After a disappointing performance to open the season on Monday Night Football, the Oakland Raiders look to rebound in a big way on the road in Miami. Most of the Raider Nation would likely consider this game to be an early must win, especially considering a slate of a difficult few games in the coming weeks. While Miami does not look to be the strongest of teams this season, they have certainly had the Raiders’ number in recent years. Here are some keys factors in whether the Raiders can break that trend, and get their first win of the 2012 season.
Stretch the Field
With Denarius Moore expected to return this week, the Raiders need to make a point of using both his and Darrius Heyward Bey’s speed to stretch the field. Last week, QB Carson Palmer averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt in comparison to 8.4 in 2011. The return of Moore as a deep threat should help that area, giving Palmer both of his starting wide receivers back. The Raiders running game has struggled significantly in recent matchups with this Dolphins team, and stretching the field through the air in this game will give the running game a better opportunity for success.
Build on the Run “D”
If there was one glaring positive from last week’s loss to the Chargers, it was the performance of the Raiders’ run defense. It is no secret that in recent years it has been an area of major concerns, as teams often ran the ball at will. Not so last week, as the Raiders’ run defense was dominant. Especially with a rookie quarterback at the helm, expect the Dolphins to rely heavily on the running game, and their most dangerous offensive weapon in Reggie Bush. If the Raiders can stop the run effectively again this week, the Dolphins will be forced to put the ball in their rookie quarterback’s hands. As a defense, that is exactly what you want.
Get Everyone Involved
On offense, considering the amount of explosive play making ability they have, the Raiders need to get everyone involved. While Darren McFadden is a great receiver out of the backfield, you do not want him catching 13 balls every game. The return of Denarius Moore will certainly help this area, as well as WR Derek Hagan likely becoming more and more comfortable with the offense everyday. Also, look for Marcel Reece to be a bigger part of the game plan on Sunday. After Monday’s loss, Coach Dennis Allen mentioned that he would have liked to see more of Reece in the game on offense. The Raiders would be wise to make that happen this week, as he not only provides a mismatch and big play ability from the fullback position, but can open up plays for the rest of the offense as well.
The matchup of LT Jared Veldheer and Dolphins DE Cameron Wake will be one to watch this Sunday. Wake has quickly become one of the more dominant pass rushing defensive ends in the NFL, and Veldheer will get the chance to slow him down. Veldheer himself has quietly becoming a very consistent young player, and this week will be the first of 3 consecutive weeks in which he goes head to head with a top-tier pass rusher. Should he and the rest of the offensive line perform well in defending the Dolphins’ pass rush, the Raiders’ passing attack should be able to have some success against a secondary that lost two of their better players from 2011, in Vontae Davis and Yeremiah Bell. Defending Wake, be it through some slide protection or chip blocks, will no doubt be the key to it all.
Early east coast starts are always tough for West coast teams, but playoff caliber teams do not let that affect them. While the Raiders have had trouble with the Dolphins as of late, losing 6 of the last 7 matchups, this is a new year featuring new systems for both teams. With a tough schedule in the weeks ahead, this game is extremely important for the Raiders to gain some momentum, and cannot be over looked. The Raiders will look to make adjustments and corrections to last week’s performance, and get the all-important first win of the 2012 season this Sunday.
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