Stretch the Field
The strength of the Raiders offense (right now) is handing the football off to rookie running back Josh Jacobs. With that said, Minnesota has a talented, savvy defense (currently ranked 7th in the NFL, giving up only 16.5 pts/gm) and will likely attempt to crowd the line of scrimmage and make Jacobs run into a heavy box. One way to make the defense back off is by striking downfield and forcing the Vikings to respect Derek Carr’s deep ball. They should get a lift in that area, as speedy wide receiver J.J. Nelson looks good to go after missing last weeks game against Kansas City. I think it’ll bode well for Oakland’s offense to give him a couple deep opportunities early or possibly use him as a decoy to open up the intermediate game. If Carr has the time and he can make the Vikings defense pay, it should make the secondary back off a bit so Jacobs will have more room to operate between the tackles and in the short passing game.
Contain Dalvin Cook
The Raiders run defense has looked stout through two games, allowing just 2.8 yards per carry and ranking inside the top-5 in the NFL in that department. However, they’ll face their most difficult challenge yet, as Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and looks every bit like the explosive player that everyone expected him to be when he came out of Florida State. If Paul Guenther’s unit can bottle Cook up, then it’ll give them a fighting chance to limit Minnesota’s strength and force quarterback Kirk Cousins to win the game with his arm. Of course, Cousins is one of the highest paid players in the league and is fully capable of torching Oakland’s secondary, but if he’s forced to air it out and they can get some pressure on him, he’s likely to get frazzled and make some mistakes.
Gruden’s Second Half Adjustments
It’ll be great if Gruden can continue his opening script magic so the Raiders offense gets off to a nice start in a loud, hostile environment… but he’ll need to a better job at adjusting to the defense as the game goes on. Last week, everything was a struggle after the first quarter. Even when Carr had time in the pocket, it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of open receivers where he could deliver the ball. Gruden needs to make life easier on his offense by finding some coverage beaters so his unit can stay on schedule and continue to score points in the second half.