Raiders Fast But Not Showing It

The Raiders' fleet of world-class athletes isn't showing up on tape says Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who explains the Raiders' offensive transition.

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers played the Jets last week, but this week they're playing the jets, as in the Oakland jets that Al Davis has been collecting for his Raiders these past few decades.

Davis has passed on, but his collection of speedy athletes hasn't. The Raiders still have some of the world's fastest people.

Here's what Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden told the Oakland Tribune after visiting the Raiders' training camp in August:

"What really stands out is the speed," Gruden said. "When you look at Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore, Taiwan Jones and Darren McFadden, Usain Bolt better watch out because they've got some speed here."

Wow. Calling out Usain Bolt, eh?

Hyperbole, for sure, but it does beg one question: Is the Raiders' offensive speed that obvious on tape?

"Not really," said Steelers free safety Ryan Clark, who wasn't trying to denigrate the Raiders as much as he was trying to provide information.

"I think if you look at No. 17 last year – Moore – he ran by people pretty often. Last year he had a big game against San Diego. But if you watch the film from this year, there haven't been a lot of deep balls thrown to where they're behind guys. I don't think (the speed) is as evident as the numbers might show."

The numbers show that quarterback Carson Palmer, in five games at home with the Raiders, averages 342.8 passing yards and has a 93.6 rating. This season Palmer leads the AFC and ranks third in the NFL with 670 passing yards.

But the numbers also show that his primary receivers are McFadden, the tailback who leads the team with 15 receptions, and tight end Brandon Myers, who's second with 11.

There are some scary numbers, though. Heyward-Bey has averaged 109.3 yards in his last three home games and Moore averages 19 yards per catch in his career. That's better than Mike Wallace's 18.4 yards per catch (albeit with 144 fewer receptions).

"I'm not saying they don't have that speed," Clark continued. "No, I'm saying this year it's been 83 (Myers) over the middle and getting the ball in the flat to McFadden. There's a difference in the way the offense is run this year as opposed to the other years when you had that influence from upstairs, Mr. Davis."

Currently influencing the Raiders' offense is new coach Dennis Allen and coordinator Greg Knapp. Allen was the Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator last year and Knapp was the Houston Texans' quarterbacks coach.

"What they do is more along the lines of old Denver with the stretch running plays, boots, half rollouts, crossers, different things like that," Clark said. "You're not necessarily using your guys' speed as in straight-line going up the field as you're using it to run away from people across the field."

Triggering the offense is Palmer, who knows the Steelers' defense as well as any NFL quarterback after spending eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. But Palmer is 4-8 in his regular-season career against the Steelers and 0-1 in the playoffs. His 76.7 passer rating against the Steelers is almost 10 points lower than his career passer rating of 86.3.

"We have done well against Carson," Clark said. "But I think it will be important to go back and look at the Houston game. (The Texans) were successful in the run game and off of the run game with the play-action. I think it's something we have to look at."

The Texans' punishing ground game might be the ideal for the Raiders, but it's far from a reality. The Raiders are last in the NFL in rushing. In fact Jonathan Dywer has outgained the Raiders this season, 71-68.

Wanting to be like the Texans doesn't necessarily give the Raiders the Texans' offensive line.

"That's right," Clark said. "Everybody talks about scheme, but you have to have the personnel to do it. You have to have the guys to put in place. You can't drop that scheme into 32 cities. You have to have the people to do it and I think right now they're coming off a team put together by Mr. Davis that was put together very specifically. Your skill guys are going to be extremely fast and your big guys are going to be just really big maulers, and those aren't really the type of offensive linemen who run that scheme well."

NOTES: Missing Thursday's practice were James Harrison (knee), Troy Polamalu (calf), Heath Miller (ribs), Mike Adams (back) and Byron Leftwich (illness). Miller expects to play Sunday.

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