Matchup: Mario, Michael, & McFadden

Any Russell talk would just be beating a dead horse. The horses the Raiders face this weekend are alive and well, sitting at 2-0 and one win away from an early division lead.

What else ails the Raiders? There are certainly other problems. The loss of Gallery will be a huge challenge over the next few weeks. One thing to watch is how Mario Henderson responds. He will no longer have Robert on his right taking on double teams and will counted on to be the best player on the left side of the line. Erik Pears filling in could also be an adventure. Seems like lately the line has performed well together.

Communication along the line will be key, which is probably why Tom Cable decided to keep Morris at center. Two changes are worse than one and Satelle hasn’t instilled confidence in anyone.

From the line comes the ability to run the ball. The Raiders haven’t had significant success on the ground yet this season and the biggest factor may be the lack of production from Darren McFadden.

Cable said McFadden’s problems stem from him running too tall. Oddly, that isn’t the problem I have seen. I guess Cable is the expert, but I’ve noticed McFadden tends to lower his shoulder at defenders almost to the point where his shoulder is on the ground.

This has caused a couple problems from my perspective. It is very difficult to keep your balance when you lower your shoulder to such an extreme and the defenders are going low to tackle him. McFadden needs to learn to hurdle and sidestep these defenders. Maybe his downhill style is a detriment considering how much speed he has. The NFL is a game of angles and McFadden needs to learn the 45 degree cut to skirt these defenders and to use some of his athletic ability to make someone miss.

I am not expecting the guy to be shifty, I just don’t want McFadden to waste his gift because he lowers his shoulder all the time like Brandon Jacobs. I get the feeling he is protecting his legs.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that McFadden wants to punish the defenders, but trying to punish a linebacker who is going to bring you to the ground and trying to run over a defensive back are two different things. I’d advise he leave the bruising to Michael Bush and to a lesser extent Justin Fargas.

There may be a lot of people that don’t realize that McFadden must be better. They probably think we have bigger issues. Understand this: I wouldn’t be so hard on him if I didn’t like him. I expect more.

Moving on: Michael Huff is getting the start at Free Safety. He needs to continue to build upon his first two games. He played mostly on passing downs in the first two games with good success. Expect the Broncos to try to force him into run coverage on the outside. With Nnamdi patrolling his side of the field, Huff should continue to have opportunities to make plays in the passing game.

Three weeks, three 3-4 defenses. So far the results have been mixed. One thing has proven true, the line has done a pretty solid job in pass protection. They also haven’t been nearly as effective as they were last season running the ball. I hope both areas continue to improve.

Keys to the game:
1) Find a way to win (This is always number one)
2) Get Russell comfortable and improve his completion percentage
3) Get McFadden going
4) Continue the solid performance from Huff and Henderson
5) Get DHB involved (screens, reverses, slants)
6) Stay Healthy

In case you wondered:
Palaver – Noun
1. a conference or discussion. (Will you comment?)
2. a long parley, especially one between primitive natives and European traders, explorers, colonial officials, etc. (Which one are you?)
3. profuse and idle talk; chatter. (Sounds about what I like to do, right?)
4. persuasive talk; flattery; cajolery. (Do you feel flattered by my persuasive talk? I hope so. You are such a sexy beast.)

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