Raiders restore gap and power blocking scheme

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- One of the key aspects of Oakland Raiders minicamp has been the return to gap and power blocking after an epic failure with a zone scheme in 2012.
Running back Darren McFadden, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry over 20 games in 2010-11 with Hue Jackson going to power and gap schemes, plunged to 3.3 yards per carry in Greg Knapp's zone system.
Knapp was fired in favor of Greg Olson, Tony Sparano came in as offensive line coach, and gap and power schemes were back in vogue.
"We were turning our shoulder to the sideline and running a lot last year. Now we're keeping them square and going downhill," center Stefen Wisniewski said. "You've got to change your footwork, and that takes time, but we have more than enough time from April to September to adapt to some new run schemes."
In contrast to Knapp, who installed a system and insisted the players conform, Olson is doing the opposite.
"I've been exposed to a number of different systems, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's you'd better adapt to the players you have on your team," Olson said.
Marcel Reece, the Raiders' versatile Pro Bowl fullback who has skills as a downfield receiver and creates matchup possibilities, loves the approach.
"Oley has this aura about him. You can feel the creativity," Reece said. "He's always thinking about football. He's always thinking about matchups. He loves talking about football. It's a great feeling in the building right now."
--Defensive end Lamarr Houston, moved from left side to the right side this season to take advantage of his pass rushing skill, has been asked by the coaching staff to assume a leadership role.
"If the coaches would like me to help the team, I'd love to do it," Houston said.
Houston had five sacks last season, playing on the left side and occasionally inside during some alignments, but he was the Raiders' best lineman in terms of consistent pressure.
"I think if you really study what Lamarr Houston has been able to do, he's been able to get some pressure on the quarterback," coach Dennis Allen said. "Now, that may not have ended in big sack numbers, but I'm extremely pleased with where Lamarr Houston is. He'll be effective rushing the quarterback this year.
--Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski is adjusting to life without the only holder he has known in the NFL.
Shane Lechler, Janikowski's locker room neighbor since both were drafted in 2000, signed with the Houston Texans as an unrestricted free agent.
"Shane and me were such good buddies," Janikowski said. "But it's a business, and we've got to move on."
Janikowski is in the final year of a four-year, $16 million contract that made him the highest-paid placekicker, nearly identical to the contract Lechler signed a year earlier to be the NFL's highest-paid punter.
Whether the Raiders will bring back Janikowski remains to be seen -- they'll have ample cap space.
Janikowski dropped at least 10 pounds and came into camp in the best shape of his career. He said he is hopeful of getting a new deal with the Raiders and playing another seven or eight years.
--The offensive line remains a competitive situation, with the only two players with a strong hold on their positions being Jared Veldheer at left tackle and Wisniewski at center.
--Safety Charles Woodson knows he's being watched closely by younger players.
"They want to see, going into my 17th year, that I am not going to be a guy that's going to sit on the sideline all the time and let everybody else take all the reps," Woodson said. "That's not me. I'm going to run (toward) the ball and try and make every play."
Said Allen of Woodson: "He's been everything we hoped he would be."

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