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Terrelle Pryor leads the Raiders in rushing and has ran for over 100 yards in two of Oakland's three wins. (USA Today Images)
The major strides made by the Eagles’ defense over the past three weeks come at the perfect time.
With Chip Kelly’s offense in disarray for the moment, the defense has to carry to the load. The Eagles held Dallas’ No. 2-ranked scoring offense to just 17 points two weeks ago and held the Giants without a touchdown last Sunday.
Now come the Raiders, who rank 26th overall in total yards and 26th in scoring (18 points per game). Oakland has the NFL’s sixth-ranked rushing offense, a number inflated by quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s scrambling, and the league’s worst passing attack.
The mission is simple: Stop Pryor’s ground game, and you stop the Raiders. In two of Oakland’s three wins, against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, Pryor rushed for more than 100 yards and averaged more than eight yards per carry. For the season, Pryor’s 391 yards on 53 carries are tops on the team.
Against the Steelers last Sunday, Pryor passed just for just 88 yards and compiled a passer rating of 25.7, but he totaled 106 yards on the ground and average of almost 12 yards per carry. He set a new quarterback record by ripping off a 93-yard yard touchdown run on Oakland’s first play from scrimmage.
In general, though, the Raiders don’t run the ball very well. Pro Bowl running back Darren McFadden is the NFL’s 26th-leading rusher, with just 340 yards, and averages just 3.7 yards per carry, 48th among all NFL running backs with at least 30 carries.
McFadden is an effective runner to the outside but struggles between the tackles, especially when the Raiders run out of power formations with a fullback. He’s much more explosive in open space, although he only has 12 receptions. In the red zone, the Raiders will go to the wildcat package and have the ball snapped directly to McFadden.
Oakland’s offense is essentially centered on Pryor, who beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job mainly because Flynn played poorly in the preseason and because Pryor has a dual-threat skill set possessed by very few NFL quarterbacks. Not only is the former Ohio State quarterback very mobile, but he’s 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds. He’s built much more like Cam Newton than Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson. Even when defenders get to Pryor, they have trouble bringing him down.
Pryor isn’t nearly as polished as Newton, but he’s accurate and makes good throws on the run. He’s completing 63 percent of his passes, although he has seven interceptions in just 157 attempts.
Much of the Raiders’ offense is centered on Pryor’s ability to create outside the pocket, so expect defensive coordinator Billy Davis to spy Pryor with DeMeco Ryans, the team’s most disciplined linebacker, especially when he brings pressure. The Eagles have excelled at man-press this year, but will probably play more zone to keep their defensive backs from having their backs turned away from Pryor.
Oakland has the NFL’s worst passing attack (176 yards per game), McFadden is brutal in blitz pick-up and the Raiders’ offensive line isn’t stout, so look for Davis to bring some five-man pressures and the occasional all-out blitz on third-and-longs.
Oakland center Stefen Wisniewiski, a former Penn State standout, isn’t very strong at the point of attack and will struggle against Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox. With veteran Isaac Sopoaga gone, the Eagles will get more snaps for third-round end/tackle Bennie Logan. Clifton Geathers, who played really well against the run against the Giants, will see more snaps, along with rookie free agent Damion Square, who hasn’t played since Week 2.
If you’re a big fan of Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham, just skip this game and tune in next week against the Packers. Oakland’s lack of an established passing attack means plenty of bench-warming for those two pass-rushing specialists.
Raiders receivers Denarius Moore and Rod Streater should be a different kind of test than corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher have seen over the past few weeks. Moore and Streater have good speed and very reliable hands but aren’t as big and physical as Vincent Jackson, Dez Bryant and Hakeem Nicks or as crafty as Victor Cruz. Streater, a former Temple Owl, moves inside in three-wide formations and should have trouble against Brandon Boykin, who’s playing very well. Moore is their best deep threat. He has the team’s only 100-yard receiving effort.
Raiders tight ends Jeron Mastrud and Mychal Rivera are basically extra linemen in the running game. Fullback Marcel Reese is one of Oakland’s most versatile threats, as a runner, blocker and short-yardage receiver. He had more than 500 total yards last year but isn’t asked to do as much as a skill-position player this year as he was last year.
To read the Eagles' offensive scouting report, click here.