Raiders trying to incorporate more deep shots into scuffling offense


ALAMEDA -- The Raiders want to push the ball down the field more. They want to take big shots through the passing game and grab yards in chunks.

They haven’t done much of that yet, with just eight completions of 20-plus yards and one of 40-or-more. That ranks 24th in the NFL through three games, and is thus far not the explosive offense the Raiders hoped to be.

Before we go any farther, this is not an argument about Derek Carr’s willingness to let it rip. Let’s let that endless war wage in social media’s darkest, meanest corners.

The Raiders quarterback is an accurate deep-ball thrower. He just doesn’t get to use that skill as often as he or the Raiders would like.

He’s 4-for-9 for 121 yards and a touchdown on passes thrown 20 yards or further in the air. A total of 9.4 percent of his attempts are launched that far, which is 27th in the NFL.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff ranks below Carr at 5.7 percent, and don’t forget about who calls his plays. It’s Sean McVay, who apprenticed under Jon Gruden and his brother Jay, among others. My point: Offensive scheme plays into this, as well.

The scheme has deep plays drawn up, but executing them generally requires a perfect storm.

The hopes and dreams of an explosive, downfield passing game were built when Antonio Brown was still a Raider, when his breakneck speed and Tyrell Williams' size and contested-catch ability would create havoc going deep.

That equation has changed with Brown gone, speedster J.J. Nelson recovering from injury and Williams seeing extra attention.

"We’re certainly looking for ways to generate explosive plays,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said on Thursday. “I think we all know that, the importance of explosive plays and not turning the ball over. So, week in and week out we will continue to find ways to try and push the ball down the field more often, and with success and without risk, but that’s something that we’ve looked at here through these first three games and we realize we can get better at it.”

Olson said the Raiders are self-scouting each week, tinkering with game plans and play choices to make the scheme more impactful. It certainly needs to be after scoring just 14 points in its last 18 drives, dating back to the second quarter of a Week 2 loss to Kansas City.

The Raiders are adjusting receiver roles, trying to free Williams up schematically and get Nelson matched up well to accentuate his speed. Darren Waller’s an x-factor, both in the intermediate game and going yard.

[RELATED: Raiders could catch break with key Colts missing practice]

Taking chunks, especially while minimizing risk, counts on several factors. They included prolonged pass protection, quality matchups outside, defensive coverage scheme and preference, game context and -- of course -- throw accuracy. That combination isn’t easy to come by without breakneck speed at several spots, but the Raiders know the deep ball must be incorporated more into what they do.

“I feel like we took shots last week in Minnesota, and we can take even more shots, too,” Williams said. “We’re still getting to know each other. We’re still seeing how fast J.J. really is and how fast I really am, and trusting that. It’s also about coverage.

“For us, I think it’s about getting that time together as an offense.”

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