Gipsy Safety looks at the OAK Run Defense vs TEN


The Raiders’ run defense has been a major storyline in two of the three games.


Detailed Look

Here is a look at two plays, broken down into detailed still depicting the Raiders’ defenders’ assignments and then how they changed and then whether or not the players were meeting their duties.

Much of what is shown in these two plays were principally what was occuring in many of the Titans’ substantial run plays.

note : click on the GIFs to see the full resolution GFY

Play 1 : 2-7-TEN 42 (13:48) D.Murray left end to OAK 41 for 17 yards (R.Nelson).

Titans use 22 personnel, 2 RBs (incl the FB) and 2 TEs with only 1 WR

  • TE #80 Fasano, 6’4″, 255 lbs
  • TE #89 Supernaw, 6’5″, 249 lbs
  • FB #45 Jalston Fowler, 5’11”, 254 lbs
  • RB #29 DeMarco Murray, 6′, 217 lbs

Raiders respond with Base Personnel. Bruce Irvin and Khaliil Mack are on the outside while the interior three are (from left to right) Jihad Ward, Justin Ellis, and Stacy McGee. Inside Linebackers are Malcolm Smith and Cory James.

Titans run Wide Zone to the left. DeMarco Murray takes the handoff and bursts unimpeded for 17 yards.

Here is a look at the details.

Mack Force Assignment

Both TEs are lined up to the Offensive Right Side (left side of the image) while the FB is lined up offset to the left.

The original personnel and formation has Mack with Force responsibility. He is tasked with setting an outside presence and forcing any outside run attempt to cut back to the inside into Stacy McGee and Malcolm Smith.


The outside TE motions from right to left and takes up a position directly in front of Kahlil Mack. This now puts an extra blocker on the left side and it also brings the CB #29 David Amerson over to that side as well.


This appears to be Man Coverage and so Amerson here has coverage on the TE #80 Anthony Fasano. This generally means that he does NOT have primary Force responsibilities. Instead, that duty stays with Mack.

On this play, though, it appears that Mack is slightly confused because he plays the run as if he believe he does NOT have Force responsibility. Instead, he seems to assume that Amerson will contain the outsideand allow him to attack the inside in the following manner :


Mack’s Lane

On his release, the TE is hand-checking Mack to help keep Mack to the inside and right in front of the FB.

Amerson is keeping an eye on Fasano. He can’t yet commit to the run in case of a play action fake, so he has to read the play.


Mack Inside

Mack takes on the FB to the inside while DeMarco Murray takes the handoff to the outside. Here, it appears that Mack fully expects there to be an outside defender and does not realize that he is the contain defender.


A22 View

From overhead, it’s clear that DeMarco has nearly an entire half-field all to himself. He is able to take the ball and burst at full sprint with little regard for reading defenders.

The only defender outside the hashmarks is Sean Smith, who has his back turned and is running with the WR.

Mack Chasing

With the outside clear, Mack is left chasing Murray.

Malcolm Smith gets past LT Taylor Lewan’s block and is also chasing.

Amerson is engaged with Fasano and that’s a tough matchup for him like this. Fasano is 6’4" 255 lbs and built to block while Amerson is a lanky 6’1", 205 lbs and built to cover.


Amerson’s Secondary Force

Amerson does fight to the outside of the block and thus forcing the cutback.


Amerson gets to the outside, but Fasano just keeps pushing him farther and farther to the sideline. He’s getting outside the numbers which gives Murray lots of room to run into.

Breaking Thru

There’s just too much space. Amerson gets washed to the sideline, nearly 10 yards outside the numbers, and Murray has a full head of steam.

First contact occurs about 4 yards downfield when Malcolm dives and tries to arm-tackle. That not going to bring him down; it only serves to slow Murray a little bit so that Reggie Nelson can bring him down… after a 17 yard gain.


TE Motion confused Mack and allowed DeMarco Murray to get to the outside with no defenders in sight. This was an assignment error.


* * *

Play 2 : 2-5-TEN 12 (9:11) D.Murray left end to TEN 48 for 36 yards (M.Smith).

At the beginning of the 2nd half, the Titans used the same play again and with even better results.

Again, Titans use 22 personnel, 2 RBs (incl the FB) and TEs with only 1 WR

  • FB #45 Jalston Fowler, 5’11”, 254 lbs
  • RB #29 DeMarco Murray, 6′, 217 lbs
  • TE #80 Fasano, 6’4″, 255 lbs
  • TE #89 Supernaw, 6’5″, 249 lbs

The Raiders are in base defense again with Mack and Irvin on the outside. This time the interior three are Jihad Ward, Justin Ellis, and Darius Latham.

Mack Force

As before, the initial formation has Mack lined up with Force responsibility on the weakside. On a run to that side, Mack must turn the runner back inside so that the help defenders can make the tackle.

Motion and Rotation

The outside TE motions across the formation. On that motion, the safeties rotate. Nate Allen originally lined up across from the TE drops back into the Single Deep position while the Deep safety Reggie Nelson moves up over the TE. This indicates it’s probably zone coverage (though need not necessarily be so).


New Formation

The TE stops and takes up his position opposite of Mack.

This changes the position of the strong safety from left to right.

Reggie Nelson rotates down from his deep safety position to the strong safety position. Nelson has taken an outside leverage position (outside the hashmarks) but is quite deep.

Sky Force

The Safety (“Sky”) now has primary Force responsibility and Mack now has inside responsibility.

On an outside run, Reggie Nelson must turn the runner back inside and Mack, Malcolm, and Stacy will make the tackle.


Mack takes inside shoulder of the FB while Nelson charges up.

DeMarco takes the handoff on the outside zone run.

On the line, Lewan and Spain combo block on Jihad to seal him and create a soft corner. Lewan will then release to pick off the chasing Malcolm Smith.

A22 View

From the overhead view, Nelson has good outside position but is so deep that he won’t be able to provide good edge containment support. Again, we see how much of the outside field DeMarco has and how unfettered his access to it is.


Mack’s inside attack has taken him out of the play.

Without an edge defender to contain the play, Murray has a clear field to sprint into and full-field vision.

A22 View

Lots of open space with a blocker out in front and one man to beat.


Nelson plays force downfield. Mack is out of the play. Malcolm comes off the block by Lewan, but it takes away several important steps which results in Malcolm being too late to the hole.

Breaking Thru

Nelson isn’t washed out as much as Amerson was, but he is still widened to outside the numbers. This gives Murray so much running room that Malcolm can’t get to him.

Downfield, he breaks a Nate Allen tackle and eventually goes down after a 36 yard gain.


On this play’s TE motion, there was a rotation in the defensive backfield. Again, there was a problem with assignments, this time it appears that Nelson was to be the primary Force defender and did not recognize it.

* * *

Some Quicker Looks

The Titans had quite a bit of success with similar runs. Here are three additional plays that had some similarities; though in most of these plays, the Raiders defense generally plays it better, but with a single key mistake that leads to a hole in the defense that is exploited.


Play 3 : 1-10-TEN 10 (1:25) D.Henry left end pushed ob at TEN 23 for 13 yards (K.Joseph).

Titans use 13 personnel, 1 RB and 3 TEs, with only 1 WR

  • TE #80 Fasano, 6’4″, 255 lbs
  • TE #89 Supernaw, 6’5″, 249 lbs
  • FB #88 Jace Amaro, 6’5″, 265 lbs
  • RB #22 Derrick Henry, 6’3′, 247 lbs

This time it is WR motion instead of TE and on the snap, the WR cracks down. Both CBs are aligned to the right side and David Amerson has force.

A few things :

  • Sean Smith clearly recognizes formation and assignment and is vigorously motioning for Amerson to take outside position.
  • On the snap, there is a mass of bodies at the edge with Mack and Smith.
  • Jelly gets a very nice push on the inside against the Center
  • David Amerson begins in great position to contain the play
  • BUT, Amerson bites hard inside, misjudges Derrick Henry’s speed, and then loses the outside.


Amerson gets too far inside and Derrick Henry shows a nice burst of speed to beat him to the outside and get downfield for 13 yards.

Play 4 : 1-10-TEN 23 (:53) D.Murray right guard to TEN 27 for 4 yards (B.Irvin).

Titans use 13 personnel, 1 RB and 3 TEs

  • TE #80 Fasano, 6’4″, 255 lbs
  • TE #89 Supernaw, 6’5″, 249 lbs
  • FB #88 Jace Amaro, 6’5″, 265 lbs
  • RB #29 DeMarco Murray, 6′, 217 lbs

As in Play 3, Titans use WR motion to get both CBs on one side of the field. Some notes :

  • Amerson starts off on the (defensive) left side lined up over the TE
  • The WR motion brings Sean Smith to that side and Smith should now be the outside defender (Force)
  • There’s some confusion and both Smith and Amerson play Force
  • The play is designed to go inside, but Cory James shooting the gap force Murray to bounce
  • Jihad falls to one knee or else was in position to possibly make a play
  • On the outside, there is one unblocked defender who should have kept this to a minimal gain (or loss), but he’s in poor position
  • Bruce Irvin was combo-blocked, but then spins off the TE and makes a nice tackle, but not until after 4 yards. It is much better than it could have been.

Both CBs (Amerson and Smith) are playing Force (against only 1 blocker) and there is no one playing inside. If Amerson were inside, he’d have a clear lane to the runner.


Play 5 : 1-10-TEN 26 (13:23) D.Murray left tackle to TEN 32 for 6 yards (K.Joseph)

Titans use 22 personnel as in first two plays detailed in this post.

  • TE #80 Fasano, 6’4″, 255 lbs
  • TE #89 Supernaw, 6’5″, 249 lbs
  • FB #45 Jalston Fowler, 5’11”, 254 lbs
  • RB #29 DeMarco Murray, 6′, 217 lbs

Raiders are in base. Interior three are Denico Autry, Dan Williams, Stacy McGee.

The Play is similar to the first two plays, but the defense reacts differently

  • As in Play #2, there is safety rotation as Joseph drops and Nelson steps up
  • Stacy McGee takes a Combo Block, but recovers well and is closing on the runner
  • On the snap, Mack reacts. Instead of attacking inside, he widens and then plays Force against the FB
  • Malcolm Smith takes outside attack and Raiders end up with two defenders playing Force
  • If Smith or Mack plays inside, this is probably a TFL.
  • This play appears to be an adjustment and the result is of course better than giving up 36 yards, but there is still an assignment confusion here.

Two Raiders playing Force leaves an alley inside.

Personnel and Preparation

Neither Sean Smith nor David Amerson are Plus defenders against the run and while they are certainly capable of play run defense, this type of play is increasingly likely :

In a case where the offense is playing 3 blockers and 1 receiver, it may be better to bring in 3rd safety like McGill.

In theory and hindsight that seems nice, but there are some considerations to remember:

  • Preparation may have been for Delanie Walker who is a receiving threat and therefore they were planning for 2 CBs v 22 or 13 Personnel. If that’s the prep, it’s difficult to switch things up at the last minute esp with a young defense
  • But with only 18 games of history, how prepared are they to use McGill, Joseph, Nelson, Amerson as a unit? If 3 Safeties + 1 CB is not prepared, then it’s nearly impossible to switch to it mid-game and expect it to go well. Especially for young defense.
  • The Team may not have much history of preparing and facing 13 Personnel. This can make reactions slow and sometimes the reads incorrect.

Cleaning Up

Many of these assignments problems can be cleaned up easily. In fact, this game itself was fantastic experience for the Edge defenders. And they were made to make quick adjustments. In film review, these assignments will get fixed and defenders will understand their roles and how to execute.

It is something that can be built upon and should not prove to be a problem going forward.


There were other problems, particularly in the 4th quarter, when it looked like the defense was very tired. Jihad Ward had a tough day and was absolutely worn out in the 4th and was left to just reaching for runners.

Here are Derrick Henry + DeMarco Murray combined rushing yards by Half :

1st half : 12/40, 3.3 avg

2nd half : 14/119, 8.5 avg

The first half runs included the 17 yarder by Murray. Other than that the Run Defense was holding Tennessee’s runners to 11 rushes for 23, 2.1 avg. So there was improvement from Week 2 to Week 3 in the run game. But Mularkey et al really exploited the edges in the 2nd half and in the 4th quarter, just gashed the worn out defenders.

The run defense should be able to correct these outside run problems quickly, because these were assignment or recognition problems that is more indicative of a young and growing defense rather than of poor players or bad scheme.

This is good news going forward, because it means the coaches and players were able to correct some things. It’s hard to fix everything at one time, but with some fixes in place, it’s possible to continue to improve and get the front line units to play stronger and stronger against the run.





Ted Nguyen is a football coach, offensive coordinator, QB coach, teacher and blogger. He graduated from UC Davis with his degree in English-Critical Analysis. He enjoys long walks on the beach and researching and writing about the latest developments and trends in football strategy.

2 comments on “Gipsy Safety looks at the OAK Run Defense vs TEN

  1. love this stuff, excellent breakdown of the plays. Awesome

  2. Pingback: The Raiders Xmas Defense by GipsySafety – Raiders Film Analysis

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