he’s running the direct stretch cut run that they’re running or if he’s putting his foot in the ground and going at the back side, so your defense has to be good on the front, back and middle of the play.

“You’ve got to get off of blocks and make sure he stays where we want him to stay. It’s a lot easier to say and harder to do.”

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The Raiders hope to force him toward specific rushing lanes, where sure tacklers like Roach will be waiting. The next step is getting the ball out, which rarely happens with Charles in possession. He had five fumbles last season, but he hasn’t had more than three in any other season.

Patience is a virtue in these situations, because Charles will get touches and gain some yards. The Raiders want to keep those gains small. They have to keep Charles out of open space, which will force the Chiefs into longer passing downs Reid’s West Coast scheme longs to avoid.

While scheme can help corral this talent, Roach has refined his approach to two easy steps.

See Jamaal, hit Jamaal.

“It’s not as complicated as it looks,” Roach said. “He’s fast, and they like to get him to the edge and let him make plays like that. He’ll cut up the middle too, but the key is to be strong on the edge and keep him as contained as possible.

“We know it’s going to be a challenge. We’re looking forward to it.”