The Oakland Raiders defense has been very successful bringing the blitz this season. As a result, the team had the league lead in sacks with nine through two weeks. On Monday, the Raiders will go up against one of the best in the league when it comes to identifying the blitz and making teams pay. The question becomes, will the Raiders blitz Peyton Manning Monday night?
Last season, Manning was terrific against the blitz completing more that 67 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Raider's defensive coordinator Jason Tarver loves to bring extra pressure, so the chess match between he and Manning will be front and center. Manning is so good against the blitz because he has such an elite knowledge of his offense and the game. He always makes adjustments pre snap and is one of the fastest quarterbacks when it comes to getting the ball out. Because it is a difficult challenge, the Raiders have a plan.
“Well one is to blitz guys from different angles having different coverages behind it,” Tarver said. “We do some of that. If a guy is pressuring from a certain angle, when we change the coverage behind that, it controls where we want it as well. That’s the guessing and cat-and-mouse game that we play all the time. These good ones like Brees and Manning and many others in this league are the best in the world. You have to vary your coverage behind your pressure.”
Despite Manning's exceptional play against the blitz, the Raiders have to bring pressure. It is too important to their success not to bring the blitz and challenge Manning. However, Tarver will be more camouflaged when he brings extra blitzers to force Manning into mistakes. Last week against the Jaguars, the Raiders had success blitzing safeties and cornerbacks. Usama Young tallied two sacks and Tracy Porter came off the edge for another. Those are the kinds of looks teams have to give Manning to keep him off balance. Once he gets into a rhythm, it's over.
“One is to have looks that look the same, but you’re actually doing something different to hopefully make him hold it at least a little bit,” Tarver said. “Two is pocket mechanics. We were working on that today at practice. We need to make sure that the pocket is the way we want it; not the way they want it. That’s another one that’s hard to do against this team because they’re outstanding at what they do. Those need to be right to affect him. We need to affect this quarterback so that he doesn’t have the easy lanes to throw those completions, make it as hard as we can. He still finds ways to throw the ball complete, but we need to do those thing: our looks, our pocket mechanics, our angles of departure and our activations. When we’re activated, we need to be on our right lines and go from there.”
Playing Manning is a great test for the Raiders and a great barometer to how much the defense has improved. Tarver is still going to dial up the blitz against the Denver offense because it is a huge part of his identity as a defensive coordinator. However, look for the blitz to come disguised, unpredictable, and less often. If Manning identifies where the pressure is coming from, he is so good at making the defense pay.
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