Raiders Rivals: Matt Cavanaugh
The Raiders are in prime time this week as they head to face Washington. Defensively, Oakland faces an offense that is No. 15 in yards per game and No. 13 in points per game.
Additionally, Washington is coached by Jay Gruden who is the brother of former Raiders coach and current ESPN personality Jon Gruden. Former Raiders head coach Bill Callahan is also the assistant head coach and offensive line coach.
Thus, Oakland can expect some West Coast offensive concepts from Washington. The offense is led by coordinator Matt Cavanaugh who is in his first year in the role with the team. What should the Raiders expect from him?
Cavanaugh was Washington’s quarterback for two seasons before he was promoted to offensive coordinator this year. He is credited for the development of Kirk Cousins over the past two seasons. Previously, Cavanaugh was QB coach for the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. He helped the Bears quarterbacks have a record season in 2013 and he helped the Jets reach two AFC Championship games between 2009-12.
This is not Cavanaugh’s first time as an offensive coordinator. He helped the Ravens win the 2000 Super Bowl. Cavanaugh has also been offensive coordinator with the Steelers, Bears and University of Pittsburgh.
The No. 50 overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft won a Super Bowl with the Giants and 49ers as a backup QB. His playing career also includes stops with the Steelers, Patriots and Eagles.
The Washington offensive coordinator has roots with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers which brings the expectations that he will run the ball a ton. This Washington backfield features Rob Kelley who has looked good in his short career.
However, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson both looked good last week versus the Rams. Thompson should get the third down looks and passes out of the backfield, while Perine will see some of Kelley’s touches. Either way, this gameplan should feature enough touches for everyone.
Expect this offensive strategy to utilize tight ends Vernon Davis and Jarrad Reed too. Oakland covered up the lowly Jets tight ends last week but they gave up more than 70 yards to Delanie Walker the week prior. Washington has two of the more talented tight ends in the league so they should test the Raiders with them in coverage often.
Utilizing the tight end and backs on crucial third downs a staple of Gruden’s scheme. Cavanaugh should have no problem doing that considering many of his previous stops as offensive coordinator also relied on the TEs and RBs in West Coast styled offenses.
It is early in the season but the offense has looked more conservative under Cavanaugh. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is averaging 6.3 yards per attempt which is the lowest of his career. His longest past this season has been for 23 yards.
Some of this can be blamed on Washington letting Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson walk in free agency. Those two made a career as deep threats.
Nonetheless, Cavanaugh has to have some responsibility for this too. He literally made careers for game managing QBs in Chicago, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.
Either way, expect Washington to take some shots this week. The Raiders secondary looks improved this season but they’re still liable to gamble. Washington would be smart to use Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder on some deep routes to beat the Raiders big corners.
Ultimately, the Raiders will get another edition of the West Coast offense this week. Scheme-wise Oakland should not do anything different but they need to keep building on the last two weeks. The Raiders must execute and communicate better, in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
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