In early August it was believed that the Raiders weakest link would be it’s newly formed defense…
They hadn’t played well through their four exhibition games. It looked as though there was no cohesion and communication breakdowns were showing up everywhere on the field. Many pointed to the abundance of new faces added by Reggie McKenzie in the active offseason.
Old Man Charles Woodson had done his part in 2015 to galvanize a much younger group and then gave his final farewell to Raider Nation and the Black Hole. Enter 2016 and #24 was not walking through that door.
Electing the controversial talent that was Ben Heeney to wear the green dot was one of the first red flags. Nelson, Joseph, Amerson (starting his first full season with the team), S. Smith, and Irvin were the top names amongst the fresh talent added in the summer.
An optimistic fan would have told you to be patient as this new squad had the look of a very bright future…
The pre-season was underway and it was quickly apparent that these shiny new toys weren’t of the Nordstrom variety, they seemed more like a Great Value product—Shaq’s vs. Jordans; Gobots vs. Transformers; G.I. Joe vs. M.A.S.K..
Some believed they needed time to gel. Some thought KNJ would be gone by the bye week. After all, many in Seattle laughed when Reggie signed him. Nobody in that organization balked when KNJ walked. Were they trying to tell us something?
Week 1 in the NFL couldn’t come faster. After all, pre-season is just that. Vanilla schemes and experimentation, right? Wrong! Right out the gate the squad without the ball got torched by Drew Brees and Co. to the tune of 500 total yards.
Then came Matt Ryan who doubled down and stacked another 500 yards on this anemic defense. It was bleeding out, and there seemed to be no hope in sight. Giving up a NFL record in passing yards allowed gave many fans ulcers. You could hear the collective “Hear we go again” echoing out of the Black Hole.
In week 3 Joe Flacco looked to be in Super Bowl form. But wait, signs of hope were on the horizon. As the weeks went by you began to see a big difference when the defense was put in situations to close out games with a W on the line.
They responded with a bend don’t break approach that kept the Silver and Black on a roll. Turnovers happened with the clock running out, strip fumbles, run stuffs, and the occasional sack. It wasn’t happening in piles, but it was happening. You could start to smell the blood in the water.
Going into the bye week you have Bruce Irvin with 4 forced fumbles and a budding star in Khalil Mack who has netted 7 sacks in 6 games. He had 11 in the last 8 in 2015—look familiar?
November 17th is just around the corner. Santa Commish could deliver an early present by reinstating former cast-off and current pillager Aldon Smith. The word is still out on MEJ and it doesn’t look good. Should Edwards find his way back in time for the post-season (oh, we’re going), it could be a HUGE factor in pushing this team over the top. In the meantime, Denico Autry and Stacy McGee will have to hold it down.
It’s my prediction that by week 11 this Defense will be ready to roll into December backed by a winning record for the first time since 2001—Excellence.
So before we go jumping off ledges, firing coaches, blasting GM’s, and cutting players…Slow down. Pump the brakes. Turn the meter down and chill. It’s a 16 game season and your Oakland Raiders’ Defense has a +1.0 turnover margin on the season. That’s good enough for 3rd overall—impressive. Who is number one? KC with a +1.6. We see you. We’re coming for you. Batten the hatches!
Written by: r8rcain
Edited by: Kenny Stapler