Short-handed Raiders are adapting, not reinventing, for Giants game

Thursday, 30 November 2017, 09:14:35 PM. No Michael Crabtree. No Amari Cooper. And no wholesale changes to the Raiders’ offensive scheme for Sunday’s home game against the New York Giants.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — No Michael Crabtree. No Amari Cooper.

And so Wednesday, Johnny Holton and Cordarrelle Patterson aligned outside in a warmup drill with Seth Roberts working from his usual place in the slot. The trio released off the line of scrimmage, as three Raiders quarterbacks simultaneously dropped back to throw.

Connor Cook threw to Holton underneath on a crossing route. EJ Manuel tried Patterson on an out pattern near the left sideline. Finally, Derek Carr curled a deep ball to Roberts on a corner route into the end zone.

All three passes contrasted the state of the Raiders’ wide receiver group.

They were complete.

Crabtree will miss Sunday’s game against the New York Giants to a one-game suspension. Cooper probably won’t play, either, as he recovers from a concussion and sprained ankle.

A visible void was left Wednesday in their wake. Including the practice squad, the Raiders had six wide receivers participate in the afternoon session. Only three have caught an NFL regular-season pass.

Intrigue surrounds how Raiders coaches will adapt within their scheme to fit their revised personnel.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo spoke to Oakland-area reporters Wednesday in a conference call and offered his take. He drew a logical conclusion, saying it “looks to me that they’re going to be focused on trying to run the football with the potential of a couple receivers coming out of the ballgame.”

Indeed, it would be fair to expect the Raiders to work to establish their running game.

That, however, can be overstated.

Such is their goal each week. Game flow, not desire, has limited the Raiders to 251 carries in 2017, second-fewest in the NFL. Furthermore, the Raiders didn’t exactly struggle Sunday in the air without their top receivers.

Crabtree and Cooper exited in the first and second quarters. Carr completed 10 of 12 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown in the second half. That showing registered a near-perfect 146.5 quarterback rating, and it came against the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense, albeit one that lost cornerback Aqib Talib to a first-quarter ejection.

The Raiders downplayed any changes versus the Giants.

“I think we’re going to go Wing-T,” Carr said tongue-in-cheek, referring to a run-heavy offensive scheme predominantly seen at youth football levels. “We’re going to run the triple option.”

Running back Jalen Richard disregarded the idea of a major shift more directly.

“We’re going in with the same game plan,” he said. “It’s almost like ‘Coop’ and ‘Crab’ aren’t even (out); they’re just plugging guys in. There’s nothing screaming right now that we just need to go in and stick to the run and rely on the run. We’re going to come in with the same mentality we’ve been having. T.D. (Offensive coordinator Todd Downing) is coming in with the same type of play-calling and aggressiveness that he’s had.

“When you (start) changing stuff around and not relying on who you are, you’re not getting the best out of your players. … We’re going to take what they give us. If they give us a deep ball, we’re going to take the deep ball. If they want to give us the run all day, yeah, we’ll run it all day. That’s our mindset going in.”

Three Raiders players share the team lead in receptions. One is sure to play Sunday.

Tight end Jared Cook has 42 catches for a team-high 537 yards and a score. His continued presence projects to offer constancy for Carr, who no doubt will adjust sans Crabtree and possibly Cooper.

Different receivers have different styles and strengths in their route-running. Carr cannot throw Holton the same sort of football in traffic and expect him to pull it down the same, just as Downing cannot ask Holton to run the same route tree as Crabtree or Cooper.

Carr must log extra reps with his receivers.

“Next man up is always our mantra and what we stand by,” Carr said. “That’s how any football team needs to be. It has to be next man up. At the same time, I do need to spend extra time with them because the guys that get all the reps usually with me are ‘Coop’ and ‘Crab.’ Seth gets a lot of reps with me, ‘C.P.’ on certain things, Johnny on certain things. But now we have to make sure we get them all of those reps that sometimes they wouldn’t get with me.”

The Raiders are making some changes in practice.

Their adjustments won’t be overly exacerbated come Sunday.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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