They have to do it, of course.
The only chance the Raiders have of beating the Colts – or anybody else, for that matter – is to abandon conventional thinking and try to muck up the game.
Which is precisely why, despite the futile attempts at secrecy by Raiders Coach Dennis Allen, Terrelle Pryor is going to start at quarterback, bringing the read-option and its various manifestations to Lucas Oil Stadium for the regular-season opener Sunday afternoon.
“Pryor obviously, with his athleticism, we’ve watched him for a long time, we all know what he can do outside the pocket, the way he can create, the way he can run the read-option,” said Coach Chuck Pagano. “He gives you another dimension from a defensive standpoint that you’ve got to take care of. He’s dangerous on the move, whether they’re running read-option with him, drop back to pass, if it’s not there then the guy can take off, he can scramble to run or scramble to make a play downfield.”
Frankly, this could be a problem for the Colts.
This will be their first extended shot at a read-option team, so there really is no template for this defense. We do know they’ve struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Cincinnati’s Josh Johnson and Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel combined for 64 yards on five runs in the preseason. Tennessee’s Jake Locker gashed them for 51 yards on four carries last year.
The system that burst upon the NFL landscape last season was a wrinkle that tripped several teams. It’s a college system so rarely seen at the pro level, teams hadn’t adequately prepared.that shouldn’t be the case this season. In the offseason, the Colts’ staff met with college coaches, did extensive film study and picked the brains of their own assistants with experience with and against the read-option to build their plan.
“Some teams are a little more complex than others,” Pagano said. “Some are in the pistol and have one back back there. You’ll see this team come in here on Sunday and there could be that scenario right there or as many as three backs back there in a diamond formation with the quarterback in the pistol.
“We definitely did our research as well as anybody else did. If you get caught with your pants down they can make you look really silly.”
Perhaps the toughest part of executing the plan is finding a way to practice against it. The closest thing they have to a read-option emulator is Chandler Harnish, a prolific runner in college, but he isn’t in Pryor’s class, athletically.
Of course, there’s always Matt Hasselbeck.
“Isn’t that why they brought me here?” he said with a smile.
HOT READS: BANGED UP O-LINE A CONCERN
>> Pagano said he expects left tackle Anthony Castonzo and Mike McGlynn to start Sunday but both veterans have missed practice time the past two weeks with minor knee injuries. “Any time you have guys miss time you have concerns but I feel like we’ve done the right things as far as training camp goes and working guys in,” Pagano said. “We saw Joe (Reitz) go over there (left tackle) and do a nice job and you’ve got enough guys with enough position flexibility in that group of linemen we kept, guys can mix and match. We’ll put five guys out there that can function, hopefully.”
>> Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, who also missed time in the preseason with injuries, both are expected to be available for the opener.
>> Pagano said the decision to trade Caesar Rayford to Dallas for a future draft pick wasn’t easy, given the fact the outside linebacker led the NFL in preseason sacks with five, but the acquisition of Cam Johnson from the 49ers earlier in the week made Rayford expendable. “Any time you have a player that has the production that he had and came in here and did what he was capable of doing in the preseason, you hate to lose anybody like that but I thought it was a win-win for both sides and we wish Caesar well,” Pagano said. “Maybe we’ll see him in New York on Feb. 2.”
>> Pagano did not elaborate on the decision to waive rookie safety John Boyett, who was arrested outside a local night club early Monday morning. “Not going to get into the details,” he said. “Every situation is different. We’ll handle each of them accordingly.”
>> The emotional roller-coaster players experience on the final cutdown day, and those that follow, was crystallized by Pagano as he told the story of seventh-round pick Kerwynn Williams. “There’s guys like Kerwynn who for a period of time thought he was on it and as things happened, he gets (cut) the next day,” Pagano said. “Who knows? He might’ve been at the mall shopping trying to buy new threads for his first road trip and might’ve got a call to say, ‘Hey, slow up, you might go to T.J. Maxx and not Nordstrom’s.’ ” Williams was subsequently re-signed to the practice squad.
>> The Colts’ rebuilt run defense will be tested right away by the Raiders’ Darren McFadden, who has battled injuries throughout his career but is one of the league’s most dynamic backs when healthy. The Raiders are 10-2 when he rushes for at least 100 yards. “We have our work cut out for us with Pryor but stopping McFadden is our major concern with the run game,” Pagano said. “As we all know, he’s a big, fast, physical guy. He can run between the tackles and he can cut it back or bounce outside. If you give him a crease, he’s got the speed to take it the distance. He’s a home-run hitter. We have to make sure we set the edge on the defense and get as many hats on Darren as possible.”
>> Pagano was on a bit of a roll Wednesday. Asked to describe the atmosphere heading into the opener, he referenced the meal served by team chef DeWitt Jackson: “Different kind of buzz around here, different kind of feel. Dewitt had real bacon out there, not turkey bacon, plenty of eggs and sausage, the real McCoy.”