Scouting the enemy: Game Rewind on OAK vs TEN

Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell walks off the field following a 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in their NFL football game at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Given that the Rams play the Raiders only once every four years, I haven’t had much reason to watch them. With a new quarterback and potential impact rookie at linebacker, what will this team look like? Here are a few notes and observations from rewinding their Week 1 matchup with Tennessee.

The Raiders’ offensive gameplan is so 2009… Rams 2009, that is.

Jason Campbell looks like a disaster of Bulger-esque proportions, and the playcalling isn’t doing him any favors. Whether he completes more passes or is more “efficient” than Jamarcus Russell is hardly the point, as Campbell still shows the same problems with decision making and the same lack of pocket presence that he had in Washington. Their first series went like this:

  • 1st and 10: Unblocked defensive tackle bats down a soft throw from a backpedaling Campbell, then pushes Campbell over with the lightest of swats.
  • 2nd and 10: Campbell sees the Titans D-line jump, and instead of calling for a quick snap to earn a free play, stands up away from center and looks at the ref. The ref, nonplussed, calls Campbell for a delay of game.
  • 2nd and 15: Inside handoff to Darren McFadden, who gets nowhere against a standard front.
  • 3rd and 13: Campbell drops back to pass, with all the time in the world as the Titans have only rushed three. Louis Murphy has a step on his man, turning to the sideline a few yards past the sticks. Surely, Campbell sees it, as he’s looking to that side of the field, but can’t pull the trigger. Instead, he waits for his TE Myers (who was blocking no one to begin with) to release into the flat, and throws him the ball. Myers is brought down easily at the original line of scrimmage, forcing a punt.

Terrible. Just terrible. And all too familiar to us Rams fans.

Their second drive, starting in Titans’ territory just outside field goal range, wasn’t any better. The Raiders bring in Khalif Barnes as a sixth offensive lineman, ostensibly to provide an absolutely secure pocket … but of course, there is no such thing in the NFL. Campbell apparently doesn’t know that, though, standing for what seems like hours staring down the right side of the field, waiting for what, exactly? We aren’t sure, because Will Witherspoon jetted in on a delayed rush from the left side and drilled him, knocking them well back out of scoring position. (Another run to nowhere, and yet another sack should have iced the drive, but Oakland gets bailed out on a bull-ish personal foul on Derrick Morgan, for violating the “Tom Brady” rule.)

A big problem is the offensive line, which is giant — all the starters are 6’4 or taller, including 6’8 rookie center Jason Veldheer — but slow and undisciplined, and not a strong drive-blocking unit. The Titans’ defensive line out-quicked them and wreaked havoc.

Where the Rams pinned their ears back and came after Derek Anderson with a variety of blitzes, they may be able to be more selective in their rushing against the short-sighted Campbell, and leave plenty of defenders to clog the middle.

@RamsHerd what’s your keys to the game for Oakland? I say we gotta stack the box on McFadden and force campbell to throw to mediocre WR crew

That sounds exactly right, mixing in enough jailbreak rush to keep Campbell, and Hue Jackson’s play-calling, off balance.

On defense, someone has to account for Kamerion Wimbley

Wimbley, Rolando McClain and Quentin Groves make up a pretty good trio of linebackers, but Wimbley — a hybrid LB/DE with plenty of pass rushing chops — is the guy that could have the biggest impact on what the Rams want to do. The Raiders front four is nothing special, even with Richard Seymour. But on the Titans’ first third down of the game, Wimbley beats the left tackle to the outside on a stunt, and flies in to strip-sack Vince Young.

Having an outside linebacker with such strong pass-rush skills is a luxury in a 4-3 defense, and it will be incumbent on Bradford to find him and assign protection on every play. His presence may also mean a lot of snaps for Billy Bajema, and even newly re-signed Darcy Johnson, the two best blockers among the Rams tight ends.

Who will Nnamdi Asomugha cover?

(The announcers call him AHS-oh-moo-wah, is that how you pronounce it?) In this game, Asomugha simply erased Kenny Britt, who played 22 snaps but didn’t get thrown at once. In fact, not once during the game, according to Pro Football Focus’ stats, was Asomugha thrown at.

This is really more of a question for fantasy purposes, since Bradford has already shown — hitting eight different receivers in the first half of game 1 — that he is not dependent on a single player. But Mark Clayton, who was targeted 16 times by Bradford last Sunday, would seem to be the obvious target for a shutdown. Will Bradford challenge #21? Or will Clayton hit the fantasy waiver wires just as quickly in all the thousands of leagues that just picked him up?

Steven Jackson should have a monster day, and so should Keith Toston

The Titans ran the ball 39 times, which sounds about right against the lousy Raiders’ front four. But don’t expect Jackson, who sat out some of the Rams’ practice this week with minor swelling in his knee, to pick up those kind of touches. The Rams should be most effective with a straight-ahead run game inside the tackles, which favors Keith Toston’s style over Ken Darby.

I feel pretty comfortable picking the Rams to win this one, 17-9.