The return of Jon Gruden as head coach of the Oakland Raiders could also potentially mean the return of one of his favorite run formations, the “Elephant package”.
The Oakland Raiders finished the 2016 season boasting one of the best offensive lines in all of football. The o-line consisted of three Pro Bowl selections — OT Donald Penn, OG Kelechi Osemele and C Rodney Hudson, with Osemele being named a first-team All-Pro. Third-year guard Gabe Jackson also had a stellar campaign and was rewarded with a five-year, $56 million contract in the ensuing offseason. The unit helped the Raiders reach a 12-4 record and provided Derek Carr the protection he required to be in the running for league MVP.
As a unit, the offensive line surrendered a league low 18 sacks while the rushing attack ranked 6th overall in the league. Heading into 2017, there was no doubt the offensive line and the rushing attack would once again be major strengths of the offense. Reggie McKenzie was able to lure Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to spearhead the rushing attack, which was returning second-year players Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. They also replaced Austin Howard with Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.
However, the offense underwhelmed in all facets under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing, and Oakland’s dominant rushing attack fell all the way down to 25th in the league. They were never able to find a rhythm or identity, and as a result, heads began to roll at the conclusion of the season.
Ultimately, the failures of the offensive and defensive coordinators cost Jack Del Rio his job and tenure in Oakland. The decision to not bring back Bill Musgrave and roll with Todd Downing at OC proved to be a disaster. The defense did not fair much better as Ken Norton Jr. was fired 10 games into the season after a rough outing against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
In comes Jon Gruden and a new offensive mentality. The once-Raiders coach will once again bring FIRE on the sidelines:
This video says it all.
The difference between Jon Gruden and Jack Del Rio.
— Bert 🅥 (@TheFakeAlbert) January 2, 2018
If you watched Gruden’s Raiders teams in the early 2000’s, there are a few things you certainly remember about his offense:
1) Creative and complex offensive play designs
2) Jon Ritchie’s face constantly bleeding
3) Gigantic o-line and a power run game
If you were to ever hear former tight end Roland Williams describe “32 ISO”, it would surely bring a tear to your eye. The Oakland offensive line featured giants among men in Lincoln Kennedy, Mo Collins, Barret Robbins and Frank Middleton. When the “Elephant package” was called, an additional lineman would come in as the tight end. It started with Matt Stinchcomb and later was used with Langston Walker.
Williams and Lincoln Kennedy describe walking up to the line and letting the opposing defense know exactly what play was going to be called and where it was going. Having Tyrone Wheatley and Zack Crockett running behind the Elephant package, it was obvious the Raiders were going to play smash mouth football, and there wasn’t much that could be done to stop it.
In 2003, Crockett led the Raiders with 8 rushing touchdowns from the fullback position. Many of those touchdowns came from 32 ISO, running that famous Elephant package. I remember each on of them vividly, as they were the greatest moments of my life.
Who will be the Elephant in The 2018 version of Jon Grudens elephant package?
— Bert 🅥 (@TheFakeAlbert) January 9, 2018
The question this year — who will be the benefactor of Gruden’s heavy tight, power run game scheme?
Will it be the forgotten weapon at fullback, Jamize Olawale, or will Marshawn Lynch return for one more go around with the Raiders?
Another interesting tidbit to consider — who will be the right tackle in Oakland in 2018? Marshall Newhouse underwhelmed and should never see a professional football field ever again, while second-year man Vadal Alexander is yet to develop into a starting caliber player. David Sharpe has been a career left tackle but had a solid showing his first start of the year. Could he potentially see a position change to the right side? Will Lee Smith be back? Perhaps some combination can be utilized when the Raiders deploy an extra lineman.
While Raider Nation can expect to see the complex formations, non-stop motion, word vomit play calls and high-powered offense Jon Gruden is famous for, we should be most excited for how “Chucky” is going to use his new massive offensive line that has Pro Bowl and All-Pro potential at almost every spot to run over and dominate the AFC West.