Tom Cable is returning to the Raiders as offensive line coach.
What that means for the offense in 2018 is open to interpretation. When the news surfaced over the weekend, some gave new head coach Jon Gruden kudos for hiring one of the NFL’s most experienced offensive line coaches. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com called it a “big hire.” Vic Tafur of The Athletic also noted that his hiring increases the odds of running back Marshawn Lynch returning, since Cable and Lynch have a good relationship from working in Seattle together.
Others, however, expressed doubts.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com on Saturday tweeted: “Big opportunity for the Raiders to ruin one of the best offensive lines in football by hiring Tom Cable.” Tafur, too, thought it looked like a strange move, tweeting: “It doesn’t look like a great fit scheme-wise with the massive OL, Cable being a zone blocking guy. But we’ll have to wait and hear what Gruden’s plan is.”
Cable was fired in Seattle after this past season following a year in which Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had to run for his life. Wilson constantly was under pressure, and the offensive line played poorly all season.
Now Cable comes back to Oakland, where he previously coached, and on the surface doesn’t look like a good fit with the highly-paid offensive line in place. Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Marshall Newhouse all are jumbo-sized linemen who love the physical aspects of a power-blocking scheme. In 2017 under offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s scheme, which instituted more zone-blocking, the line’s play deteriorated.
Now, the Cable hiring seems counter to what this line does best.
As columnist Dieter Kurtenbach of the Bay Area News Group wrote: “The Raiders’ offensive line is a bad outside zone blocking team. It really is as simple as that. They can’t do it. They’re not built for it.” Kurtenbach pointed out that the offensive line woes were at the heart of the offensive failures in 2017.
Perhaps Gruden has a different plan. Perhaps he and Cable already have discussed this, and will employ more power blocking. We’ll have to see. Until we know, the hire by Gruden is a head-scratcher.
Wrote Kurtenbach: “The Raiders offensive line is built for power – they are old school, and that means they want to push up the field, not press laterally (as is asked in zone). If Cable wants to install the pure zone-blocking scheme he championed in Seattle – predicated by outside zone – the Raiders either need to change their offensive line personnel or expect more bad results in the 2018 season.”